Jesus’ teachings on how to respond to such violence or oppression have always been a challenge. He called His followers to forgiveness, tolerance, and love at a time when their homeland was occupied by an often cruel and violent Roman regime. The command to turn the other cheek to a Roman soldier’s blow would have been as shocking then as it can be in today’s Middle East.
The command to turn the other cheek to a Roman soldier’s blow would have been as shocking [in Jesus’ day] as it can be in today’s Middle East.”
But, as Jesus describes in Matthew 5:38, a peaceful response is the only way to break the violent cycle of an “eye for an eye” – a cycle that remains prevalent in Middle Eastern cultures today.
SAT-7’s programmes walk alongside the suffering Church in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and other troubled countries in the region, helping them to process their feelings, know that God is with them, and understand the true value of a Christ-like response.
Walking a path of healing together
SAT-7 KIDS’ programmes also help young viewers to understand and cope with their feelings. With 60 million people now directly impacted by the conflicts raging in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, more and more communities are struggling to deal with issues of loss, displacement and injury. It is thought that there is not a child in Syria who has not lost a member of their immediate family and the process of grieving and dealing with trauma is a lengthy one. There is denial, then anger and so on. We recognise there is no quick fix and a television programme alone can’t take away a child’s pain and anger. But our aim is to work with them and their families, step by step, through every stage of their response, praying for them and showing them God’s love.
We are also helping with special programmes for women, who often play a crucial role at times of crisis. Mothers are frequently the main example to their children of how to respond peacefully and constructively. Women are also the most likely to be a voice in society for compassion and understanding. By empowering women with logical arguments and an understanding of the power of a Christian response, SAT-7 helps spread Jesus’ radical message of forgiveness throughout families and communities.
Choosing to forgive in a “shame culture”
To meet the needs of our male viewers, we firstly need to understand that they live in a “shame culture” in the Middle East, where it is dishonourable for a male not to take revenge for harmful actions against you or your family or even your tribe. If one does not respond like with like, they are viewed as weak – as cowards who have brought disgrace and shame on their family or community. SAT-7’s programmes for men seek to counteract this prevailing attitude by bringing a Christian message that, to break the cycle of violence is not cowardice – it is an act of personal bravery. As Martin Luther King said:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
How should we pray?
The question of how the state should respond to terrorism is, of course, a separate issue. A government is a God-ordained institution with a primary duty to protect all its citizens. We must pray for the different governments in the region – that they would act with justice and that local officials, some of whom are more sympathetic to Christians than others, would take the needed action to protect all minorities.
But, most of all, we must pray for our brothers and sisters across the Middle East and North Africa. They have suffered terribly, but they and their Christian witness remain. And, while this is a very painful time, it also presents a unique opportunity. The witness of people willing to die for their faith, to pray for their enemies, and to publicly forgive their attackers is powerful and undeniable. This is incredibly profound at a time of great disillusionment by so many in our region.
Please join me in praying for Arab, Iranian, and Turkish Christians – that the Lord will comfort and heal them, bless them, and enable them to continue as a shining light for Him.