“People are living in fear of the future” and “they are thirsty for Jesus”, a conversation about ministering in the Middle East today

By CDI Staff |
Market in Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter
Shoppers at a market in Jerusalem. | IMB

Christian Daily International recently interviewed Rami Al Halaseh, Arabic Channels Executive Director of Sat-7, a ministry whose mission is to provide the churches and Christians of the Middle East and North Africa an opportunity to witness to Jesus Christ through inspirational, informative and educational television and digital media services.

Al Halaseh, who lives in Jordan, shared about the current atmosphere in the Middle East amid the ongoing war in the Holy Land, the importance of remembering Christians in the region, a great spiritual thirst for Jesus – and more!

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

CDI: Thank you so much for taking the time. You're working in a context that has attracted a lot of media attention in recent times with the ongoing war in the Holy Land. There is so much polarization and tension as people are talking about it. But what is the reality on the ground? How do people feel in the region?

Rami Al Halaseh
Rami Al Halaseh | Sat-7

Rami Al Halaseh: Thank you for having me. First of all, generally speaking it's not a secret to say that people are living in fear of the future. People are wondering: What's going to happen? How will this end? And, of course, everybody wants this to end as soon as possible.

In Jordan specifically, there has been a long history of connectedness between Palestinians and Jordanians. During the 1948 refugee influx, a huge number of Palestinians came across the river into Jordan. So nowadays, a big percentage of Jordanians have Palestinian background. For example, my late aunt was married to a Palestinian, so my cousins are of Palestinian origin. The reason I'm saying that is because Jordan has always been the refuge for not only Palestine, but all of the region. So, looking at the situation today, the people of Jordan are not only living in fear, but also not happy about what's happening.

Throughout the ages, the role of the Church has always been to focus on how we can bring hope to the people.

But from a Christian point of view, our region has experienced this before. This is not the first conflict, and I believe this is not the last one. And throughout the ages, the role of the Church has always been to focus on how we can bring hope to the people. How can we keep reminding the people of our land of what is most important? It is not that what is happening is not important, it is very important, but what is the voice of the Church? What do we have to focus on? And we believe we need to focus on bringing the message of hope.

For us at Sat-7, we have been broadcasting into the region in Arabic, Turkish and Farsi, and our focus is on making God's love visible through our programs. It's unique because it's being done by the people of the region: people from the Middle East speaking to people in the Middle East.

CDI: How have the recent few months affected people? And how do they perceive the response of the international community including Christians around the world to the war?

Rami Al Halaseh: If we are talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this has been going for more than 70 years. What we always have to consider – and I think our friends in the West need to remember that – is that this is affecting the Church. This is affecting the body of Christ in the region. Most of the time, the international community forgets about Christians in the region.

Most of the time, the international community forgets about Christians in the region.

I believe that for us as Christians, because we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and we follow what the Bible says, it is not ‘Christian’ to take sides in a conflict. Rather, it is Christ-like to look at this and say, what would Jesus do? How does God look at this? And as Christians, we believe that God weeps when He looks at this.

At SAT-7, we don't go into politics. That's not our mission. That's not our focus. Our mission is to make God's love visible. Our mission is to make the gospel available to everyone.

But to answer your question, the Christian existence in the Middle East is shrinking more and more. Now, if we don't remind people of that, I think it will shrink even more. And one day the Middle East may be empty of Christians, which means empty of light and salt of the world. And who is happy when that happens? The enemy.

According to the Bible, we as Christians shouldn't think of any human being as the enemy. Because according to the Bible, our fight is not against flesh and blood, it's against spiritual forces. (Ephesians 6:12) And we believe that any conflict in the world, any conflict that leads to the killing of children, women and men, is in its essence a spiritual problem, and we cannot solve a spiritual problem with carnal solutions.

Unless we believe in Jesus, unless we are in Christ, we can never see peace established.

They talk about peace. They have been talking about peace for the last seventy years and beyond. But peace cannot happen and cannot be experienced without a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The Bible says that Jesus is the author of peace and author to me means he invented the concept. He invented that status of peace. So, unless we believe in Jesus, unless we are in Christ, we can never see peace established. It will only last for a few years, but then something else will happen. And then we'll go back to the same old Psalm.

CDI: Talking about believing in Jesus, could you share a bit about Sat-7’s ministry in the Middle East: what are some of the questions you receive and how do you interact with your audience?

