Hala, aged ten, and her eight-year-old brother Elias, have been forced from their home three times in their short lives. Born to an Iraqi father and a Syrian mother, they started life in Mosul, Iraq, but had to flee as a result of instability and violence. They went to Syria but when the country erupted into civil war in 2011, the family returned to Mosul, which was by this time relatively more stable. But the takeover by Islamic State militants in the summer of 2014 forced them to leave again, this time to Lebanon.
Hala and Elias have suffered the repeated loss of their home, school, and friends. Once again, the family is trying to rebuild their lives. They have not been able to find a school that will take the children, whose education has been badly disrupted by all the upheaval.
The conflicts in Syria and Iraq have uprooted millions of children like Hala and Elias. Almost half of school-aged refugee children are not receiving any education. Aid agencies and host governments are understandably channelling their very limited resources into meeting the refugee children’s physical needs. But these youngsters need more than food, clothing and blankets to prevent them becoming a “lost generation”.
The dangers for these displaced children are not immediately obvious. We might think of them in refugee camps, cold, hungry but otherwise out of harm’s way. This is not the case. UN Global Education Envoy Gordon Brown, who is championing schooling for refugee children from Syria, has highlighted the grave reality:
“Children are on the streets – vulnerable, at risk and without hope.Sadly, some have been forced into child labour, some girls have been forced to become child brides and some, tragically, are being recruited into militant organisations. Too many are subject to abuse.” (The Guardian, Jan 2015)
These children feel abandoned. They need help and they need hope.
SAT-7 is reaching out to refugee children like Hala and Elias with educational, comforting and uplifting TV programmes made specifically for them to address their particular needs. Satellite TV is inescapable in the Middle East and even those in refugee camps are often able to watch it; in many cases, there is little else for them to do.
Our “on air” school, which broadcasts every weekday, is giving youngsters who cannot access formal education the opportunity to learn. My School (“Madrasati” in Arabic) features engaging and interactive lessons in maths, Arabic (their mother tongue) and English. SAT-7 is working in partnership with a Christian NGO, Heart for Lebanon, which runs schools in refugee camps, on this project. Their Executive Director Camille Melki said:
“There is a Lebanese proverb, ‘an empty mind is the factory of the devil’… By providing an education for the refugee children we are restoring their hope for a better tomorrow. We are moving a community of young kids from total despair to hope.”
More importantly, SAT-7 is sharing the message of Gospel hope and peace with displaced children who feel dejected and forsaken. As well as our educational programmes, our 24/7 KIDS channel features a whole host of entertaining and colourful shows – from competitions to cartoons, music to movies – that teach youngsters about Jesus.
The channel is watched by at least 9 million children!
We are always looking to include refugee children in these broadcasts, to bring some cheer into their troubled lives and to give them the opportunity to tell their stories.
You may have seen online the video of Myriam, a 10-year-old Iraqi Christian refugee, who was forced from her home in Qaraqosh by Islamic State militants in mid-2014. Her remarkable testimony, first broadcast on SAT-7 KIDS, has “gone viral” via social media. The youngster was interviewed by a SAT-7 presenter who visited the refugee camp where she is living in Kurdistan. He asked her, “What are your feelings towards those (Islamic State) who drove you out of your home and caused you hardship?” She replied, “I won’t do anything to them, I will only ask God to forgive them”, before singing a beautiful worship song about how her joy is complete in Christ.
Her innocence, her message of love and forgiveness for even Islamic State has had a profound impact on all who have watched. One viewer commented, “A beautiful video of a girl proclaiming her faith in Jesus. A light to the hearts and minds to those whose filled with darkness."
We need your support
SAT-7 needs your support to keep reaching out to refugee children like Hala, Elias and Myriam; to show that they have not been forgotten and that there is hope for the future. A gift of £10 would enable us to broadcast educational, uplifting and Christ-centred TV programmes to ten viewers 24/7 for an entire year! Will you offer help and hope to youngsters whose lives have been devastated by war?GIVE TO THE