There was a record attendance at last week’s annual conference of SAT-7, the Middle East Christian satellite TV broadcaster. Held for the first time in Turkey, from 26-28 March, SAT-7’s annual ‘Network’ conference attracted 250 people from 25 countries, an indication of the growing concern for the troubled Middle East region among many people around the world.
Contributors from Iran, North Africa, Turkey and across the Arab world reflected how believers from many countries collaborate in this ministry. And in a session featuring SAT-7 supporters, Kuan Kim Seng, Dean of Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore, labelled SAT-7’s broadcasts “as significant as Christian shortwave radio broadcasts were to China fifty years ago” when they nurtured and grew the Chinese Church.
In his keynote address on the the theme ‘Broadcasting HOPE in an era of hopelessness’, SAT-7 CEO Dr Terence Ascott outlined the seemingly hopeless situation in the Middle East and North Africa. There is a crisis of hope due to the failure of the political uprisings of the Arab Spring; continuing instability and insecurity in many countries; the lack of economic and educational opportunities; a widespread disillusionment with religion; general lack of ability for Middle Easterners to reconcile and subsequent unresolved long-running political conflicts; a breakdown of ethical and moral behaviour; the low status accorded to women in many lands; the loss of trust in the media; and so on.
Despite these apparently desperate circumstances, SAT-7’s Arabic, Farsi and Turkish language channels are reaching 15 million viewers across the Middle East and North Africa, and Dr Ascott went on to describe how SAT-7 brings hope to the region: with the Gospel – a message of hope and truth for everyone; by supporting isolated believers; through presenting testimonies of hope; modelling inclusiveness and pluralistic debate; by reaching and empowering women and children; supporting Church unity; supporting and interacting personally with viewers in need.
Dr Ascott reminded his audience of SAT-7’s dual goals: making the Gospel available to all in the Middle East and North Africa, and especially to children, women, people who are unable to read or write, and people living in homes which have been traditionally ‘closed’ to the message of the Gospel; and encouraging the church in the Middle East and North Africa in its life, work and witness for Christ.
Daily Bible devotionals from a Turkish pastor in Izmir also opened windows on the history of Christianity in Turkey and on fresh growth among the Turkish Church, while optional sessions spotlighted the situations in specific countries and regions.
Representatives of partner organisations from Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia spoke about the reasons why they work together with SAT-7.
Kuan Kim Seng, Dean of Saint Andrew’s Cathedral in Singapore gave a powerful endorsement, saying SAT-7 could be “as significant” or perhaps have an “even more considerable” impact than Christian radio in China after the expulsion of missionaries: “It has a great platform with satellite TV and it has the potential to impact millions of people. God is doing a mighty work in SAT-7. Nearly ten million children regularly watch SAT-7’s programmes and, in ten years’ time, those children will be adults, having heard through SAT-7 about Christ. Imagine what God can do in their lives. We should pray for the children of the Middle East, that they will change their societies. God is using SAT-7 to bring blessing to the Middle East and North Africa.”