SUPPORT FOR ARAB FAMILIES AFFECTED BY DIVORCE

As the International Day of Families is marked on 15 May, we consider how high divorce rates are affecting people in the Arab world and how SAT-7 is using its programming and Viewer Support teams to encourage godly relationships.

RELATIONSHIP BREAKDOWN

According to a recent study, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar – four of the MENA countries where SAT-7 broadcasts – have the highest divorce rates in the Arab world: 48% of all marriages in Kuwait now end in divorce, with the figure at 40% for Egypt, and around 37% for Jordan and Qatar [1].

These high levels of divorce are caused by a number of factors. Marianne Awaraji, Audience Relations Manager for SAT-7’s Arabic channels, said that the number of people contacting SAT-7 with relationship issues has been rising since the COVID-19 pandemic. The main factors are domestic violence and verbal abuse; controlling behaviour; emotional distance; family interference; and infidelity.

Although the divorce figures are high, the numbers experiencing relationship breakdown are likely much higher. “In Egypt, many people separate but can’t afford to divorce, so they just live in different houses,” Marianne explained. “Often women can’t afford a living, and because of the shame and guilt culture, some choose to stay in the same house, but they are separate emotionally and on all levels.”

Divorce, though, is now a more viable option for women in some places who are educated and able to be financially independent. In several countries in the MENA, there is an increasing struggle between the traditional view of women as purely homemakers and a more modernised outlook that results in women breaking away from cultural expectations.

Whatever the circumstances, relationship breakdown and divorce have a profound impact on those involved, and often cause significant problems for children. Through its Viewer Support teams and family programming, SAT-7 is both encouraging Arab couples to strengthen their marriages and supporting families who are dealing with the fallout of separation.

SUPPORTING VIEWERS

SAT-7’s Viewer Support teams are available seven days a week to listen to those who are considering divorce or have already been impacted by it. After hearing our viewers’ concerns, we pray for them and gently guide them towards biblical solutions. We also refer them for counselling sessions if appropriate; last year, SAT-7 ARABIC offered counselling to 50 divorcees and to over 100 people who were considering divorce.

Hasan, a 37-year-old man from Egypt, contacted us two months after he and his wife divorced. “I now want to go back to her and she’s refusing,” Hasan explained. “We have a little boy. We got divorced because I didn’t have a stable job and couldn’t provide for them… But now things have changed, and I have a steady income. I have been trying to reestablish communication.”

Our Viewer Support team encouraged Hasan to try to speak with his ex-wife one more time, after praying and seeking wisdom from God. Our team also reminded Hasan of God’s compassionate character and prayed with him. Hasan said, “Thank you very much, I feel much more at peace now that I talked with you. I haven’t spoken that openly even with my siblings. Your prayers made me very happy.”

Jana, who is also from Egypt, contacted our team while considering divorce. “My husband and I have been married for five years,” her message began. “I feel that my sister-in-law turns him against me all the time and wants us to be separated. I also discovered that my husband is speaking with another woman. He and I live in the same house, but we don’t exchange a word! I’m tired and considering a divorce.”

Our team deeply empathised with Jana. After some discussion, it was clear she loved her husband and was willing to fight for their marriage. We suggested Jana could express her love for her husband in a clear way. She took the opportunity of Valentine’s Day to do just that. Jana’s husband was moved by her gesture, and they reconciled. “Thank you for standing with me and sharing your thoughts with me,” Jana said. “Your support is much appreciated.”

FAMILY PROGRAMMING

SAT-7’s programming is helping married couples to build their relationship on the surest foundation of all – God Himself. Through panel discussions with experts, powerful testimonies, and biblical teaching, our programs speak truth and wisdom into the world of relationships, addressing issues such as intimacy, forgiveness, jealousy, communication, and raising children.

SAT-7 ARABIC program Today Not Tomorrow is a creative talk show that addresses the challenges women in the MENA region face. One of the program’s recent episodes, titled Guilt and Divorce, explored the complex emotions that can accompany divorce, and how it can impact the mother-child relationship.

Counsellor Radwa Osama said that women who initiate a divorce feel particularly guilty, adding: “Feelings of guilt also increase if there are children from the marriage.” Rawad then shared some advice for divorced mothers dealing with guilt, including having reasonable expectations, not comparing themselves to other parents, and distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy forms of guilt.

Important to be Christian is another SAT-7 ARABIC program helping couples and families navigate different challenges from a biblical perspective. Five recent episodes have centred on marriage, with another titled “Is divorce the solution?”.

Psychologist Lorees Mfarrej shared his view that divorce should be considered only as a last resort. He then offered some advice for couples who may be considering divorce, including verbalising their struggles, seeking personal growth and maturity, and getting counselling from a pastor or professional therapist.

Priest Charbel Antoine agreed that talking to people outside of the relationship was a key step to take before considering divorce. “Seek someone who is wise to help you solve your problem,” he said. “Before war, seek all methods of peace first.”

 

[1] Divorce Rates in the Arab World Are Increasing. Here’s Why. – The Media Line 

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