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THE PLIGHT OF REFUGEES – SPEAKING OUT FOR MINORITY RIGHTS

October 2020

As refugee and minority rights remain under threat in their region, Middle East Christians counter discrimination with a message of God’s love. From Iran and Afghanistan to countries across the Arab World, SAT-7 programs promote acceptance and full human rights in many contexts where minorities face injustice.

“Whether we are Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, or Turkmen, all of us are made one in Jesus Christ,” shares Shoaib Ebadi, Presenter of Secret of Life, a Dari-dialect broadcast on SAT-7 PARS. “The Lord looks on us with the same outlook, seeing every one of us as a human being,” adds Kassra, a special guest on the Pamir Productions program. “The colour of your skin makes no difference to the Lord. Your nationality does not matter to the Lord.”

The episode of Secret of Life reaches out to those who face discrimination while urging all viewers to show tolerance and work to redress injustice. “As Christians claiming Jesus as our example, we must be like Him and love all people,” Kassra challenges them. “Love can change everything. Love can transform the human mind and thoughts and values. It can resolve an issue that has been the same way for decades or centuries, and in resolving it, it can bring it in line with the Lord’s plan.”

Broadcast across the Farsi- and Dari-speaking region, Secret of Life’s message reaches both members of oppressed minorities within Afghanistan, and Afghan refugees living in Iran. Afghanistan’s diverse population consists of several ethnic groups, including Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, and Uzbek ethnic groups, along with many more. In the last 40 years, the country has been torn apart by conflict and violence, leading to ethnic and ideological divides and causing nearly three million Afghans to flee the country since 2001.

According to the UNHCR, there are almost a million Afghan refugees in Iran. Despite sharing a culture with Iranians and having similar traditions, Afghan refugees are fighting to be treated as equals and to dispel misconceptions that they are lazy, dirty, or poor. Treated as second-class citizens, Afghans in Iran have lacked basic rights for years, including limited access to education and to work opportunities outside of manual labour.

“This hurts me very much”
However, it is not only in Iran that refugees face difficulties. A recent episode of You Are Not Alone on SAT-7 ARABIC highlighted similar issues in Lebanon. “At school, my children are getting verbally abused and attacked for being Syrian. They are afraid to go,” says Nour Moussalle, who has lived in Lebanon since the start of the Syrian civil war. “I ask those who discriminate to treat us as individuals, not as a race. My children want to leave … I just want them to have their rights. This hurts me very much.”

And Tania Perera, born in Lebanon to a Sri Lankan family, says: “In public places, I get stared at strangely. Others are more forthright and say what they think to my face.” She describes being barred from a swimming pool because of rules preventing migrant domestic workers from swimming with their employers. “I was entering the elevator with my friends, and a man thought my friend was my employer,” she explains.

As these stories show, refugees and minorities are vulnerable groups around the world. They can be exploited and taken advantage of by employers, being made to work harder and longer hours for little, and by governments, who identify them as scapegoats, often shifting public focus from internal problems to the “refugee problem”. Through programs like Secret of Life and You Are Not Alone, SAT-7 seeks to affirm viewers in their own ethnic, linguistic, and racial identities, and to ensure their rights are promoted and protected – all as part of our work towards a greater realisation of the kingdom of God in the world today.