Originally published in Religion News Service.
A satellite television broadcaster in the Middle East is using its unique platform to show that Christians are not a threat as angry protesters attack churches and some blame Christians for Covid-19.
After a recent arson attempt on a church in Istanbul — Turkey’s largest city — the suspect told police that he wanted to burn down the church because, he said, Christians and other minorities “were responsible for Covid-19”.
At another church in the city, protesters tore down the cross — a sign of rising tensions and social unrest in a nation that’s become increasingly hostile to Christianity.
SAT-7 TURK — the only Christian network broadcasting every day in the Turkish language — is encouraging local Christians to respond to the attacks and persecution by “living out their faith with love and taking the path of peace”.
“We know first-hand the climate of hatred and its devastating effects on Turkey and on the churches exposed to it”, Turkish presenter Senem Ekener said. “We aim to counter that with lives that reflect Christ”.
Slammed by soaring unemployment and coronavirus-related financial hardships, some Turks have been looking for a scapegoat to vent their anger — putting Christians and other minorities in the direct line of protests.
“The pandemic has created fear and frustration in Turkey, with Christians sometimes being blamed for the problem”, said Dr Rex Rogers, president of SAT-7 USA, a Christian network that broadcasts 24/7 in local languages across the Middle East and North Africa, using local presenters.
‘Everything has been taken away’
“The current situation is so fragile… everything we trusted has been taken away,” said co-presenter Volkan Er, referring to mass job losses and uncertainty in the nation of 84 million where less than one percent of the population is Christian.
Even before the pandemic and related business lockdowns, Turkey’s unemployment rate hovered around 13%, with many families living on the edge. In recent weeks, reports of domestic violence have increased as desperation sets in.
During the health crisis, SAT-7 has seen interest in its social media channels skyrocket, as anxious Turks look for answers in the Christian faith and the lives of believers.
More viewers have contacted the television channel with questions about Christianity each day in the past few months than any day in the previous five years since Turkish-language broadcasts began. “When we turn to the Bible, we see how God removes all barriers and we see his call for peace”, said Ekener.