A Christian satellite television network serving the Middle East and North Africa is set to significantly increase its live broadcasting thanks to support from a leading Catholic charity.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has given a second grant of $18,600 to provide equipment for SAT-7’s TV studio in Cairo, Egypt, enabling more live programs to be produced.
The ACN aid is expected to improve the quality of the network’s programs, which comprise news, debates, music and drama aimed at increasing understanding among Christians and closer cooperation with people of other faiths.
Rachel Fadipe, Executive Director of SAT-7 in the UK, explained the importance of increasing live broadcasts.
She said, “Live programs can be very exciting. They enable real interaction with viewers – live broadcasting means you can make connections with viewers.”
Christians from many denominations are involved in SAT-7, and clergy from different churches appear on its live programs where viewers can phone in to the studio to ask questions.
Kurt Johansen, the Executive Director of SAT-7’s European Office, said, “On our televised discussions we have members from each of the four groups [Eastern Orthodox, Oriental, Catholic and Protestant] and they will answer questions put to them by the audience.”
SAT-7’s board draws together senior churchmen from different denominations in the region, including Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.
Mr. Johansen said, “From the beginning we said we want to unite the churches in their diversity [and] show they can have unity.”
“We don’t hide differences but we discuss them in a polite and civilized way.”
Explaining why Satellite TV is the most effective media for reaching Christians in the region, Mr. Johansen said, “In the Middle East, Satellite TV is the media.”
“More than half in the Middle East have a satellite, and they watch more TV each day than in any other part of the world.”
Satellite broadcasting is not subject to the restrictions which apply to Christian literature in some Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Johansen said, “Many Christians are not very well educated, they cannot read, they have no access to a priest, but on SAT-7 they can tune in and 24 hours a day learn about and have deeper roots in the Christian faith.”
The broadcaster also helps to build better relations between Christians and other religious groups by providing accurate information about the faith.
Mr. Johansen said, “There are a lot of misunderstandings: some people believe Christians are cannibals because of Holy Communion. But when they see what’s going on, they get a different picture.
“There is more respect, more tolerance; it’s tearing down barriers in a positive way.”
In addition to the increasing number of live programs, SAT-7’s broadcasts include soap operas dealing with Christian issues and films based on Biblical subjects. Forty percent of programs focus on teaching, catechesis and the Bible.
They also include quiz shows about the Scriptures and a weekly talk by Coptic Orthodox leader Pope Shenouda III.
Mr. Johansen added, “Aid to the Church in Need has been with us from the beginning and has supplied us with cameras and TV equipment.”
“We have enjoyed working with ACN as we have a common vision for the Middle East.”
Over the last 15 years ACN has given over $300,000 in aid to SAT-7.
ACN’s recent help for the broadcaster follows Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 message to the charity in which he encouraged it to help Christians in the Middle East and to increase its aid to broadcasting projects to support Catholic communities.
SAT-7 broadcasts five channels 24-hour-a day which reach about 8 million viewers in 19 countries.