LARNACA, CYPRUS (ANS) -- As Middle East and North African Christians feel increasingly cut off from the rest of their brothers and sisters around the world because of the September 11 terror attack on America, SAT-7 is bringing them "high flying hope" through its Christian satellite channel.
This was revealed at a SAT-7 partners and supporters meeting held from October 30-November 1 in Larnaca, Cyprus. The unique broadcasting group is a partnership of some 30 agencies, including the United Bible Societies, Campus Crusade for Christ and local churches in countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and Kuwait.
"Never before has it been so clear that SAT-7 is strategic and timely ministry for the needy countries of the Middle East and North Africa," said Terry Ascott, CEO of SAT-7. "In the regions where we broadcasts, 70 percent of the population are functionally illiterate and so television is playing a big role with the people."
Ascott revealed that SAT-7 provides Christians in the Middle East and North Africa -- 21 Arab countries, plus Turkey and Iran -- and where less than five percent of the total of population of 340 million are "Christians" - nominal or committed.
"We celebrated our fifth year on air on May 31 and we now broadcast a variety of Christian programming to the Middle East and North Africa and, in partnership with Iran Christian Broadcasting (ICB) are working towards the start of Farsi programming to Iran early next year," he said.
The ministry began in 1996 with a modest 2 hours-per-week schedule then in April 2000, SAT-7 moved to a daily 2-hour broadcast, using two different satellites, to provide both analogue and digital services.
Apart from celebrating 5 years on air, SAT-7 has started multiple 2-hour broadcasts on the digital satellite service, totaling some 84 hours per week - making SAT-7 programs more readily available to the millions of viewers who are spread across 6 time zones, from Morocco to Iran.
1.5 MILLION VIEWERS IN A NORTH AFRICAN COUNTRY
Ascott said that a recently conducted professional survey in one North African country has revealed that 20.8 percent of dish owners (6.00 million persons) declare that they have received SAT-7. A local newspaper also conducted its own survey and said, "Our visit to district schools showed that 60 percent of the students have watched the SAT-7 channel at least once and 30 percent have watched As Sanabel (SAT-7 Children's program.)"
He went on to say that the "700-Club" in the USA has an estimated daily audience of about 800,000, while SAT-7 in just one of 21 Arab countries has double that audience.
THE HOUSE OF ABU YOUSSEF
Those at the SAT-7 conference learned that drama plays a big role in SAT-7 programming and in August, the studio drama, The House of Abu Youssef (second series), was filmed in Jordan. The drama programs convey Christian truth and important social, environmental and development messages. Additional children's segments, and a series promoting micro finance project development were also shot in Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia.
Lebanon is one of the main production centers for SAT-7 programming. This year the SAT-7 staff there continued the ongoing production of children's programs, SAT-7's music and talk show, Vitrina, and half a dozen other regular features. In pre-production are two new series, What's Your Opinion (a talk show) and This is my Will (a docudrama style program that, through testimonies, will help viewers better understand the meaning of the Sermon On the Mount)
In Egypt, production took place for 20 new episodes of Secret Word, a Bible quiz show and 13 more Word and A Song, which are Arabic Christian music programs with devotional comment).
SAT-7'S LIFE SAVING NUMBERS
Telephone counseling centers are being set up all over the region and on Monday, July 30, one of SAT-7 partner operated telephone-counseling centers in Jordan received a dramatic call. The story is told by one of the counselors:
"The call was from Maria, a 30-year-old local businesswoman. She said that she needed an urgent appointment to meet and talk with me. It was already late so I suggested we meet the next day. She said that tomorrow would be too late, and the matter was really urgent - she was planning suicide!
"I said she could come over right away and 10 minutes later Maria walked into our office. She began, "listen, I have not come to hear you preach or to listen to many boring words - I need urgent and practical counsel, and if you cannot help me, let me go right now.'
"I replied, "With God's help, we can find answers. Please sit down and let us hear about your problem.'
"She continued, 'I am the manager of one of this country's biggest stockbrokers. Our company has lost of 10 million dollars in recent weeks and is about to declare bankruptcy. I have been working 15 hours a day and feel totally exhausted. I am at the end of my strength. When I saw your number on the SAT-7 screen, I called you immediately.'
"We listened attentively for more than an hour as Maria catalogued all the problems in her life, including the big financial ones that had actually resulted in her losing her faith in God, or even His existence.
"We then counseled her for nearly two hours-she was crying, sometimes shouting. Eventually, Maria fell on her face and, with tears running down her cheeks, prayed to God saying, 'Thank you for intervening in my life and saving me at just the right time...thank you for the phone number that saved my life...'"
Now Maria is taking a Bible study course and attends a local church and "has a peace and joy that reflect her newfound relationship with God."
SAT-7 programming is designed to meet the needs of families across the region. The daily schedule begins with Christian programs for children (including animation) and then moves on to Christian music, youth programming, drama, dubbed Christian films, local documentaries, teaching and devotional programs, news and testimonies.
SAT-7 has 87 staff, 8 located in America. Ministry offices and production facilities are located in Cyprus, Lebanon and Egypt. The ministry uplinks the broadcast signal from London to the satellites for distribution.
This year saw SAT-7 perform its first-ever live uplink from Syria, covering the unprecedented display of Christian unity brought about through the visit of Pope John Paul II, 5-8 May.
The ministry also received the National Religious Broadcasters "International Ministry" award this year during the NRB's annual convention in Dallas, Texas. In a part of the world where Christians face many problems, SAT-7 is continuing to provide them with some "high flying hope."
For further information on SAT-7 log onto www.sat7.org
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