Every evening for many years, short Arabic gospel programmes have been aired over a popular commercial medium wave radio station.
Then, with the advance of technology, hundreds of postal responses were replaced by many more SMS mobile cell phone text messages. But these are now outnumbered by many thousands of interactions over the internet.
Interactive websites have effectively complemented the radio efforts for several years. Now the internet is overtaking traditional radio in urban communities. This is especially so among Arab youth, the vast majority of the population contacted. Our media teams have increasingly viewed this development as a golden opportunity to reach more young Muslims. Currently there are two main interactive websites to reach them, both linked to Facebook and other social media.
There is a direct Arabic website — www.issa-almasih.com — with texts of Christ’s sayings. It invites questions, text and audio chats. It also offers downloadable Christian literature. Every day it is visited by many from the 22 nations of the Arab League.
There is also an indirect Arab website — www.dardasha7.com — with a magazine format. It deals with issues relevant to teens and young adults, via short stories, drama, poems, meditations, music, interviews and discussions. The online radio approach gently stirs interest in the gospel.
The Lord has blessed MERF with gifted and committed teams of local staff and volunteers for the work. We have frequent brainstorming sessions to assess the effectiveness of what we do and seek to reach more youth from the Muslim majority. Prayerful team sessions focus on developing relevant internet materials that lead listeners to recognise their real need as being God’s grace in Christ.
The 24/7 online radio station launched two years ago has been a huge undertaking, but it has opened up overwhelming opportunities. Now internet Arabic gospel radio programmes can be heard online, any time around the clock, at Dardasha7.com. Hours of creative effort are needed to prepare fast-paced, youth-oriented programmes for Radio Dardasha 7. Muslim youth are attracted and invite their friends to listen and join the discussions. For many this is the only way to hear the gospel. As expected, some fanatics also take note, so angry messages are occasionally received.
Last month, after many weeks of work by our teams, an upgrade to the Dardasha 7 online radio site was launched, with a new look and new grid of radio segments. The site is already receiving over 7000 new visitors a month. The attractive new format is drawing a surge of interest — over 500 a day. Most connect from the Middle East and North Africa. The largest numbers are from Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Algeria, Morocco and Yemen.
Arabic speakers living outside the region are especially happy to be able to listen to Radio Dardasha 7 online in their time zone. A significant number of Muslim immigrants tune in from North America, Europe and Brazil.
The site has an Arab identity and flavour as well as a gospel message that is not merely ‘religious’. The strategy is to make a distinction between God’s unique and all-surpassing initiative in Christ and ‘religion’.
Each day of the week is introduced with its own appealing segment.
Monday: ‘Stories’ highlights struggles of young Arabs and gives biblical advice.
Tuesday: ‘My home’ is a thought-provoking discussion for all members of the Arab family.
Wednesday: ‘Enough’ brings to light corruption in Arab society.
Thursday: ‘Understand me’ interviews Arab teens at their schools.
Friday: ‘Doubts and certainties’ examines cultural traditions and introduces Christ’s uniqueness.
Saturday: ‘Marriage journey’ carries the real-life conversations of a dynamic young couple.
Sunday: ‘ID’ gives a biblical perspective on the biographies of historical figures and events.
It is thrilling to see staff, freelancers and many others so clearly understand the broadcast strategy as pointing to Christ’s beauty and sufficiency. This is what unifies the focus of the project, despite the different formats, social backgrounds, academic levels, Arabic accents and local cultural touches.
Here are some sample responses to the programmes: ‘I would like to know more about Issa Al Masih’ (Tunisia); ‘your programmes give us hope’ (Syria); ‘I cannot thank you enough for the enlightening programmes you produce. Thank God for leading me to your online radio site’ (Algeria); ‘Though I am Muslim, I listen to your programmes, because it is where I find peace and love. The more I read of Christ’s teachings, the more I love Christ and the more I desire to know him’ (Yemen).