(Vatican Radio) For nearly 20 years now the Christian television station Sat7 has been broadcasting a message of dialogue and reconciliation across the countries of the Middle East. What began as a small studio in Lebanon, has expanded to include five channels, broadcasting 24 hours a day in three of the major regional languages – Arabic, Pharsi and Turkish. There is also a dedicated kids’ channel, with millions of young viewers, that has recently embarked on a home schooling initiative for refugee children whose education has been abruptly cut short by conflict.
Sat 7 sees itself as a vital voice for Christians in the Middle East, as well as a bridge for dialogue with the majority Muslim world. Despite the increasing difficulties facing Christian communities in the region, Sat 7’s fundraising officer Kurt Johansen says the station plays a more important role now than ever before….
Listen to Kurt Johansen speaking with Philippa Hitchen:
“It’s very difficult but even more needed than ever, to give hope to Arab Christians. They are not many, many have left the region, but it’s important to give to those who are left a hope for a better future,” Johansen says. As an example of this work, he says Sat 7 journalists visit the refugee camps and last Christmas were able to broadcast Mass and a Christmas concert live from a camp near Erbil in northern Iraq. “It was brilliant to catch a small moment of joy in the midst of suffering,” he says.
Although it has been broadcasting in Turkish via the internet for several years, Sat7 was recently granted a licence to broadcast on the Turkish government satellite system, called Turk-Sat and is now broadcasting on the major outlet in Turkey. “We’re very grateful to the Turkish government” says Johansen
According to Johansen many Christians have “lost their homes, many lost siblings, parents, friends and schools. We don’t want to portray them as victims but as human beings with dignity who can be proactive and in the midst of their suffering they can do something to help their neighbours, to create a school, a women’s group and so on.”
Since many of Sat7’s viewers are Muslims, those who work for the channel view themselves as “an open window to non-Muslims who don’t know what Christianity is, so we are opening the doors to many, to millions and creating more understand for the Christians of the region. They feel that it’s the right time to go out and proclaim Christ as the light and salt of the world and to have this voice of forgiveness and love, to love your neighbours. This message is very important at this time in world history. It’s almost a circle of hate and revenge. We need to break the circles of revenge so we have a lot of programmes calling for dialogue and forgiveness and reconciliation.”
The channel works in cooperation with “all the variety of churches and the Christians of the Middle East are happy to have this voice.” Programmes can range from with debates with moderate Muslims to home-schooling for children in Syria and Iraq who don’t have a school any more. Sat7 is also trying to provide some trauma healing programmes on the air, in order to begin a healing process for people who can’t get to a psychologist in their country.
Christians in the Middle East also have the opportunity to talk about their own experiences and give their testimonies on the air. “We had a testimony from a viewer in a live programme who lost 2 brothers in the killing of the 21 Christians in Libya and he told about how he had now forgiven those who’d killed his brothers. Many were shocked to hear that he could forgive. The video was put on YouTube and over a million people have seen it. This is what we need to hear about, we need to hear about forgiveness,” Johansen says.