What does a healthy, respectful, loving marriage look like? Can you think of an example of one?
God intended marriage to be a blessing to mankind, a symbol of Christ’s everlasting unity with the Church. But the institution of marriage now seems to be in crisis around the globe, including in the Middle East and North Africa. Around a third of all marriages worldwide end in divorce, and fewer and fewer people are getting married at all.
As we’ve already read, traditional gender roles exert a tremendous influence on Middle Eastern life, and nowhere is this more evident than in marriage. Whilst laws differ from country to country, married women in the MENA generally have fewer legal rights than their husbands. Wives are typically expected to bear children, stay at home, and obey their husbands, whilst the husband is the main breadwinner and patriarchal head of the family. A recent survey across the MENA revealed that over three quarters of men believe women should not work outside the home, and strong majorities of men believe it is their role to control the movements of the women in their households.
The deeply-ingrained attitude that women are inferior to men shapes the way wives are treated by their husbands. Domestic violence against women is widespread in the MENA, though taboo. In Morocco, 60% of men consider that wives should tolerate violence to keep the family together – and the number goes up to 90% in Egypt.
Some governments in the region have started to push towards equal rights for women, by criminalising violences against women and changing marital laws. But real change can only occur when societal attitudes towards women start to change – when their inherent worth, dignity, and equality are recognised.
To this end, there is an overwhelming need for examples of strong, healthy marriages based on mutual love and respect. SAT-7 has a range of shows across its Turkish, Iranian and Arabic channels which seek to provide this example, and teach people a biblical model of marriage. One of these is From Heart to Heart, presented by Lebanese couple Rawad and Marianne – read their story below!
Join us in praying for a new heart for married couples in the region. Pray that they will discover God’s original plan for marriage – to reflect His grace, forgiveness and eternal love for humanity. ∎
♥ MENA Marriage: In numbers
- 1 in 5 girls in the MENA are married off before the age of 18
- Approximately 80% of women in the MENA are not in work and most of them are stay-at-home mothers
- 10% to 45% of husbands surveyed in Morocco, Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon admitted to having beaten their wives
- An estimated 30% of MENA women have experienced physical violence by intimate partners at some point in their lives
- In Iran, over 60% of university students are female, and marriage rates are falling, as more women are pursuing higher education rather than marrying and losing their independence
SAT 23 MARCH
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” Revelation 21:2. Thank God that, at its best, marriage is a symbol of the love and union between Christ and the Church. Pray that MENA marriages will reflect this love.
SUN 24 MARCH
“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Pray that couples across the MENA will put their trust in Jesus – and that He will be at the centre of their marriages.
MON 25 MARCH
“Put off your old self… be made new in the attitude of your minds” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Many women and girls in the MENA are forced into marriage against their will. Pray that society will be “made new” in its attitudes – to stop these harmful practices against women.
TUE 26 MARCH
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” Ephesians 5:25. Many husbands have been taught that it is acceptable to beat their wives. Pray they will be given a new heart of humility and love, instead of violence.
Wed 27 March
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Thank God that SAT-7’s marriage programmes are teaching couples to model Christ’s love – by serving one another.
Thur 28 March
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20). Pray that MENA husbands and wives will have the courage to speak up about their issues, and learn to listen to each other. Thank God that Rawad and Marianne are modelling this honesty.
Fri 29 March
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). Thank God for the stories of forgiveness that have been told on From Heart to Heart. Pray that more viewers will understand the importance and power of forgiveness for healthy marriages.
Finding freedom in marriage
Rawad and Marianne
Rawad and Marianne are presenters on From Heart to Heart, a SAT-7 marriage show which brings a biblical perspective to relationships and encourages couples to open up.
Today’s Arab world has distorted God’s image of marriage. It has forced couples to hide behind masks, and to act like they are happy when in reality they are not. They are facing all kinds of troubles, silently and alone. Under the camouflage of a perfect marriage hide broken wives, addicted husbands, depressed children.
Our passion and prayer is to break these masks. We want to see people set free by the power of the Holy Spirit. Satan wants people to be tied up with chains, and to struggle in silence. We want couples to share, to talk loudly, and to know that they are not alone. On our show, we and other couples talk openly about our struggles, to show that we understand whatever they are going through.
We have experienced various challenges in our own relationship. But despite the hardships, we have discovered the joy and beauty of marriage, and in sharing our experiences with others. We started to open up about our relationship, without fear or shame, to couples around us. That’s when we saw others starting to open up about their struggles too, and asking for prayers and advice, which has been a huge privilege.
Today, allowing God to use us to free others and support them in their marriages has become our passion. We are so blessed that this ministry, which started in our home, is now on
television for millions to see.
We have been humbled by all the messages that we receive – too numerous to count. Wives who have forgiven their husbands who have been abusing them. People admitting their sins and coming back to God. Single people who say that the show makes them long for a godly relationship.
Viewers shower us with questions asking for advice in their own marriages or spiritual lives. In a broken world where everyone is fighting to satisfy their own needs, people are thirsty to learn how to love correctly and enjoy healthy, satisfying relationships.
We don’t have all the answers, but we guide people to the Bible. Following Jesus is the only way that leads to a truly healthy marriage. He genuinely loved people, to the point of giving his life for them. He had compassion towards the sick and needy. He served his disciples and washed their feet. What a wonderful, perfect example to follow. ∎