COMMENTARY: 3 Reasons Not to Give Up on 'Misunderstood' Middle East
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Endless wars. Oppressive regimes. Victimization of women and girls.
You could think the Middle East -- my homeland and the birthplace of the Christian faith -- is a lost cause. But I'd like to show you why you shouldn't give up on this misunderstood part of the world.
I grew up in Lebanon during the country's war. My mom died when I was just seven years old, and my little sister and I were terrified we'd lose our dad, too. We'd huddle in front of a black-and-white television set that my dad somehow hooked up to a car battery. Watching cartoons was our escape from the chaos in the streets. Television was our haven. It helped us to forget.
That sparked my interest in the media, and the power of television to bring hope. God was preparing me for my life's calling in Christian media -- a calling that began 25 years ago as the first children's television presenter with the newly launched SAT-7 Christian media ministry, broadcasting across the Middle East and North Africa. I felt God saying to me: "Rita, I don't need your skills, or how you look in front of the camera. All I need is for you to take my love and give it to the children."
That's why today, as SAT-7's CEO, I'm most passionate about making God's love visible to children and their parents in this often inaccurately portrayed region of the world. I offer three reasons why we shouldn't give up on the Middle East:
- REASON #1: The News Paints A Misleading Picture of Gloom and Doom
In America and the West, the media presents a very negative image of the Middle East, but this is not a complete picture. Most people are searching for love, for affirmation, for truth. They long to live in peace, like all of us. They're very open to the gospel, and I've seen time after time how Jesus has shone into lives and the light has come on. Give the people of the Middle East a chance.
- REASON #2: The Church in the Middle East is a 'Sleeping Giant'
The Church in the Middle East is not dead. It has prevailed for 2,000 years. There's a growing underground church of "secret" believers that is alive, and one day soon it will flourish openly. You will be surprised. You will see floods of people coming to Christ. Why? Because the Church in the Middle East is strong, on its knees continually praying with hope and expectation of a glorious move of God. As one believer told me: "They may close our churches, but they will never close our hearts."
- REASON #3: The Children Will Change the Face of the Middle East
The Middle East is the young generation. Around 60% of the population is under the age of 25. If we reach the children today, we will change the face of the Middle East tomorrow. When we show the children the love of Jesus, how to forgive each other and accept each other even if we're different, we will transform the Middle East. Every day, through free-to-view programs on satellite television, online streaming and social media, SAT-7 encourages boys and girls to dream big and be open to what God can do in their lives.
I will never forget how God used that little black-and-white television set in Lebanon to give me a passion for the media and the children of Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Algeria, and the entire region.
We cherish your prayers. Please… don't give up on the Middle East.
Rita El-Mounayer is the CEO of SAT-7, a Christian multimedia ministry that broadcasts 24/7 across the Middle East and North Africa in local languages with local presenters.
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