Poetry holds a special significance in Arabic culture. Through On Bended Knee, our new short film series, local believers from the Gulf are writing and filming poems to communicate the life-changing power of Jesus in their lives, using a medium that their audience reveres and understands.
Poetry is an incredibly meaningful way to communicate about Jesus to an Arab audience, as it shows that becoming a believer doesn't mean a loss of cultural identity. Historically, poets were revered as people who received unique supernatural insight, and the beauty of poetic language is still used today across the Arab World to communicate spiritual, cultural and even political ideas.
In our brand new film project, On Bended Knee, we will combine the tradition of Arabic poetry with the power of modern online media, to communicate God's love and His transformational power in local people's lives.
Many Arab Muslims have a certain perception of Christians, and would typically associate them with a 'Western' culture and idealogy. We want to show them that it is possible to be a follower of Jesus without abandoning the local culture and customs - and poetry is the perfect way to do just that!
The aim is to create 365 short film clips of poetry, as well as prose and prayer, in the Gulf Arabic dialect. The clips will be written and produced by local believers, and will provide them with a safe way to share their thoughts, experiences and revelations about God with their own people and nations.
It's our hope that these clips will be inspirational to believers and non-believers alike, as they see people from their own background praying and reciting poetry in their own language and style.
These episodes will be distributed online, so have the potential to reach millions of people across the Arab World.
Overall, we hope this project will shatter stereotypes of Christians, as Gulf Arabs see believers from their own background speaking about Jesus in a culturally relevant way that will resonate with their hearts and heritage. We hope the beauty of poetic language will stir the hearts of our viewers to find out more about Jesus and a life of faith in Him.
Meet Basma, producer and poet for On Bended Knee
We interviewed Basma, one of our team members, about her view on poetry. She spoke with great passion about how important poetry is in her life and the lives of many across the region. Basma writes her own poetry, and will be an integral part of the On Bended Knee production team.
Q: What is the significance of poetry in Middle Eastern culture?
Basma: Middle Eastern people in general learn to love poetry because it was the language that they believe God used to speak to them through the Qu'ran. Poetry has a high value within the culture, and is seen as holy. In fact, they believe it's the language that will be spoken in heaven!
Historically speaking, when Arabs lived among other lands, they didn’t know if someone was a true Arab. When in doubt, they would often test someone by asking him to recite poetry. If his poetry was good enough, they knew he was a true Arab! This shows how truly foundational poetry is in Arabic culture.
Poetry recitation events are still an important part of society here. The Royal Family even pays large sums of money to the winners of poetry competitions!
How often do you read poetry?
Basma: I love poetry, so I read it every day. It is as important to me as reading the daily news.
What is your favourite type of poetry?
Basma: In general, my favorite type of poetry is spiritual. I really enjoy reading the Psalms and Song of Solomon. My favorite from the Qu'ran is Sura Al-Shara, which means the book of the poets. Many Arabs have a place in their hearts for Arabic poetry, especially because of the poetic nature of the Qu'ran. And anything written in Classical Arabic is the best. It is beautiful, especially when the reader pronounces it correctly!
How does poetry help you in your life?
Basma: Poetry is a way for me to get through to my own people, since I am speaking the language that touches their hearts. The way the poetry is recited, with certain chanting and rhymes is very important. When done in a correct manner, it is the most beautiful thing.
Please pray for Basma as production for On Bended Knee gets underway, that her passion for poetry would inspire other believers and seekers across the Arab World.
How to pray for the On Bended Knee project, and all those involved:
- Thank God for the beauty of Arabic poetry, which is being used in such a creative and culturally respectful way to tell others about Him.
- Thank God for a provision of some funding, which will enable the training of Muslim-background believers, and the production of 35-40 episodes of On Bended Knee. Please pray it would bear great fruit!
- Pray for local new believers as we train them in filmmaking skills, that they would be empowered to reach their own people through media.
- Pray for our writers, such as Basma, as they develop content for 35-40 episodes of On Bended Knee, as they find creative ways to inspire audiences in the Gulf - particularly through poetry!
- Pray for mentors to follow up with the trainees on their spiritual journey. This is a very important part of the project - it’s not just about producing videos, it's about the holistic personal and spiritual development of the trainees too.
- Pray for viewers of the On Bended Knee episodes, that they will be open and receptive to what God might have to say to them.
If just 12 people gave £100 each, we'd be able to fund an entire episode of On Bended Knee!
Each episode of On Bended Knee costs around £1200, and we'd love to bless our Gulf team with the funds for more of these short films of poetry, prose and prayer.
Would you consider giving a gift, however large or small, to help local Gulf believers communicate God's love to their own people in a culturally respectful way?
Visit www.mem.org/give to make a payment by card or Paypal, or send a cheque or charity voucher to Middle East Media at the relevant address below.
With your help, we can continue to sow seeds of transformation across the Middle East, and bring healing and hope to the lives of millions of people. Thank you so much for your support!