As churches in the Holy Land and neighboring Jordan cancel public Christmas celebrations, SAT-7 is standing in solidarity with those suffering in the region with a schedule of Christmas programming that points viewers to the Prince of Peace. Special broadcasts include a church service from Bethlehem, children singing from a Christian school in Ramallah, and stories of faith from Iraq.
At the end of a year that has been marked by disaster and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), SAT-7’s four channels – ARABIC, KIDS, PARS, and TÜRK – will be sharing the hopeful message of Christ’s birth in a range of Christmas programs for all ages.
SAT-7 ARABIC will have the overarching theme of “His Name shall be called… the Prince of Peace” from Isaiah 9, and it will follow the low-key approach of the Holy Land and Jordanian churches. The church leaders in Jerusalem have called on churches in the Holy Land to forgo “any unnecessarily festive activities” and “focus more on the spiritual meaning of Christmas.” This followed a similar statement from the Council of the Heads of Churches in Jordan asking Christians to “cancel all Christmas activities and festivities” and limit Christmas to church prayers and services.
Special broadcasts for Arabic viewers include a midnight mass from Bethlehem and an interview with the pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, which has attracted worldwide attention with its Nativity scene of the baby Jesus placed among rubble, representing the devastation of the war in the Holy Land.
SAT-7 ARABIC will also share a moving recording of an Arabic Christmas carol by children from The Friends School in Ramallah. The words of the song have been changed into prayers for children in the Holy Land.
To encourage viewers going through suffering, grief, and hardship, a crew from SAT-7 ARABIC traveled to Erbil, northern Iraq, last week to film a special program called The Church and Christmas… Hope Here and Now. The show will feature the testimonies of Iraqi believers and interviews with church leaders and political representatives about how the Christian community in Iraq is rebuilding after the devastating takeover by Islamic State militants in 2014. (More on this in an upcoming article.)
Other Christmas programs on SAT-7 ARABIC include Christmas Nights, a 10-episode reflective show in which viewers will be invited to consider the Christmas story in more depth and encouraged to apply lessons from it to their lives. What if? is a seven-episode apologetics program that will tackle some difficult questions about the birth of Christ. And From the Born Child with no Limits, filmed in Lebanon, is a devotional and teaching program filmed in front of a Nativity scene.
Over on SAT-7 KIDS, there will be special Christmas episodes of popular regular programs including La Fiesta, Challenge Accepted, Bedtime Story, and Behind the Door. A special KIDS Christmas Drama will address children’s questions prompted by recent distressing events in the region and include prayer for people in the Holy Land.
For viewers in Iran and Afghanistan, where most believers cannot celebrate Jesus’ birth openly, SAT-7 PARS will bring a taste of Christmas into the homes of viewers with a 13-episode series called Christmas Passion. This special production comes in response to requests from Persian viewers for more good-quality Christmas shows.
Presented by Gilbert Hovsepian, along with three other well-known Persian Christian singers (Ojeny, Darya, and Daryush), Christmas Passion is set inside a home decorated for Christmas. Viewers will be invited to reflect on the wonder of the incarnation as the presenters talk, play, and sing worship songs and share joyful moments together.
“We want to bring the joy of this season to the viewers, change the atmosphere of their homes while they watch the program, give sound teaching about the meaning of Christmas, and give the viewers the feeling of belonging to a large family of Christians,” said Gilbert.
It has also been a difficult year for viewers in Türkiye, where millions were affected by the earthquakes that struck the south-east of the country in February. Over the Christmas period, special episodes of SAT-7 TÜRK’s live programs including Essence of the Gospel, Worldview, and Homemade, and children’s shows Great News and Mini City, will focus on miracles. The programs will also highlight the country’s small Christian community as a people who help their neighbors, bring light in the darkness, and glorify God even in the worst of situations.
SAT-7 CEO Rita El-Mounayer said, “It feels difficult to celebrate Christmas in the Middle East and North Africa this year after so many distressing events in the region in 2023. In our Christmas broadcasts, we will pray for those suffering, and we will also draw hope and strength from the Prince of Peace. As we share the message of His birth with viewers across the region, please pray that this will encourage many weary and grieving hearts.”