Regardless of nationality, skin colour, or faith, growing up is difficult for everyone. But growing up in a culture where personal expression is discouraged and frowned upon is even more difficult.
According to the TWR Arab ministry director, youth between the ages of 18 and 27 make up 50 to 60 percent of the total population in the Middle East. These youth struggle with the same questions and thoughts that everyone experiences at this very crucial time in their lives—questions about identity, faith, relationships and the future. But in the Arab world, where personal expression is not encouraged, it can be difficult to face these questions alone.
“The dynamic of expression in the Middle East is not there,” says TWR’s Arab ministry director. “We are not an open culture, so people cannot freely talk about their challenges and problems. The youth live in silence while trying to find answers for their questions, which can be hugely tiring and frustrating. That’s not the best thing for a young person at that time in his or her life.”
That’s why TWR’s ministry in the Arab-speaking world is working diligently to reach youth with the Word of God through open communication in the Middle East countries.
The core of the ministry is the radio and Internet programmes that are produced for the younger audience. Ala’s Diary is a youth radio programme that focuses on topics such as body issues, love, relationships, sexuality, and other themes that are typically taboo in Arab culture. It saw an increase in listeners in 2011, and the quality of the programme has been continually growing as well.
Workers and volunteers also spend time with youth in schools, universities, community centres, summer camps, and other places where youth gather.
“We want opportunities to interact with them so that we can get to know each other,” says the ministry director. “Going to the places where they hang out allows us to meet them and begin relationships.” This personal communication with youth gives the workers and volunteers an idea of what to focus on in the radio programmes. Open and honest communication with them is essential to the programme’s success.
“We are convinced that the Bible provides truth and a powerful message that can give meaning to life, which is what most teenagers need,” says the ministry director. “You cannot preach to a teenager. Young people have to trust you and they will not believe what you say unless they know that you seriously love and accept them as they are. What makes our ministry powerful is that we found an effective way of communicating by providing love, acceptance and an open platform.”
Reaching youth at this stage in their lives is crucial. “80 percent of people make the decision for Christ in their teenage years,” says the ministry director. “We naturally develop a mindset and inherit some thinking from our families. But between the ages of 13 and 16 we begin to build our own identity based on our personal findings and convictions. So youth are in the best stage of their lives to receive the message.”
In a world where terrorism and violence threaten people every day, it’s essential that TWR reaches out to the youth of these hurting nations.
“It is important that God has imparted upon us the powerful tools of radio and websites,” says the ministry director. “We believe, hope, and pray that we can make a difference in these people’s lives. We fulfil our responsibility and know God will take care of the rest.”
Youth between the ages of 15 and 24 constitute the largest age group among Arab populations, representing more than one third of the total inhabitants of the Arab region and approximately 20 percent of populations in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia. (Source: United Nations Development Programme)