Rami Al Halaseh: We do have our audience relations team for our different channels in different languages. We are there to communicate and to engage with the viewers firsthand, among others also through our social media platforms, which allow for instant communication. So, we make sure to let our viewers know that we're there for them, we're listening, we care about their concerns and about their situations.

Our ministry is actually not only to answer questions [...], but it's about us showing them that we care.

And we've been receiving so many – I can say thousands and thousands – of comments and letters where people express how thirsty and how hungry they are for this Jesus whom we're talking about and for this unconditional love.

They ask all kinds of questions. But our ministry is actually not only to answer questions, because they can google any question and can get the answer, but it's about us showing them that we care. And through this care, we want to show them the unconditional love of God and lead them to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

This is, of course, not just at the push of a button, it's a journey. Therefore, what we promise is that we will go with them on this journey, not only through SAT-7 but also through our partners. Going the extra mile and accompany them on a journey of discipleship and make sure that they understand that kind of love and they receive that kind of love.

We believe this is the work of the Holy Spirit, it's only by the grace of God. Our broadcast and our programming are focused on showing that and bringing that message of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ.

CDI: You touched on discipleship. As your ministry is through broadcast and online engagement, how do you guide them to live out their faith in a context where it's not as straightforward as in some other places around the world?

What is important for us is that their own people speak to them.

Rami Al Halaseh: We make sure that whatever is shown on our programs and our social media is full of relevant content and full of essence. We do not only want to tell them something that they like to listen to. What is important for us is that their own people speak to them. For example, the Iranian production is done by Iranians. So they understand how their people, their fellow Iranians feel, and what kind of questions they ask and what kind of concerns they have. And they make sure that they address those.

We see countless messages where people express this real thirst, saying, “We want this Jesus that you're telling us about. Just tell me what can I do to be saved?” And the journey starts from there. We work a lot with our partners. Some of them are online, some of them might be on the ground. I cannot share too many details because it’s sensitive, but the numbers that are coming out are amazing.

CDI: What can we pray for to support our brothers and sisters in Christ in the region?

Pray for the protection of their faith, so it will not be shaken.

Rami Al Halaseh: Pray for our viewers in general, because their first battle is not with people. Their first battle is with the enemy of the souls, with Satan himself. So, first of all, I think we have to keep praying for them, for their safety, for their resilience, especially when there are hardships. Pray for the protection of their faith, so it will not be shaken. Because if it's not built on the rock of salvation, Jesus Christ, if it's only emotional, then it'll be shaken. So, I think we need to pray for that first line of resistance or that first line of battle against their faith.

And then, we need to pray for them to be united because they find their ways of meeting together, and I think we need to pray for their strength and unity. And for those who decide to leave their land and go outside, we need to pray for them to be light and salt wherever they are and for their faith to be preserved.

CDI: Would you have a word of encouragement that believers in other parts of the world could consider when thinking of the Christians in the Middle East?

Rami Al Halaseh: Looking at the believers who live under pressure, I think it is a strong reminder for all of us not to take our faith lightly, not to take the grace of God lightly and not to take our faith for granted. Because there are people who die for that experience, for that faith. For some of us, it was just a decision. It was a thought decision, like a mental decision because it was convincing to us maybe, and then we had an experience of faith. But for many, it is a life-or-death decision because it is a threat to their lives.

So, I pray for all the Christians around the world who listen to stories about Christians from non-Christian backgrounds, to appreciate what we have and to guard it, and to live a holy life that glorifies God, and also not to underestimate or under-appreciate the grace of God.

It is only the Church, the body of Christ that can bring the light to the world.

The second thing, I think we need to pray for the Christians out there to be inspired and to have that focus of bringing God's love to others. It is something that I call the exclusive agency or our exclusive rights. It is only the Church, the body of Christ that can bring the light to the world. It is only the Church, the body of Christ, that can be the salt of the land of the earth.

If we don't do this, no one else will do it. If we don't raise up that voice, no one else will do it. So we shouldn't expect it from any other people. So, I would encourage Christians everywhere to take it seriously, to take the message of salvation and the gospel message of the love of God seriously.

It's not about what our skills are. It's not about what we know. But it's about Who we know, and that should bring us back to the foundation of our faith. It's the end times, and Jesus has been saying his kingdom is near for more than 2000 years. I think we need to be focused and to work, to live a holy life, and then to tell others about who Jesus is and what he does.