“For several decades a spiritual awakening among Algeria’s Berber or Amazigh people has been producing the fastest-growing Christian community in the Arabic-speaking region. Since the network’s first broadcasts in 1996, SAT-7 has resourced this vibrant Church, initially with our Arabic programmes and, since 2012, with broadcasts in the Berber Kabyle dialect.”
This is a quotation from Sat-7’s magazine published a year ago.
SAT-7 is a UK based charity dedicated to growing Church in the Middle East and North Africa, serving the community, and contributing to the good of society and culture.
Their aim is to provide the churches and Christians of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) an opportunity to witness to Jesus Christ through inspirational, informative, and educational television services.
Algeria was one of the places I visited on Wednesday 10th February 2021, via Zoom and courtesy of SAT-7. The Protestant Church of Algeria was first registered in 1974 but had to wait till 2011 for legal recognition. Then in 2017 the gradual closure of churches began – despite freedom of religion guaranteed by Algeria’s constitution. This movement to close churches continues. On Wednesday, George Makeen, Programming Manager spoke of the church being strong and growing but much in need of support.
Leaving Algeria I moved on to Lebanon and to Beirut in particular. Lebanon has been at peace for 30 years, but economic mismanagement and mass protests have put its creaking political system under greater pressure than at any time since the civil war. This is an area I have been interested in for a long time. It is now just six months since the terrible explosion close to the port. The SAT-7 office and broadcasting centre was situated near the site of the explosion. Fortunately none of the staff were injured, but they were out quickly, serving food to rescue workers. The city has been badly hit by the Covid 19 pandemic. Citizens are being taken to hospital by frantic relatives trying to save lives. Many are dying in their cars before being admitted to hospital and hospitals have run out of oxygen, yet oxygen is available on the black market!
Next to Iran and the story of Dani a young man who loved and worshipped God through his Muslim faith. He was a serious and honourable young man, but, like many young people, he began to question his faith. He felt there was something missing. So he tried various other routes to worship but remained dissatisfied. His Mother, concerned for her son, placed a book on the table for him to consider. The book was a copy of the New Testament. Through an interpreter, he talked about how his life was changed. He has trained to take on leadership roles and is working towards assisting other young people to find their way through Christ.
This was quite a visit to the Middle East and left me with many troublesome thoughts. But the most important thing I remember is the amazing joyfulness evident in the lives of these young people, and I would emphasise YOUNG. Despite all the hardships they suffer every day of their lives, their love for and worship of Jesus is so real. They were indeed “lights of the world”.
It made me question why, in this country where worshipping God is so easy, requires no effort and certainly no risk to life, is there no joyfulness. Yes, we are saddened by the closure of Churches, but even when they are open, I do not detect the sort of joyful, light giving pleasure and thankfulness seen among those for whom worship is a risk to life and limb.
We talk of “returning to normal” when we are again free from current restrictions. But I am not sure I want to return to “normal” as before. I want to be part of a Christian community which expresses, through daily activities, the light of Christ in a darkened world. And to show the joyful character of those whose lives are changed.