Rita Elmounayer reflects on an emotional trip to Iraq

20-Jun-2012 Go Back

Rita Elmounayer is the Executive Director of SAT-7's Arabic channels.

Visiting Iraq has been on SAT-7’s agenda for more than three years. What pushed us to make the trip this year were the statistics that showed the number of children watching the KIDS channel and the popularity of the youth show 'From Me to You' which receives the majority of its calls from Iraq.

Our plan was to present a live edition of ‘From Me to You’ from Iraq. A team of 10 people travelled to Erbil on 17th April. We stayed in Ankawa, in a one floor hotel in the heart of the city, surrounded by kiosks and small shops. The hotel displayed signs declaring that no weapons were allowed inside, which reminded me of the Seventies in Lebanon.

Meetings and preparation took place for 4 days in Erbil where we met Christian organisations including Life Agape and Bible Society and church leaders from the Chaldean and the Evangelical Church. The live show was scheduled to go out at 7.30pm on Sunday 22nd April. The presenters of ‘From Me to You’ (three wonderful singers from the Lebanese worship band Strongholds) were very excited, especially because the show was going out for a whole 3 hours! This was major event!

By 6:30 pm the place started to fill up. It was a working day for Iraqis and so lots of people could not make it, especially the ones coming from Baghdad. In spite of that, however, we had a much larger audience than expected, as people joined with their friends and families – in fact, there were more people standing than were seated! Children came too, with their mothers, waiting to take pictures of the people they know and connect with on SAT-7’s screen.

It was a wonderful show. I was so pleased that we could have some Iraqi singers perform during the show. One singer, Catherine, cried as she was so touched and encouraged by our visit and our willingness to give her time and space to show her talent! The phone didn’t stop ringing that night, and all the callers were Iraqis living in northern Iraq, Baghdad or Europe. One particular caller was watching online in the USA and saw his wife and child among the crowd...so he called to talk to them! It was a very emotional moment, full of tears and promises that they will be united again soon.

That night, it took us a long time to go back to the hotel as so many people wanted to take pictures and greet the stars. We left with a promise that we will return. Iraq is definitely a place to go back to as there are many talented people there - singers, musicians, artists - all of whom are Iraqi Christians who are ready to serve.

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