A ministry working to bring the message of Jesus Christ to millions across the Arab world raised concern recently about the lack of resources given to mission work in the most unchristian region in the world.
At a Middle East consultation held last week in the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Terry Ascott, the founder and CEO of the Christian satellite ministry SAT-7, said that despite talks since the early '90s about the 10/40 window, there hasn't been deployment of many resources into the western part of the window consisting of north Africa and the Middle East.
He cited a statistic from a few years back which indicated that 24,000 mission agencies around the world received $120 billion that year with only 0.07 percent going to the western end of the 10/40 window that includes the Middle East.
The 10/40 window is where the core of the unreached people live in the world extending from West Africa to East Asia, from ten degrees north to forty degrees north of the equator. The region encompasses the majority of the world's Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists numbering in the billions.
Some question how mission money can be spent in countries where they ban missionary activities. Ascott responded that through satellite television the Gospel message can enter not only into the country but into people's living room.
Furthermore, the SAT-7 founder highlighted another advantage of using satellite television as a mission tool. Ascott said there is a net increase of 1 million people every month in the Arab world or 12 million people a year.
"Are we reaching 12 million people a year? If we are not then we are going backwards in terms of Christian witness and mission and sharing the Gospel in that part of the world," noted Ascott. "I don't know if we are [reaching that number] even with mass media but certainly mass media has a role in the witnessing in the Arab world."
SAT-7 is said to be viewed by 8-10 million people.
"So Christian broadcasting does represent perhaps the only form of Christian witness for millions in those countries today," said Ascott. "A country that is hurting and in pain is perhaps more open to a message of love and forgiveness and peace with God than any other countries or regions."
It is estimated that some 200 million people from Morocco to Iran have satellite television and half of the 300 million in the Arab world are functionally illiterate and depend on their TV as their only source of entertainment and information.
The Rev. Dr. Habib Badr, chairman of SAT-7 international board and senior pastor of the National Evangelical Church of Beirut, shared about the crisis of Middle Eastern Christians fleeing their country and resettling in the United States and other countries to find a better life. Badr, who has some siblings who have resettled in the United States, said that if one were to ask any normal Lebanese Christian living in Lebanon, they could name at least half of their families who have left the country.
"I can't blame them, but that is not what Christ called us to do," said Badr. "He didn't call us to be Middle Eastern and [for us to] then leave."
He spoke about the importance of SAT-7 which provides an alternative message of hope and love for parents in the Middle East to raise their children on. Badr urged Middle East Christians to remain in the region despite the danger and teach, tell and live the Christian life.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Iraqi Christians, who compose only three percent of Iraq's 26 million people, are leaving Iraq in alarming numbers making up nearly half of the refugees fleeing Iraq.
"One cannot ignore the Middle East," concluded Ascott. If there is ever a time to support Christian ministries and churches in the Middle East it is now because actually the future of the world depends on how things play out in the Middle East in the next decade."
SAT-7 began broadcasting in 1996 to audiences in the Middle East and North Africa with the goal of supporting Middle Eastern Christians who many times did not have a church or local pastor to help them in their faith. The ministry, which started out with only 2 hours of programming a week, now transmits 24 hours a day and is viewed by 8-10 million people.