SAT-7 Founder, Dr Terence Ascott, has paid tribute to French priest Father Thierry Becker, who escaped death several times during Algeria’s brutal armed conflict of the 1990s, but passed away on 25 January. Fr Becker (age 86) dedicated 60 years of his life to serving the Algerian people and represented North Africa’s Catholic Christians on the SAT-7 International Board in the early years of the TV network.
As assistant to the Bishop of Oran, Fr Thierry Becker visited the Tibhirine monastery on the night of 26 March 1996, when terrorists carried out threats they had made previously and kidnapped and murdered seven community members. Their sacrifice brought thousands onto the streets in Paris in mourning and was told in an award-winning film, Of Gods and Men.
Monsignor Claverie, the Bishop of Oran, was himself murdered only months afterwards, in August 1996.
Some two years after these terrible events, Fr Becker became a valued member of the SAT-7 International Board.
Dr Ascott writes: “In 1998, the Catholic Bishop in Algiers appointed Fr Thierry Becker to represent him and the small Catholic community in North Africa on the SAT-7 International Board (now called International Council), for a three-year term.
“Because of the political troubles in Algeria at this time, Fr Becker was unable to make many of our meetings but, when he could be with us, was very supportive of the ethos, vision and mission of SAT-7.
“He tragically witnessed the loss of almost 30, mostly Catholic clergy in Algeria during the armed struggle of the 1990s, including the murder of the Bishop in Oran.
“Fr Becker was a humble and gracious man who brought helpful insights and much wisdom to our board, and encouragement to the many others he served with great compassion. He will be greatly missed.”
The Algerie 24H news site reports that Fr Becker spent most of his time over the last few years supporting sub-Saharan migrants whenever they were in need or in trouble.
Fr Becker remained a good friend of SAT-7. In 2012, after training local Christians in media production, the network began filming services and other programmes in Algeria itself.
Salah Kessai, one of SAT-7’s Algerian producers, comments on the impact of Fr Thierry’s life: “Our big brother, Thierry Becker, was full of love for all people and always ready to help the kingdom of God. He left us last week, at the age of 86, for a better place than here. Death is gain for those who believe.”
Founded in 1996, SAT-7 is run by and for the Christians of the Middle East and North Africa and broadcasts Christian and educational programmes to 25 million viewers in Arabic, Persian and Turkish via its four 24/7 TV channels and digital platforms.