Gospel Radio Programme in Chin Dialects: Interview with Former Dai Broadcaster
08 November 2011 – [CG Note: The majority of Chin people in Burma still have little access to modern high-tech facilities and radio remains as one of the most important tools for getting access to information. A few online-based radio programmes in Chin dialects have recently been developed by the Chin Diasporas across the globe.
FEBC (Far East Broadcasting Company) has long sponsored gospel radio programmes in some Chin dialects as parts of its services in Burma. Aungling Dattui aka Aung Ling served as a radio broadcaster and preacher in Dai-Chin for about four years. He is now doing a course on Oral Exposition in London, United Kingdom.
In this interview with Chinland Guardian, Aung Ling talked about FEBC radio broadcast programmes in Chin dialects, its impacts on Chin people in remote areas of Chin State, and his experiences. ]
Chinland Guardian: When and how did you join the FEBC radio programme?
Aungling Dattui: I have known FEBC since it started broadcasting Dai programme in 1995 through some of the broadcasters from Dai Brethren Church that I knew. But I became interested only after finishing my high school. In 2006, soon after my graduation from university, Dai programme leaders invited me to help with recording and then, I became in charge of Dai language programme in FEBC for some years as our programme director as Pastor Naing Kee, was on his plan to study in New Zealand.
Chinland Guardian: So, what can you tell us about the FEBC?
Aungling Dattui: FEBC, founded in 1945, is a non-denominational and international Christian radio network that primarily broadcasts the gospel in more than 130 languages from 128 transmitters located throughout the world.
According to statistics, each year FEBC receives more than 850,000 responses from listeners through letters, phone calls, e-mails and text messages so we can say that it is one of the most widely listened radio networks. The programme was started in China but the headquarters is now based in Manila, Philippines.
In Myanmar we have, so far as I remember, quite a lot of programmes. However, I do not know the names of new programmes which were introduced after I left. Myanmar branch office is based in Yangon under a Christian organisation called Witnessing for Christ. The main stream of the programme is preaching and some other programmes such as traditional songs and gospel music are also included in order to contextualize the gospel.
It is believed that FEBC Dai radio programme not just conveys the gospel message to local people but also promotes the understanding and value of our culture and identity.
Chinland Guardian: What were your role and day-to-day activities?
Aungling Dattui: I was a programme in-charge from 2006 to 2009. Dai radio programme office was based in 8 Mile, Rangoon. As volunteers, we did not have nine-to-five fixed schedules but our time was rather flexible.
Basically, I spent one week to prepare sermons, which would be followed by another two weeks for recording and editing. My main duty is to preach sermons recorded, to edit as much accurate and precise as possible, and then to arrange them with some gospel and traditional songs ready for broadcasting. Then all the programmes were sent to Manila, Philippines from where broadcast was made.
Chinland Guardian: How many Chin dialects are being broadcast now?
Aungling Dattui: We have three Chin dialects being broadcast and they are Asho-Chin, Dai-Chin and Khumi-Chin. Sadly, I am told that the Asho-Chin programme will be terminated very soon as a result of the lack of financial support and efficient people who want to take in charge for a long run.
There is also a possibility that the Dai programme will end unless we have well-formed committee and sufficient fund because the Myanmar branch cannot simultaneously handle all the eight programmes any more.
The Dai programme is managed along with other programmes under the management of Myanmar section. It is suggested that we have our own office, well-facilitated studio for recording, employ enough staffs to handle the programmes and get regular preachers to record sermons who can volunteer on a daily basis. Otherwise, it is very likely that we have to terminate the programme.
Chinland Guardian: Most of the Chins, especially of the dialects you mentioned above, actually live in remote areas of southern Chin State. How do they manage to listen to the radio?
Aungling Dattui: I think there are many ways these local people can get hold of radios as we can obviously see many people gathering together and listening to radios in villages. In Chin State, remote areas in particular, radio is the only medium of accessing information as there aren’t any other media platforms such as internet and television. Therefore, people try to buy radios for a number of reasons including entertainment, political news, sermons and weather forecast. FEBC and WFC (Witnessing for Christ) also distributed quite a lot of radios for free in Dai areas and some other remote parts of the country. I am sure they also help many other audiences to buy radios with affordable prices for which we are immeasurably grateful to them.
Chinland Guardian: What kinds of programmes are mainly broadcast and what channels can people listen to? Is there any website where people can listen online?
Aungling Dattui: Different dialects are broadcast on different channels but the Dai programme is available on shortwave metre 25 from seven fifteen to seven thirty in Myanmar Standard Time at night. Just as I mentioned before, the main item is primarily the gospel and there are also some programmes such as Dai gospel songs, and traditional and cultural entertainments such as songs, poems, laments and lullabies.
There is a website for the whole FEBC International but we in Myanmar do not have a website yet but we are praying that it will be created very soon for each of the programmes where songs and sermons can be downloaded or listened to.
Chinland Guardian: Nowadays, many tend to use computer and internet or TV for news and broadcast. Do you think this radio programme is still as useful and effective as before?
Aungling Dattui: Yes, it is arguably true that computer, internet and supper-highway information gadgets and devices are proliferating in this twenty-first century global village but that is certainly not the case in Chin State, unfortunately.
I remember our country coordinator and Myanmar programme leader of FEBC, Mr. Zaw Win Tun, once said that radio was becoming a once-upon-a-time fairy story metaphorically. It is undeniable that radio seems to become less preferred but I do not entirely agree that it is not useful and effective as before in terms of Chin State context particularly.
Given that we have all those high-tech electronic devices and media platforms such as internet websites and TVs, radio might have very little role to play understandably but in places like southern parts of Chin State where there are none of those facilities, radio is the only affordable and feasible medium to get access to information in addition to the advantage of its portability.
Besides, even in places like Yangon or London, FM radio programmes still attract millions of audiences. The trend might be falling for the past years but it remains constant these days if I am not wrong so I certainly believe that radio still have a promising future globally and it still fundamentally plays the most important role in bridging gospel to local people in remote areas.
Chinland Guardian: During your time at FEBC, where were the most challenging and pleasant moments you came across?
Aungling Dattui: Yeah, frankly speaking, I had quite tough times when I was working there. As I mentioned before, I assume that working for FEBC on the one hand and making a living by the other is the most challenging thing. It had to be a very committed period of my life.
Furthermore, as the time allotted for our broadcasting programme is only fifteen minutes per day, working out the best to make the most of our time is also challenging. As this is the ministry which we do not do because we are forced to do but because we have the love and conviction on the necessity to do, I thoroughly enjoyed working there with friendly staffs and honourable spiritual leaders which is one of the most effective ministries in Myanmar.
Throughout my tenure, I think the most pleasant or striking thing is getting the response of life changing testimonies from the audiences. Above all, I have always been humbled and full of joy for being part of this ministry because this is God’s royal service. May his name be glorified!
Chinland Guardian: Many thanks for talking to Chinland Guardian.
Aungling Dattui: Thanks to Chinland Guardian, too. God bless you and God bless Chin State.
Interview by Van Biak Thang