Date: November 22, 2013
(Photos courtesy SAT-7)
Lebanon (MNN) ― As Lebanon marks 70 years of independence today, the celebration is marred by tensions that are casting a cloud over the observance.
On Tuesday, police say at least 23 people were killed and more than 140 wounded in two bomb blasts near the Iranian embassy in Beirut. This part of the city is widely considered a Hezbollah stronghold and was hit by several attacks in July and August. An al-Qaeda-linked group in Lebanon claimed responsibility for an attack.
That, in itself, is a warning sign that Syria's conflict is drawing Lebanon into a proxy war. Iran is one of Syria's closest allies and is the key sponsor of Hezbollah. Shiite Iran actively supports Syrian president Bashar al-Assad against Sunni Muslim rebels, who are backed and armed by Sunni powers Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Meanwhile, the civil war in Syria has pushed hundreds of thousands of refugees over the borders into Lebanon and into a less-than-enthusiastic reception. Long years of Syrian aggression toward parts of Lebanon came to the forefront. SAT-7 USA* president Rex Rogers notes that even Christians struggled with hard feelings. "There was strong ethnic, national feeling, if you will. But six months into it, the Spirit of God did His work: there was a huge shift that took place in the body of Christ, the Church."
That shift was dramatic, Rogers goes on to say. The example he shares was multiplied over and over throughout Lebanon. "One church, where one of our staff members attends, is helping 250 people--Syrian refugees--get apartments, helping them get food, helping them, if possible, get a job, getting their children into school, doing anything they can because they realize ‘this is our opportunity! They've come to us. Let's share Christ with them.'"
That thinking permeates SAT-7's programming response to crisis events. This week's bombing was a good example of that. First, Rogers says, "Our studios, thankfully, are safe." The studios were pretty removed from the bombing site. However, "Our people live throughout the city and are actively doing their work. In fact, they went out a couple of hours after this and did some man-in-the-street interviews."
While people were still wandering around shell-shocked, the team interviewed survivors about what was happening. "We happened to have a program that was being filmed at the time which is called ‘Panorama' which is a biblical teaching program, and that's why they were doing these interviews. They asked people about who God is, is He still in charge when these kinds of things happen, why would He allow this." Answering those questions is really basic theology, he adds.
SAT-7 has also partnered with the American Bible Society and other national Bible Societies to provide resources that bolster the programming they air. As viewers interact with the shows, it's clear that the hope coming from the Gospel is showing the way to freedom.
Living in North America, what can we do? Rogers says we can get involved: pray, give or go. "We need to become more knowledgeable about the nuances of things on the ground and not depend just on the major news sources. So if you could dig deeper and learn about what the Lord is doing in the Church on the ground, and pray for these people as well as other ministries that work in the Middle East and North Africa, I think that's a very powerful thing to do."
*SAT-7 is a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa. SAT-7 airs 5 channels in Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish languages to a known audience of over 15 million viewers.