HEALING THE WOUNDS OF DIVISION
The conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are seldom out of the headlines. But the social issues that can contribute to violence – such as deep-seated division and lack of tolerance – often simmer below the surface. SAT-7’s programs, such as the bold new show On the Go, are helping bring change from the ground up.
The causes of social friction and intolerance in many MENA countries are complex. Illiteracy, extremism, tribalism, poverty, and a lack of true leadership all make it difficult for people to come together and solve problems. Political uprisings and insecurity only make matters worse, and refugees are especially vulnerable to radicalisation and exclusion from society.
SAT-7 presenter Ashraf Elsamey is keenly aware of the need to overcome social divisions. Elsamey now lives in Cyprus but is originally from Yemen – a country where three years of civil conflict have created the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster. He brings this background to On the Go, a new SAT-7 ARABIC program that encourages peaceful coexistence and love.
“We try to highlight the importance of being tolerant of people from different social, political, and religious backgrounds,” says Elsamey. “Difference is a natural thing, and we must learn how to respect one another without hurt or insult to those who are different from us.”
On the Go features interviews with writers, artists, thinkers, theologians, and other public figures from different countries and backgrounds. In conversations recorded in different locations across the MENA, they are encouraged to speak about their lives and the challenges they have faced. The program also investigates relevant historical and contemporary topics and scrutinises Arab societies to find the roots of problems.
CALLED TO UNITE
For Elsamey, working to heal divisions in the region is a call from God. He explains:
“I am spiritually burdened by Yemen and the Arab World. After God changed my life, I had to choose between my care-free, unworrying old self and my new self, one who cares about helping others and improving society. I struggled a lot because it is a heavy load, but God helped me to make my decision.”
On the Go offers practical solutions for viewers who, like Elsamey, want to help their communities heal.
“Not everyone is required to build schools or launch big projects,” Elsamey says. “If one person could teach their illiterate neighbour the basics [of reading and writing], then they will have participated in helping eradicate illiteracy.”
ADDRESSING A RANGE OF ISSUES
On the Go is just one of many SAT-7 shows addressing social issues. Several promote inclusion of minorities and other vulnerable groups, who often face discrimination when a lack of tolerance prevails. Guest Room (SAT-7 TÜRK) raises awareness of the struggles of refugees in Turkey, while Obstacle Overcomers (SAT-7 TÜRK) and City of Stars (SAT-7 KIDS) promote acceptance of people with disabilities.
SAT-7 programs that help viewers address personal problems also benefit society, especially as seeking psychological help is taboo in the region. Counselling shows such as Inner Home (SAT-7 ARABIC) help viewers find healing and spiritual support for problems that could otherwise lead to harmful behaviours.
Our Neighbour is one of several Christ-centred shows on SAT-7 PARS that tackle addiction, which devastates many lives and communities in the Farsi-speaking world. Presenter Shemiran Danil summed up the ethos of Our Neighbour and many other SAT-7 shows. She says:
“Our heart beats for our country and our people. We produced this program for those searching for hope… to bring the living hope in their hearts and to show them that there is a solution and that someone loves them.”