Refugees like these from the civil war in Syria account for a sixth or more of neighboring Lebanon’s population. Photo by Margaret Besheer, Voice of America
TWR and allied broadcasting ministries are nursing a spark of gospel witness in a region where the Christian presence has been struggling.
News reports from several nations in the Middle East and South Asia tell of beleaguered Christian communities amid heightened cultural and political pressures – some of it violent. An Anglican Church leader recently warned of the end of Christianity in Iraq as a militant army swept across much of the country. "In Syria, as in much of the Middle East, the Christian presence is becoming a shadow of its former self,” the U.S. State Department announced in July 2014. The last public church in Afghanistan was destroyed a few years ago.
The director of TWR’s (also known as Trans World Radio) Arabic Ministry said Christian media organizations are uniting in vision and mission to spread the message of hope in the Arab world. Using radio, TV and new media, organizations such as TWR, SAT-7, Feba and IBRA are cross-promoting programs and sharing resources and content as they reach out to these troubled lands, the TWR director said.
“What gives hope to mothers who have lost their children in war?” asked the director, whose identity is withheld for security reasons. “What gives hope to men who have lost their life’s savings and careers? What gives hope to children who have lost their innocence as they witness the bloody war around them? Only Jesus Christ can restore their broken hearts and souls, and we believe that media is a powerful tool to remind them every day of these firm facts.”
The director said TWR continues to broadcast the 30-minute, once-a-week radio program Hope for Syria, which is “produced from the heart of the wounded land of Syria, using the studio that TWR installed a few years ago.” Since going on the air a year ago, the program has become a forum for lament, advice and encouragement amid the civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced about 8 million.
A listener told the Arabic Ministry, “I would like to thank you for helping me through your program Hope for Syria. You are such a great gift from heaven. Despite the tough times in Syria, I still sneak with the radio to listen to you because you are the light in the dark world around us.”
And TWR reaches out to these societies through other programs and methods. Among them are Talmatha, a mentoring and discipleship program in Arabic; Discipleship on the Air for Persian speakers; and Ala’s Diary, intended for Jordanian youth. Available to everyone, including those on the go, is Arabic Internet Radio, which features a free mobile-phone application.
Afghanistan is incorporated into a major new initiative, called PANI and directed to the people of Pakistan and North India as well. Once again, this project involves a collaboration between TWR, the United Kingdom-based Feba and Sweden-based IBRA, along with another partner, Pamir Productions of Canada. In 2014, a 500,000-watt AM transmitter began broadcasting to this region, among the areas least reached with the gospel anywhere on earth.