Rising audience engagement and heartfelt viewer comments show that SAT-7’s Christian broadcasts are needed now more than ever in the Middle East and North Africa. As the coronavirus spreads and churches are closed, viewers across the region are responding to the network’s spiritual comfort, mental health support, and practical health advice.
In Iran, the regional epicentre of the crisis, viewers say SAT-7 PARS programmes are helping them lean on their faith to find hope amid despair. When church leader Revd Keyvan Cyrus prayed fervently on Signal, a live programme that is receiving seven times more viewer responses than usual, many shared that his words had a profound effect. Lale* says:
“These days we need prayer so we can be strengthened. Really, what would we do if we didn’t have Jesus Christ? We see others who feel so much pain, fear, anxiety, and anger. Truly, we can see what God meant when He said whoever puts the blood of the Lamb on the door of his house will be safe. My husband is a street vendor and is currently without work, and we do not even have any loose change. But we are living in faith and we have never been left in need. We are praying for everyone else.”
Record viewer numbers in Turkey
Meanwhile, SAT-7 TÜRK is experiencing its largest-ever audience numbers since it began satellite broadcasts in 2015, with viewers saying that the channel is a rare source of joy as Turkey grapples to contain the region’s second-highest infection rate. Live programmes such as youth talk show Turning Point, women’s programme Homemade and ethics show Worldview are all addressing how Christians can respond to the crisis.
“SAT-7 is uniquely placed to provide our audience with the spiritual support they need,” commented Rita El-Mounayer, SAT-7 International CEO in a video message for Arabic speakers. “As our viewers have shown us, when people have hope, they find the strength to carry on. When they can find meaning in a crisis, its impact on their mental and physical health is lessened. We are committed to continuing our broadcasts as they take on this vital role: helping viewers navigate unprecedented times in which their other lines of support have been cut.”
On SAT-7 KIDS, the channel’s Facebook audience has increased by more than 500 per cent as regular presenters have calmed children’s fears with special video messages. A single video of Family of Jesus host Mina Awny, in which he shares spiritual encouragement as well as hygiene advice, reached more than 425,000 people in a matter of days and was shared 2,700 times.
Meanwhile, SAT-7 ARABIC is bringing Christian leaders together, across denominations and national borders, to encourage believers and witness to others. On special live shows and in a series of clips entitled “Messages of Hope”, church leaders from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Algeria, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates speak on experiencing God’s love, overcoming fear, and safely helping others during the pandemic. And on social media, a discussion with well-known church leader and psychiatrist Dr Maher Samuel entitled God, Fear, and the Coronavirus was watched by 160,000 people.
An holistic response
In the Middle East and North Africa, the coronavirus pandemic is hitting a region already dealing with great challenges and where many countries are less equipped to support their citizens.
As always, SAT-7’s response is an holistic one, addressing viewers’ needs from many angles. The network’s SAT-7 ACADEMY education and social development programmes are offering crucial health advice in “public service announcement” clips, and parenting programme The Coach has featured advice from a preventative medicine specialist. The live education advice programme Follow Up is focusing on children’s mental health, and as a lifeline for children who are now without school, the brand’s primary education show My School is going live on Facebook from the presenter’s home.
In Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, and Cyprus, where most SAT-7 programmes are made, local teams are committed to continuing live broadcasts while following all government guidelines. Filming of pre-recorded programming is on hold and office staff are working from home, while live shows are being made in studios with the smallest teams possible, to protect the health of staff.
*Name has been changed for security reasons.