In the dark of night Monday, February 6, multiple severe earthquakes and numerous aftershocks erupted in southeastern Türkiye (formerly known as Turkey) and parts of northwestern Syria.
Initial quakes measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, and the death toll at this writing is over 36,000 and climbing. People in both Türkiye and Syria were killed, harmed, or displaced.
We refer to such environmental events as natural disasters. But for the victims, as well as family and friends at a distance – and even entire nation – such disasters are a staggering, seemingly senseless, and cruel tragedy.
In the face of such crises, human beings ask existential questions.
Does God exist? Is God there? Is He angry, judging us? Does He know me? Does He care? If God is good, why does He allow this crisis?
Even Christians ask these questions. So, what must non-Christians ask who do not know the Heavenly Father?
As a Christian media ministry broadcasting throughout the extensive region we know as the Middle East and North Africa, SAT-7 is uniquely prepared and positioned to respond to these questions, and its spiritual mission is vital during crises.
But sometimes, people understandably ask, shouldn’t Christians focus on humanitarian and material aid – providing physical relief – during crises?
And the answer is yes, indeed.
Scripture reminds us, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18).
So, SAT-7 affirms and salutes humanitarian aid and relief organizations, both Christian and non-religious, that work diligently and compassionately to rescue victims and provide them with relief: food, clothing, shelter, safety, health assistance.
But what about those existential questions? I know they are asked because I’ve heard them this week. They are asked in the middle of the crisis, and the greater the suffering, the more these questions are asked as people struggle to find meaning and hope in the face of loss and grief.
In the case of the Türkiye/Syria earthquake, many in these countries and beyond their borders who are unharmed physically are nevertheless devastated by what they are seeing. It’s not a stretch to say the entire populations are scared, angry, lonely, fearful, distraught, and in despair, many without hope.
I’ve tried to think of a similar experience in the U.S. I was not yet born when the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, resulted in America’s entry into WWII. I do remember Hurricane Katrina, which deeply affected Americans but still, in some sense, was regionalized, and not everyone engaged.
Then I thought of 9-11. Everyone remembers 9-11. It’s like the JFK assassination in 1963. To this day, people remember where they were when they first heard the president had been shot and killed (I was in 6th grade at recess on the playground). People remember how they felt when they first understood what happened in Manhattan, Washington, DC, and the field in Pennsylvania. Or when they saw the video of the jets crashing into the World Trade Towers.
It’s true that 9-11 and the recent earthquake are different kinds of crises, the latter resulting in much greater loss of life. But there is a significant similarity: during the crisis, in real-time, and certainly after, people across any nations involved expressed fear and asked existential questions – Does God exist? Does He know and care?
We know this is happening in Türkiye, and while it is more challenging to get information from Syria due to its ongoing 12-year civil war, we can reasonably suspect that Syrians are asking these questions too. In fact, the suffering Syrians have been asking these questions in the face of political violence for years.
This is where SAT-7’s position and capacity as an established and respected Christian media ministry in the region is desperately needed. And where, in the providence of God, there is an opportunity, perhaps like no other, to witness to God’s love and mercy.
Crises bring times of hardship, grief, disappointment, and loss. And crises generate times to mourn with those who mourn. We witnessed this during the pandemic.
But even in lament, Jeremiah reflected, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him’” (Lamentations 3:21-24).
SAT-7 shares with viewers great biblical truths about our loving, compassionate, empathetic Lord. No other religion presents a God who knows us individually and personally and cares deeply about our pain. This truth reaps within us great hope. It’s a message people in the depths of crisis desperately need.
SAT-7 is blessed with a regional broadcast footprint throughout 25 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, making its programming potentially available to 98% of the 550 million people who possess a television and a satellite connection. This means SAT-7 can speak to millions, something not typically available or even the mission of on-ground humanitarian relief agencies.
During crises, SAT-7 complements the work of on-ground humanitarian relief efforts with broadcasts and online programs providing live content to help locals acquire vital information, then process trauma and emotional stress.
Spiritual leaders in crisis areas carry a heavy burden, and pastors in many non-western cultures are considered authoritative and depended upon for much more than the spiritual. Communities will take their cue from these spiritual leaders.
For many isolated believers and communities, SAT-7 presenters are their spiritual leaders. Both viewers and church leaders turn to SAT-7 for help and spiritual mentoring. Trauma healing, spiritual encouragement, and social media content for the isolated and traumatized make an immediate and ongoing impact.
SAT-7 programming brings awareness of Jesus’ presence, as He promised in the Bible, as people experience the storms – crises – of life.
Finally, we have been asked how people can give. If you want to designate you gift for SAT-7 TÜRK’s ministry to earthquake victims and the people of Türkiye and Syria, you can do so here.
Dr. Rex Rogers
President, SAT-7 USA