Beacon of Light celebration recognises bereaved women as “living beacons”
Two Egyptian mothers whose adult and teenage children’s lives were stolen by terrorists were special guests at Beacon of Light – a gala event to mark 20 years of SAT-7, the largest television network in the Middle East that is dedicated to giving a voice to the region’s Christians.
In an evening filled with musical performances by leading Egyptian Christian singers and choirs, clips showing highlights of SAT-7’s broadcasting and speeches by national church leaders, the night’s longest applause came for an elderly widow from Upper Egypt.
Mrs Dawood is the mother of two of the 21 Egyptians beheaded on a Libyan beach in February 2015 by so-called Islamic State (IS). The night after IS released a video of their deaths, Mrs Dawood’s oldest son, Bashir – who also attended Beacon of Light – spoke live on SAT-7, saying their painful ordeal had made the family “stronger in our faith because the Bible tells us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us.”
On Monday (30 May) a 600-strong audience at the Anba Rweis Theatre in Cairo’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral watched a video of Mrs Dawood herself speak of her faith in God. Millions more saw her testimony broadcast live from the event on SAT-7’s Arabic channel.
Mrs Dawood voiced her forgiveness and said she prayed for the killers of her two younger sons and of two other young relatives who perished in the same atrocity. Speaking of how her sons had chosen martyrdom rather than renounce their faith, she said she would not be afraid to make the same choice: “If my children weren’t scared, why would I be?”
Many audience members left their seats to hug or shake hands with Mrs Dawood, including Muslim Sheikh Abdel Fattah Abdel Kader, Coordinator of The Egyptian Family House, which promotes inter-religious cooperation.
Mrs Dawood was applauded again when she was invited to the stage to receive a special award topped with a beacon-shaped flame. Selected SAT-7 staff members past and present, Christian directors and writers, and heads of partner Egyptian ministries also received awards for their work and contribution to the TV network’s growth and impact.
Survivor of shooting
But standing alongside Mrs Dawood with her award was another mother who was being honoured for her faith after surviving a terrorist attack in which one of her daughters was killed.
Mrs Refaat is the mother of Mariam, a 13-year-old girl shot dead when terrorists opened fire at a church in the Warraq suburb of Cairo in October 2013. Mrs Refaat also lost a brother-in-law in the attack and was herself wounded in the hail of gunfire and spent days slipping in and out of consciousness following operations to remove bullets from her leg.
But at Monday’s celebration, she said she was happy to be invited and be among SAT-7 family.
Dr Terence Ascott, Founder and International CEO of SAT-7, said: “It has been a great privilege for SAT-7 to provide the Church with a platform to speak into situations [like these]: to share stories of the Church-in-action, testimonies of forgiveness and grace, and to provide the Church with a way to help the traumatised; those who have lost their families, their homes, and their schools, those who have even lost their faith.”
From a two-hour weekly broadcast from a rented studio in Lebanon on 31 May 1996, SAT-7 has grown to five 24-hour-a-day channels broadcasting in Arabic, Farsi and Turkish to over 15 million people across North Africa and the Middle East. During SAT-7’s first year on air, the channel received 824 audience responses. In 2015, there was an average of nearly 800 a day.
Anglican Archbishop Dr Mouneer Anis of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa was one of several national church leaders who congratulated SAT-7 on 20 years of broadcasting.
Presenting SAT-7 directors with the Episcopal Shield of the diocese, he said: “SAT-7 has been the messenger of the Church transmitting the good news of God’s love. SAT-7 has been a success story on all levels in the past 20 years – successful in transmitting its message and successful in expressing the voice of the Church to society as a whole and to the Middle East.”
Answering the Cry of the Persecuted
Learn more about how SAT-7 broadcasts support believers like Mrs Dawood and Mrs Refaat who experience persecution and discrimination for their Christian faith.