ISOLATED BELIEVERS: NORTH AFRICA
“As Christians, we always felt few and lonely. Now, as part of the SAT-7 family, we are excited to support the growth of the Church and its ability to witness to Christ,” shares Samia Kessai, SAT-7 Producer and Presenter in Algeria. Samia joined Open Studios along with her husband Salah and Pastor Moez Mediouni from Tunisia.
“I remember when I first went to Algeria and met Samia [Kessai]. I questioned her, saying, ‘Are you sure you want to show your faces to millions of people?’ I was afraid for her safety. And she said, ‘Rita, persecution is like a crown we wear on our heads every single day. Don’t take it away from us.’” – SAT-7 CEO Rita El-Mounayer.
During Open Studios, Samia’s description of life in the young North African Church touched many hearts. “Believers here are young in their faith and thirsty to learn, especially through programs in their mother tongue,” explains Samia. “When they accept the Lord, they give everything to Him. They open their hearts and their homes to His servants. It’s like the early Church. Everyone has their mind set on Christ, not worrying about any worldly things. We share everything.”
Just as the earliest Christians did, the Church in North Africa today also faces oppression, discrimination, and even persecution. “It is not easy to be a Christian in this region,” says Samia.
In the past several years, authorities in Algeria have cracked down on churches, forcing many of them to close, preventing Christians from connecting in fellowship and engaging in prayer. The government also restricts the import of Bibles and Christian books, meaning that Christian resources in Algeria are in scarce supply. Samia and Salah work hard to support isolated Christians through programs that build up new believers’ faith.
“God gave us a special grace to serve Him”
“Here, life is not easy,” Samia explains. “But God gave us a special grace to serve Him through media. The overall status of Christians has deteriorated over the past years. Today, there is no sense of protection and security for Christians. Protests for two years, closure of churches, difficult economic conditions, lack of jobs, and poor education levels are pushing Christians out of the country.”
Pastor Moez Mediouni, a church leader and Professor of Philosophy in Tunisia, shares how under these circumstances, church leaders have been gathering to pray for believers and for the continued growth of the Church. “They pray for peace in the country; for hope, protection, and provision – as many are suffering from poverty,” Moez shares.
He believes the Church must reach out in society as Christ did, for example when Jesus reached out to the Samaritan woman. To achieve this goal, Pastor Moez has set up a new SAT-7-supported production house in Tunisia, creating programs, including Standard Talk, that address basic theological topics to explain the Christian faith to non-believers.
“I believe that Christ did the same thing – building bridges back towards Him. We want the Church to have a place and voice, so people can hear what we want to share with them; so we can make space for communication and build connections between the Church and society,” Moez adds. “God is using these programs so believers continue to connect, grow, and witness.”
Building bridges within society Samia adds that the Christians not only want to build bridges between the Church and society, they also aspire to be peacemakers, helping put an end to regional conflicts, such as the hostility that can exist between Arab and Amazigh members of Algerian society.
“The Church sends a message of peace, love, and respect to its neighbours, to limit the effect of sensitivities and put an end to some destructive ideas,” Samia adds. Stories like that of Abdel-Nour, an Amazigh man, who shared on SAT-7 how he has come to love the Arab neighbours he once hated, are proof of how God can change people’s hearts and lives.
Connecting to Christian heritage
Dating back to the early Church in Carthage, the Christian faith has endured centuries of marginalisation in Tunisia and is now trying to regain its footing.
“Our church is about forty years old,” shares Moez. “We are seeing the new generation come forth, with children born in Christian families. We have a whole identity to defend. We have a heritage that we need to gain back, and we have an image that we need to create in society. Our church is looking for its identity.”
Moez says that he and the SAT-7 team share a common goal: “To see through media – through the programs that we send to SAT-7 – a movement of people coming to Christ and hoping to see this light of Christ shining in this country. We thank the Lord that we have brave people with limited resources. Hopeful people, who have a burden in their hearts to see something great happen. We trust in the Lord. It is the season of the Lord, God’s new season, in this country.”