'Growing spiritual hunger' across Middle East and North Africa
The viewer responses to SAT-7’s Christian broadcasts across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have risen threefold in just five years. SAT-7, which made its first broadcast 20 years ago, says this is evidence of a 'growing spiritual hunger' in the region
SAT-7 broadcasts five channels from four Middle Eastern studios in three languages - Arabic, Farsi (Persian) and Turkish. The number of calls, emails and social media contacts went from an average of 270 a day in 2010 to well over 800 a day in 2015. It expects these responses will reach 2,000 a day by 2020.
The common theme is that people across the MENA are ‘crying out for worth, meaning and peace,’ it said.
SAT-7’s founder is Dr Terence Ascott, a member of Crofton Baptist Church.
He said, ‘In the past two decades, many conflicts have overtaken or drawn in more than half the countries SAT-7 serves, Iraq and Syria in particular. But these conflicts, and extremism in the name of religion, have only increased the profound spiritual hunger for our programming.
‘SAT-7 is enabling the Church to be salt and light in society, to be a prophetic voice and show a different way forward. This is a prime time for us as a ministry and it comes at a time when political Islam has been discredited and people are looking for answers to man’s inhumanity to man.
‘It is a fantastic time for us to available in millions of homes that are totally inaccessible to other forms of witness, with a Gospel of love, peace, hope and reconciliation.’
SAT-7’s programmes encourage isolated and persecuted believers and introduce the Gospel to people who have never heard it before. Of the 500 million people who live in MENA, fewer than 10 per cent have ever met a Christian, but more than 90 per cent have access to satellite television. From just two hours a week, it now broadcasts 840 hours a week.
Its first programme aired on 31 May 1996, and SAT-7 celebrated its 20th anniversary with a special event in Egypt.
Dr Ascott remembered his research and early SAT-7 years as an uphill battle. The quest before him seemed “unthinkable”, continuously met with scepticism and objection: "Arab Christians will not risk showing their faces on camera”; “It would be an impossible project to fund”; “Governments will not permit such a thing”.
'One by one, objections and obstacles were overcome,' Dr Ascott explained. 'Amazingly, too, Christians from the region were and are willing to be seen on-screen.' He recalled the bravery of the early presenters who nervously appeared on camera, unsure of how regional governments would react to such broadcasts.
'Perhaps the bravest people we’ve had on air are the Algerian and Tunisian presenters,' he continued, 'who, in the last few years, have boldly gone on screen to publicly testify to their faith.'
SAT-7 has launched a new campaign called Answer the Cry. It focuses on four particular areas and asks UK Christians to help answer those cries.