When a SAT-7 team invited villagers in Upper Egypt to take part in a teaching and worship programme, the response was overwhelming: almost the whole village turned out.
Our People, which is airing on SAT-7 ARABIC, is a short creative programme in which poet and pastor Dr Shady George explains Jesus’ teachings through storytelling, poetry and song. The show was recorded in a predominantly Christian village, where the enthusiastic local reaction was both a delight and a headache for the filmmakers.
“The people loved us!” exclaimed Producer Andrew Gamal. “On the last day of shooting, over 300 people came to watch and attend the filming. I told the owner of the house we were filming in that we didn’t need this many people, but he explained he couldn’t turn anyone away. So, we filmed the show with hundreds squashed in and even looking in from the street!”
SIMPLE WORDS – GREAT MEANING
Sitting on the front porch of the house with the villagers gathered around, Dr George explains a different parable in each episode. His words are complemented by songs inspired by Upper Egyptian culture, performed by a band led by hymn singer Samuel Farouk, a regular and popular performer on Keep on Singing, which Gamal also produces.
The blend of music and biblical storytelling has great appeal to Upper Egyptian villagers who mostly come from a farming background and have a long tradition and culture of music and folktales.
Filming in this region also brings hope and encouragement to rural communities. Some 80 per cent of the nation’s poorest people live in Upper Egypt and youth unemployment and illiteracy are high, especially among women (World Bank, 2012 report). Christians in some villages have also faced discrimination and violent opposition when they have sought permission to meet as a church.
Inspired by the storytelling of Jesus Himself, Dr George uses simple, accessible language. The teachings are relatable not only for the local villagers but also for SAT-7 ARABIC’s audience across the Middle East and North Africa. Gamal explains that for many viewers, part of the appeal is Dr George’s accent, which reflects his upbringing in Assiut, Upper Egypt.
“The Upper Egyptian accent is prevalent among a large percentage of viewers living in that region, as well as with viewers in Arab countries such as Jordan and Syria. Their Arabic is close to that of Upper Egyptian accent,” Gamal said.
SEED OF FAITH
In one episode, Dr George addresses the topic of faith, saying: “How can one have faith? Jesus said that faith could be as small as a mustard seed. When planted in good soil, it will grow into a big tree where birds can nest. Faith starts out small and grows bigger with time.”
At the end of the show, he went on to say: “Believe that the Lord loves you. Make a small opening in your heart, and tell Him to come and shine His light through it. With time the small opening will grow, and He will fill your heart. Blessed are you when you open your heart to faith in Jesus Christ.”
A total of 20 episodes of Our People have been produced. At just 7- to 10- minutes long, they are perfect for sharing on social media. The songs and poems performed on the show have also been made available to Radio Mazboot, an Egypt-based digital radio station, which is partnering with SAT-7 on this programme.