Life in Lebanon is “like living near a volcano”, says Revd Dr Habib Badr, but SAT-7 gives him hope for a region in turmoil.
As Senior Pastor of the oldest Arabic-speaking Evangelical Church in the Middle East, Revd Dr Habib Badr knows well the volatility of the region and the fragility of Lebanon, his homeland. The National Evangelical Church of Beirut stands only metres away from some of Lebanon’s main government buildings. In his 65 years, Dr Badr has witnessed civil war, conflict with Israel and pressures from within and without.
“I have often described our situation as similar to people living near a volcano,” Dr Badr says. “The volcano many not erupt for years but you can never set your mind at ease because it may erupt. And when it does erupt, you have to be careful it doesn’t reach you.”
The latest eruption occurred in November 2015 when a twin suicide bombing in a southern Beirut suburb claimed 43 lives. “We expect more,” Dr Badr says.
Despite this, he says he is ultimately “hopeful” because he “counts on” what he calls “quality presence” by Christians in Lebanese society.
By “quality presence”, Dr Badr is thinking especially of holistic witness. When his church was founded in 1848 it was one of a broad range of services brought by Protestant churches. These included hospitals, schools, seminaries and universities.
Badr sees education as vital to the church’s ministry and existence in the region. And he sees SAT-7 as an innovative, modern equivalent of the Church’s pioneering work in education.
“I have always likened SAT-7 to a great educational enterprise”
He says: “For me SAT-7 is as important as the entry of universities and schools into the Middle East in the 19thcentury. I have always likened SAT-7 to a great educational enterprise. SAT-7 is a very important instrument of educating and enlightening families – Muslims and Christians – to the great values of Christianity and the good life Christ came to give us – ‘I am come that you may have life and have it in abundance’.”
This good life touches everything, he says: “In SAT-7 we address all these things – the value of women, of children, education, social awareness, hygiene.
“As I see Christians still hoping to open more schools and hospitals, and I see the work of SAT-7, that makes me hopeful, expectant of better times to come.”
It was Dr Badr’s commitment to education that led him to support SAT-7 and become Chair of its International Board.
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And one of his favourite programmes is My School, the new stream of education programmes for Arabic-speaking children displaced by war, which SAT-7 makes in Beirut. “That’s a fantastic programme,” he says. “Education is extremely valuable given the way the Middle East is now with the rise of fundamentalism, uneducated generations, Sunni-Shia tensions; it seems like whatever we do, we do not do enough.”