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Reach the last: The Hazaras

For many of the Hazara people, radio and the internet are their only access to the good news.

RADIO, MEDIA & MISSIONS AUTOR 299/Leanne_Tan 21 DE FEBRERO DE 2024 15:25 h
Members of a Hazara family weave carpets at their home in Afghanistan./ Image: IMB.

On February 22, TWR (Trans World Radio) marked its 70th anniversary of broadcasting the gospel to listeners in their native languages while UNESCO celebrated World Radio Day on Feb. 13 to honor radio’s vital role in mass communication.



Even today, radio plays in important role in Christian ministry, reaching places where missionaries can’t physically go.



This month, TWR's Reach the Last series is focusing on the Hazaras, an ethnic minority in Afghanistan who rely on radio and other forms of media to hear about Jesus.



 



Boldness amid adversity



Joel’s* life was everything you could ever dream of — in a nightmare.  



Weeks after the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August 2021, he was arrested and jailed for his Christian faith and ministry endeavors.



For nine months, he endured torture, harassment and humiliation on levels so intense and unimaginable to the average person.



“I’m still feeling the repercussions of those beatings today,” he revealed. “Particularly in my knees and my back.”



And just when it seemed like things could not get any worse, they did.



On his last day behind bars, Joel faced a difficult decision.  



“I know you’re a good person,” an officer told him. “I want to give you a chance to live. You have two options — renounce your faith or die.” 



“I’m sorry, I don’t know how to do that,” Joel replied. 



“I’ll give you another chance. Renounce your faith or I shall banish you from the face of this earth. Do you understand?” The officer brandished his gun, aiming it at Joel’s forehead. 



 “Please just kill me.” 



 “Oh, you’ve lost your mind,” the officer scoffed. “You really have lost your mind, haven’t you? You can’t tell what’s good or bad. Are you not going to do as I say?” 



“No.” 



The officer lowered his gun, then proceeded to draft a medical report, declaring Joel mentally unfit to remain in lockup.  



Later that evening, Joel became a free man. 



Not all Christians, however, are as fortunate. Though official numbers are unknown, countless Afghans have lost their lives in the pursuit of Christ. Many who get arrested never see the light of day again. 



 



A persecuted people



Joel knew persecution long before he knew Christ.  



He is a member of the ethnic Hazara minority in Afghanistan, an overwhelmingly Shia Muslim community disfavored by the nation’s Sunni Muslim majority population. Most Hazaras live in Hazarajat, a mountainous area in central Afghanistan. 



For decades, they have experienced systemic oppression and discrimination for their ethnicity and religion.   



“They would call you names,” explained Hussain Andaryas, a Hazara Afghan now based in the U.S. “At school, even though I was one of the best students, I was still called names and mocked upon.” 



The Hazaras are also an unreached people group, meaning there are not enough Hazara believers to grow the church without external support. Only 0.03% of its worldwide population are evangelical believers.  



Outside Afghanistan, the Hazara diaspora — numbering over 800,000 — spans eight countries, according to Joshua Project. Many have found opportunities abroad and are thriving in their chosen vocations. Among them is Hussain Andaryas, a televangelist who has been sharing the good news with Afghans for over 30 years. 



 



Transformative media



Raised in Afghanistan, Andaryas lived in several other countries before settling in the United States. 



Though he was physically far from home, his heart ached for the lost sheep among his people, so he began seeking out opportunities within media ministry.  



“I wanted to preach to my people who are in Afghanistan,” he recalled. “I couldn’t go to Afghanistan, but at least I could preach to them through the radio.” 



Today, Andaryas leads a satellite television and internet ministry in six languages and dialects including Hazaragi, the native tongue of the Hazara people. Every day, he receives calls and messages from people who reach out after watching a program.  



TWR had the privilege of working with Andaryas to produce and broadcast 156 episodes of an evangelistic radio program geared toward a Hazara audience.  



A listener of the program shared, “My brother introduced me to your program five months ago. We thank God for your program, as it has opened our eyes. We cannot tell others about our faith because it’s too dangerous here, but our families gather frequently to listen to you. Can I call you sometimes if we have questions about our faith?”



Like Andaryas, Joel is in the heavenly business of saving lost souls. 





[photo_footer] A Hazara woman and daughter in Kabul, Afghanistan. [Image by IMB] [/photo_footer] 


 



Reaching Hazara refugees and beyond



Following his release from prison, Joel became part of the estimated 600,000 Afghans who sought refuge in neighboring Pakistan since the events of 2021. 



Within just six months of settling in a new city, he started serving his local community where he disciples — both in person and virtually — about 20 Afghan families, most of whom are ethnic Hazaras.  



“A question that I get asked all the time is, ‘how could Jesus be the Son of God?’” Joel said. “Sometimes I share excerpts from TWR’s programs to help them find answers to their questions.” 



Joel translates and produces several of TWR’s programs that are aired over medium wave (or AM). Every week, TWR broadcasts 45 minutes of gospel-centered programming in Hazaragi and another 4.92 hours in Dari.



TWR comes alongside Joel and other such faithful servants by providing MP3 players and SD cards preloaded with biblically sound programming, which is then played at home churches and gatherings. Many of these resources are also distributed among Afghan believers in Pakistan and Afghanistan so they remain spiritually nourished even at home. 



Leanne Tan serves as a marketing and communications executive with TWR out of its Singapore office.



* Name withheld for security



An expanded version of this article was published on TWR’s newsroom.


 

 


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