Iranian seekers have stunned the Farsi language channel of Christian satellite TV network SAT-7 with their overwhelming response to a chat room launched on Telegram, a new secure messaging app.
SAT-7 is being inundated with 2,000 messages a day from viewers in Iran and has seen over 60,000 views of the Bible in whole or in part since it opened a Telegram chat room in September 2015.
A woman from Tehran wrote, “Hello dear people at SAT-7.Thanks for accepting me into the Telegram group. I was very lonely in my faith and now here in this group I can talk freely about Jesus … Thank you for your efforts as you give me energy and strength in my faith. Thank you for introducing me to other Christian friends. I really appreciate it. God bless you.”
Despite Iran’s strict use of force and intimidation against Iranians who turn to Christ from a Muslim background, over 1.7 million Iranians* watch SAT-7 PARS, the network’s Farsi-language TV channel.
Thousands contact it seeking spiritual, practical and emotional help, ranging from advice on how to become a Christian to seeking prayer for freedom from addictions. But phone calls and text messages sent in Iran regularly attract warnings from the authorities while social media platforms such as Facebook are illegal and frequently blocked.
In contrast, Telegram allows users to protect their identities and enables SAT-7 to offer programmes and Bible downloads and converse with viewers securely.
“We had over 1,000 views of a Bible book or complete Bible after one week,” said Benjamin Parsa, Audience Relations Manager of SAT-7 PARS.
“Many have specifically written to us in Telegram chats, telling us that they have downloaded the Bible, that they have valued it and that many have become followers of Christ,” added SAT-7 Chief Operations Officer, Andrew Hart.
Even though SAT-7 did not advertise the start-up of their Telegram presence, vast numbers immediately found them and made contact. Many asked for prayer or gave testimonies of their faith in Christ.
Stunned by the response: Benjamin Parsa Parsa said, “We don’t have enough staff to pray for everyone. It’s overwhelming. This is not a follow-up project anymore; this is a movement.”
One viewer shared, “I’m grateful for all of you, for your kindness and diligent work that you do to gather us in Iran … This is not just a programme or media ministry, but it is truly our CHURCH for the time being!”
A woman whose family is opposed to her Christian faith said, “It is a great blessing for someone in my situation who has to read the Bible secretly because of what my husband might do. Receiving SAT-7 programmes on Telegram has been the best opportunity for me. It enables me to go on my tablet at the end of each night and study the materials with thirst and hunger in private.”
SAT-7 PARS offers a diverse mix of programmes for all ages, including Bible and theological teaching, talk shows addressing family life and practical issues, programmes for young adults, worship shows and children’s broadcasts.
*2011 research conducted by independent market research company InterMedia.