Originally published in Religion News Service
As anxious families in the troubled Middle East and North Africa — and especially Iran — face the coronavirus epidemic, Christian broadcaster SAT-7 (www.sat7usa.org) this week launched a new campaign to “calm the wave of fear with God’s peace”.
With coronavirus — known as COVID-19 — threatening to become a global pandemic, more than 60 countries have confirmed cases, including Iran, Iraq, U.A.E, Lebanon and Egypt. COVID-19 has infected nearly 90 000 people worldwide and killed more than 3 000, spreading fear around the world as scientists scramble to create a vaccine.
In the Middle East and North Africa, SAT-7’s satellite Christian programming speaks to viewers in their own homes via live, “real life” shows in Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish languages, as well as a children’s channel, showing viewers what it means to be a follower of Christ, especially in a crisis.
In Iran — one of the world’s coronavirus hotspots where the official death toll has hit 77 — worried viewers are tuning into the live, interactive Signal show to share their experiences and get advice from guest doctors. Television like SAT-7 is especially effective in communicating important information during the crisis, as more Iranians are likely staying in their homes, curtailing travel and daily routines.
One viewer, Nadia — a pharmacy technician — said: “Iranians are very concerned about the coronavirus, myself included. Friends tell me to leave my job, which they say exposes me to the virus. I see the lack of services and (lack of) a proper response. But I have put away fear and trust the Lord for myself (and) my family. My hope is that I will wake up and find this nightmare is over.”
In Egypt, viewers are being encouraged to fight fear with faith.
“When you’re a member of the family of Jesus, you never have to be afraid of anything,” presenter Melad Awad told viewers of SAT-7 KIDS’ show Family of Jesus, broadcast in Egypt. “Don’t be afraid of a virus, or anything that might happen, because Jesus himself is with us,” Awad told his young audience.
Fear and courage
Presenters are also combating fear-mongering about China, the source of the coronavirus outbreak, encouraging viewers to reject anger and racism — and pointing to the courage of Chinese Christians.
“People have been spreading rumours about China since the coronavirus crisis began, but we, the family of Jesus, cannot hate anyone,” Awad told viewers during a recent live broadcast. “To all our friends in China, we want to tell you that we love you and encourage you not to fear. We are praying for you.”
Viewers were told that Chinese Christians in Wuhan, China — where the outbreak began — were handing out free surgical masks on the streets, and telling passers-by that Jesus loves them, even though sharing their faith is illegal in China, and the police could have arrested them.
“These courageous Chinese believers are a powerful example of how to be a witness for Jesus during a crisis,” said Dr Rex Rogers, SAT-7 USA president. “That’s what our presenters aim to show viewers across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as calming the wave of fear with God’s peace.”
Coronavirus is spreading a lot of fear in the region, Rogers said. “But through live satellite television, we’re able to bring real hope and real peace to millions of anxious viewers at this deeply troubling time.”