As Lebanon reels from huge explosion that destroyed 120 schools, SAT-7 ramps up free kids educational programs
EASTON, Md. — As Lebanon’s capital Beirut reels from a catastrophic explosion that destroyed more than 100 schools, a faith-based satellite television network in the Middle East is broadcasting free lessons every day to thousands of children unable to go back to school.
Some 120 public and private schools in Beirut were partially or completely destroyed in the deadly explosion Aug. 4 at the city’s port, leaving 55,000 children cut off from lessons and hundreds of thousands homeless.
With children and their parents in Lebanon facing overwhelming challenges right now — including a spike in COVID-19 cases — Christian network SAT-7 is boosting its educational children’s shows in Beirut, a city saturated with satellite television dishes.
“Kids in Beirut have literally seen their lives fall apart,” said Juliana Sfeir of SAT-7 Academy, the network’s educational channel that provides children of all religious backgrounds with a positive window to the world and uplifting content. “The Lebanese people desperately need hope,” she said. “Our programs are bringing healing and hope to the wounded right where they are.”
Through its My School program, the network is bringing daily lessons and a degree of normalcy to children whose lives have been turned upside down — including Syrian refugee children in Beirut who’ve already suffered through war. With people of different faiths and cultural backgrounds living side by side, Lebanon stands out as a rare example of tolerance in the volatile region.
Amid Lebanon’s current political upheaval, soaring unemployment and widespread hunger, “there’s never been a more critical moment to invest in the lives of this new generation,” said Sfeir.
“As a trusted media ministry, we’re in a unique position to make sure children in Lebanon and across the Middle East and North Africa don’t miss out on education because of this disaster and the pandemic that has shut so many schools,” she said.
Run entirely by local producers and presenters broadcasting in their local languages, the network is proving to be a lifeline across the region. It’s currently experiencing a huge surge in viewers, callers, and social media users seeking counseling and prayer at a time when many have nowhere else to turn.
SAT-7 Academy’s social media channels receive about 3,000 new messages every day — a staggering response that reflects the upswing in virtual, remote learning across the Middle East and North Africa during the pandemic.
“It’s part of our values as Christians to support people beyond their spiritual needs,” said George Makeen, the network’s Arabic program chief. “Through the power of satellite television and social media, our programs help children realize their right to an education and a better future.”
Launched in 1996, SAT-7 — with its international headquarters in Cyprus — broadcasts Christian and educational satellite television programs to more than 30 million people in the Middle East and North Africa. Its mission is to make the gospel available to everyone, and support the church in its life, work and witness for Jesus Christ. SAT-7 broadcasts 24/7 in Arabic, Farsi (Persian) and Turkish, using multiple satellite channels and online services.