Groups of young people have begun meeting together to listen to our broadcasts.
Gathering in cafés, they listen to the shows and talk about the issues raised. One young listener has launched a Facebook fan page for the station, so far attracting 1,700 fans.
For some time, our FM team in Iraq has worked to strengthen its community ties. The work is paying off – the station’s supporter base is growing. They receive around 80 calls and messages daily and people regularly visit the studio.
‘I want the radio to bring hope to the people, to give them faith in their abilities and gifts,’ explains project leader *Noor Fadel. ‘It needs to inspire the community to stand on its feet again.
‘A building begins with a foundation stone – you keep building on it until you have a solid structure. Rebuilding a community takes time and energy and needs a great deal of prayer, but we are making headway.’
There are challenges. Decades of war, repression and conflict have eroded community spirit and trust among neighbours. Among hospitable people has arisen a sense of individualism: why clean streets which will be bombed anyway? Plant flowers among ruins?
‘People are afraid, too,’ explains Noor. ‘They’re afraid of one another, of extremists, of the police and officials, of the future.
‘But things are starting to change. I’ve seen some people planting trees. The airport is now quite beautiful. The Iraqi people long for peace and prosperity.’
Now Noor wants the station to delve deeper into community and get it working for a brighter future.
‘Community radio is very important in Iraq,’ he explains. ‘I see broken communities here. Radio can be used as a tool to encourage unity – to get people working and thinking and fixing their community together.
‘That’s what the station is trying to do – reconcile people. We want to plant peace and trust among the people,’ he says. ‘That’s really difficult after all these years of war and conflict. But we are trying to speak love and peace into communities.’
The team increasingly gets out to meet listeners face-to-face. Recently, they visited a listener in a local hospital. They sat with him, prayed with him, chatted, gave him a Bible and met his family. He had cancer and, though not a believer, had called the station for prayer. The team wanted to offer this in person. To their delight, upon arriving they found other listeners had come to join them in visiting patients that day – they also wanted to play their part.
‘I think God wants us to look at each person as a whole,’ says Noor. ‘In a community, physical and emotional needs are important. The man in the hospital needed someone to sit by his side as well as pray with him. The Good Samaritan took care of the man he found beaten and bruised – he tended to all his needs.
‘I’m very proud of the team,’ he says. ‘They’re working to bring change to people’s lives and to bring hope to communities. They’re working to rebuild their country. I’m also proud of their work ethic. They don’t only produce or present programmes: they clean the office and fix things when they break down. They work as a team, like a family.’
But it isn’t easy. The team is young and works under immense pressure. Each has witnessed first hand the traumas of conflict and each risks their life every time they come to work.
‘They are afraid at times, of course,’ says Noor. ‘They feel afraid when going to interview people in the streets, or when they visit new places, that they will be targeted.
‘But they have a vision for the station and believe they can make a difference here. Please pray for God to give them peace, and for protection.’
*Name changed for security