BUILDING THE RESILIENCE YOUNG PEOPLE WILL NEED

In a region with one of the world’s youngest populations and a high youth unemployment rate, the pandemic and its economic devastation have further shrunk the prospects for Middle Eastern youth. As many weigh up their future in the region, SAT-7 ARABIC helps them build the resilient mindset that they will need for whatever path lies ahead.

“We don’t know what the next step is, or where we are going. We expect worse things to happen every minute. I never thought of leaving the country before, but now I am. We have a long and difficult road.” – a Lebanese teenager in his final year of school

This young man, part of a group of teens who spoke to SAT-7 ACADEMY, expresses the feelings of many of his peers. Even before the pandemic, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) had a youth unemployment rate of 30 percent[1] – the highest of any region of the world. Now, they must contend with beginning adult life in shrinking economies and disrupted educational settings. Recent research shows that nearly half of young people aged 18-24 in the Arab World have considered leaving their countries[2], with one third more likely to emigrate because of COVID-19. In Lebanon, where young people must also contend with the impact of the Beirut Port explosion, 77 percent reported wanting to leave.

Frustration with corruption and government leadership, debt, and gender inequality were all cited as reasons for wanting to leave. But the pandemic has reduced young people’s options even for migration – and for youth from impoverished families with little access to education, this option has never existed. News stories of perilous, sometimes deadly ocean crossings by young migrant families from the MENA show one of the worst possible outcomes of the resulting desperation.

“BUT, I HAVE HOPE”

Despite all the challenges and roadblocks that they face, many young people are displaying incredible resilience.

“Whenever I think about it, I feel blocked on all sides,” says a girl to SAT-7 ACADEMY. “In the past 100 years, Lebanon has been through one crisis after another. I don’t know what we can do to make a change, but I have hope. I have hope that even if I study abroad, I will return to my country.” Another young woman told SAT-7,, “We must have a positive disposition in life so we can think things through. “But we also cannot deny what is going on around us. Immigration is not necessarily the solution. We must think through our situation.”

It is exactly these traits that SAT-7 programming aims to support young people to develop: hopefulness, resilience, critical thinking, problem-solving. As a Christian broadcaster, we know that hope comes through Jesus – and SAT-7’s Christ-centred programming helps youth find and nurture the relationships with God that are wellsprings of hope. Young Presenter Markus Kashouh recently produced a video and blog about how his faith kept him from despair in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion. He now hopes to share this with viewers of his new program By the Way, one of many SAT-7 KIDS programs that help preteens and teenagers lean on God.

“If we as the Church, and as SAT-7, do not support and equip the youth of the MENA, they will seek hope elsewhere – and may fall victim to extremism or other negative influences that offer only false hope, and which promote unhealthy, dangerous values,” says Juliana Sfeir, SAT-7 ACADEMY Brand Manager.

Along with the many SAT-7 ARABIC programs that offer spiritual support to young adults, the channel’s youth programs also give them a platform to share their feelings and views, which is crucial in societies where a lack of political representation can leave them feeling voiceless and hopeless. The channel recently launched a new youth discussion program, A Way for Tomorrow, which puts young people’s opinions in the foreground. One of the very first episodes focused specifically on developing resilience.

Please pray

Another young Lebanese boy told SAT-7 ACADEMY, “I say that we have at least a drop of hope in life no matter what happens. Even if the earth opens up and swallows us, we must have hope to stand up again.”

Please pray with us for young people in the MENA. Ask God to be at work in the many situations that can become obstacles to their fulfilling their potential. Pray that SAT-7’s programs will inspire and support them to develop the resilience they will need, and pray that those in desperation will find the drop of hope that they need to carry on.

[1] Source: ILO

[2] Source: Arab Youth Survey 2020

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