As Turkey records its highest number of COVID-19 related deaths this week, Gülsüm I., Deputy Executive Director of SAT-7 TÜRK, shares how the pandemic is affecting people in the country and how SAT-7 TÜRK is uniquely positioned to make God’s love visible.
“People are scared and they are tired because it feels like the pandemic and its consequences are never ending,” she says. “The impact of the pandemic on the economy has been very bad and it is leading to a lot of uncertainty. It is expected that approximately a third of businesses will be forced to close, leading to millions of job losses. People are very worried about how things will be when the pandemic finally ends.”
The future looks especially bleak for youth as youth unemployment peaked at 26.1 percent in 2020 . “All of this is leading to an increase in people asking philosophical questions such as, ‘Why are we here? Where are we in life?’” shares Gülsüm. “The younger generation especially is asking a lot of questions. With restrictions and lockdowns, life has gotten a lot slower, and they are reading books and watching videos and they are questioning life.”
When the pandemic first hit a year ago, SAT-7 TÜRK noticed that more viewers were engaging with the channel, especially with programs like Let’s Talk. At the time, Let’s Talk Presenter Pastor Cem Ercin said, “We receive more questions, there are more discussions and arguments, more positive and negative reactions. I believe this engagement with the channel will continue to increase because people are hungry for answers.” Since Pastor Cem’s comments last year, engagement with the channel doubled.
Furthermore, according to Pastor Cem, viewers began asking more challenging questions. “We used to get common questions such as ‘Has the Bible been changed?’, but now viewers are researching the Bible. They are comparing verses [and] engaging with the programs, and their questions are becoming more difficult.”
“We trust in God that there is a reason why we are here,” says Gülsüm. “People are looking for answers and seeking something more than what the world can offer. We can point them to our God of love, in whom we have hope and freedom.”
Despite the immense challenges of the pandemic, with programs cancelled or put on hold due to travel restrictions and illness among staff and presenters, the SAT-7 TÜRK team came together like never before, to support one another and to share their hope in Christ with viewers.
“COVID-19 didn’t stop us,” says Gülsüm. “We learned to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions to restrictions. We created programs for social media using Skype, increasing our engagement with audiences. Even a year after the pandemic began, the team remains enthusiastic and keeps working hard to meet our viewers’ needs.”