After an extraordinary year of hardship and isolation, a SAT-7 ARABIC Christmas special will join Christians across the Middle East and North Africa together in joy and service to others. Families from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria will participate from their homes, in a celebration that will give aid to struggling and homeless families in Lebanon.
“During hard times God’s blessings are abundant. They are also times of opportunity to serve others,” says Maroun Bou Rached, Executive Director of SAT-7 Lebanon. “From our perspective, as Christians working in television, hard times are the best times to work and to serve even more.”
It is with this in mind that SAT-7 ARABIC has produced United Despite what Separates Us, a two-hour programme to be shown on Christmas Eve. The participants come from six countries across the Middle East and North Africa. They include two sisters from Iraq, one of whom has disabilities and uses a wheelchair, a Syrian refugee family of new Christians living in Lebanon, a family from Algeria, a Lebanese family who were made homeless in the Beirut port explosion, a couple from Jordan, an extended family from southern Egypt, and children from Lebanese children’s home SOS Children Village.
During the special, families will worship together and share their testimonies, Christmas traditions, cultures and food. The cameras will also focus on struggling and homeless families in Lebanon who are unable to celebrate Christmas this year.
Everyone taking part will share in games and challenges, such as guessing information about the customs of the other families. The points they win will be converted into money that will be donated to one special family whose painful story was previously told on the SAT-7 You Are Not Alone programme.
Blanche and her family were made homeless during the financial crisis caused by COVID-19. You Are Not Alone met them when they were sheltering on a rooftop in Beirut.
“A recap of Blanche’s family situation will be given in the beginning of the episode, and the money will be given to her at the end as a symbol of unity and sharing from the other families, ,” says production supervisor, Mirna Adaymi.
All are welcome
Making the show has been challenging, says Maroun Bou Rached. “It’s the first time we have implemented such an idea. Gathering guests in so many locations hasn’t been done before on SAT-7, or even on secular television here. The idea was to make an inclusive programme for all. There are many types of families, and we want all to feel part of the larger family of Christ.”
United despite what separates us is part of an extensive line-up of Christmas programming to appear on SAT-7 ARABIC this year, including the first-ever Christmas special from Tunisia.
SAT-7’s other channels are also going all out to provide uplifting, Christ-centred content for the entire Western and Eastern Christmas period. SAT-7 KIDS will broadcast a three-part Christmas special, Christmas is all about Jesus, and a special programme from Algeria.
Persian language channel SAT-7 PARS will connect well-known hosts of live programmes Insiders (produced in the UK) and Signal (produced in Cyprus) with guests Amir Bamjou and Rashin Soudmand and musical contributions from Christian singers, Dariush Golbaghi, Yuna Sabet and Gilbert Hovsepian.
Producer Moe Pooladfar says the show has “a cosy setting” and explains: “We want to make viewers smile. So many of them have lost loved ones and gone through immense difficulty, that if we can make them smile it will be mission accomplished.”
In Turkey, where pandemic restrictions have grown tighter and many churches remain closed, SAT-7 TÜRK is helping viewers prepare for a very “different” Christmas.
“We may not be able to go to churches or go outside, but there is nothing preventing us from joining the celebrations in the heavens,” said a male viewer on the SAT-7 TÜRK program World View, which recently discussed this year’s Christmas festivities.
A female caller to WorldView agreed. “We take every opportunity to celebrate,” she says. “Maybe online, maybe as a nuclear family, but nothing prevents us from celebrating because joy is in our hearts. We celebrate with praise and worship.”
Year of opportunity
Gurkan Camsun, a regular guest on the women’s magazine, Homemade, says, “Sometimes, people become so preoccupied with Christmas preparations that Jesus Christ, who should be at the centre of the celebrations, is left in a corner. But this year, things are different. We can see these restrictions as an opportunity to refocus on God.”
To help nurture this focus, a short devotional programme called Daily Christmas: Miraculous Birth, is taking viewers on a spiritual journey through the Word of God, culminating in the Birth of Christ and in His salvation. Live programmes including Homemade, World View, and Turning Point are giving viewers a platform to connect and enjoy fellowship as they share traditions from their own denominations and learn from the diversity of the Christian community in Turkey.
“In the Armenian Church, we celebrate the birth of Christ on 6 January,” shares one female viewer. “The evening before, there is a church service, and at the end everyone receives a candle. With the lit candles, we go outside and celebrate the birth of Christ. Then we try to get home without blowing out our candles!
“We go to great lengths to prevent the light of the candle from going out, even using little lanterns. The symbolism behind this is to bring the light of Christ into our homes. This also becomes an opportunity to share the Good News with people on the streets who become curious.”
“I believe that these restrictions have led us as Christians and churches to a new appreciation of the fellowship, traditions, and celebrations we so often take for granted,” observes Gulsum I, SAT-7 TÜRK’s Deputy Executive Director. “These unprecedented times are an opportunity for us to consider the meaning of these traditions and to focus on Christ and the joy that He brings.”
Donate to our Christmas appeal to help SAT-7 spread the joy of Christmas to Middle Eastern believers who have experienced a year of hardship and isolation.