Afghanistan in flux

By March 5, 2013

Afghanistan (MNN) — President Obama says that by the end of 2014, the U.S. war in Afghanistan will be over.

However, the main fear among the Afghan people is that the country could revert to another civil war once the United States withdraws its combat troops.

Recent violence throughout the country shows that the Taliban are a major security threat, according to a recent Pentagon report. Add to that the fact that presidential elections are scheduled for April 2014, and the unknown is a scary place in an emerging country.

Yet, for all the violence Afghanistan has seen in the past decade, it has also seen major advancements. Terry Ascott, founder and CEO of SAT-7 says, "What is even more exciting, perhaps, is the growing number of responses we're seeing from Afghanistan. We used to get three or four calls from Afghanistan every year, and now we're getting about 60 calls every week in response to broadcasts that are going on there."

Ascott says there are a number of reasons they've been seeing growth. "Over recent years, the infrastructure in Afghanistan has improved, so more people have cell phones, more people have satellite dishes, and more people have electricity so they can watch television. So these have been contributing factors."

However, that could also be attributed to HOW SAT-7 is reaching people. "The main reason would be the introduction of more programming in Dari. Dari is a dialect of Farsi. Dari-speaking Afghans, which make up about a third of the country, had been listening to our Farsi broadcasts, but perhaps they didn't really feel these broadcasts were for them."

In September 2010, SAT-7 PARS began airing a program called Raze Zendeghi (Secret of Life) in Dari, an Afghan dialect. The channel is accessible on television in western Afghanistan and online throughout the country.

Raze Zendeghi is now broadcast four times a week to meet a growing audience. While about 50% of Afghans speak Dari, many are bilingual and understand other dialects of Farsi. About 30 viewer contacts per month are responding specifically to programs broadcast in the Dari dialect. Given a literacy rate of only about 28%, television may be the only way many people in Afghanistan can study Scripture and learn about God.

Ultimately, the aim of SAT-7 PARS programming is to affect a positive spiritual impact on viewers. Ascott says, "I would definitely say people who are in a state of flux–people who are facing drastic social change and political change–are more open to the Gospel than those who are in a more or less status quo situation." The impact can be glimpsed through building relationships with viewers.

The team has high hopes for the future of the channel, including reaching more people in Afghanistan and someday extending throughout Tajikistan, providing programs in the local Tajik dialect. Ascott notes, "We would like to better address current affairs in a Christian perspective. We're struggling here to develop new policies about how we can do that without becoming political, how we can bring hope in a better way to a people who have lost hope."

Another challenge holding their growth back: funding. "We had quite a bad year last year partly because of the global recession," admits Ascott. The lack of funds meant cuts. "Some programs have had to be curtailed; some facilities are under-equipped and need updating."

Afghanistan is on the cusp of change. Interested in coming alongside SAT-7? Click here to learn more.

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