New U.S. ‘super embassy’ causes stir as Middle East nation battles deepening economic crisis
EASTON, Md. –- Lebanon “needs a miracle” as the nation faces a deepening economic crisis, says a Christian media ministry based in the region.
The Middle East nation between Israel and Syria has experienced surging unemployment, triple-digit inflation, a collapsing currency, rolling blackouts, and fuel shortages.
“The Lebanese people are really hurting,” said Rita El-Mounayer, the Lebanon-born CEO of faith-based, Arabic-language broadcaster SAT-7 (www.sat7usa.org). “We’re praying for a miracle, and our hope is that many will turn to God in this hour of anxiety.”
‘Devastating Multi-Pronged Crisis’
Lebanon faces “the most devastating, multi-pronged crisis in modern history,” according to the World Bank, reporting the nation’s banks have stopped lending money.
Against this backdrop, the United States is building what has been described as a new “super embassy” on the outskirts of the capital, Beirut. According to CNN, the new embassy complex is “causing controversy for its sheer size and opulence in a country where nearly 80% of the population is under the poverty line.”
Making ‘God’s Love Visible’ in Desperate Places
But, El-Mounayer says, the current financial emergency presents SAT-7 – a multimedia ministry that broadcasts Christian programs in local languages across the Middle East and North Africa – with the opportunity to “make God’s love visible to those who’ve lost all hope.”
With local presenters hosting free-to-view programs in Arabic via satellite and online streaming, “we’re taking God’s love into the most desperate places,” El-Mounayer said.
Those “desperate places” include Lebanon’s Roumieh Prison, a decaying facility that often has three times the number of inmates it was built to hold, with recent reports of water shortages, terrible hygiene conditions, lack of medical care, and food unfit to eat.
Set Free By Jesus
The network’s You Are Not Alone program recently gave prisoners there the opportunity to tell their stories. Shafik, imprisoned for drug offenses, says an encounter with God behind bars transformed his life. “The best thing is that I feel free inside,” he said. “I don’t care about the (prison) walls. I am free (because of) Jesus.”
Another inmate, Fawzy, is serving a 30-year sentence. He wrote a book of poems to “prove that I exist, as opposed to the mainstream thought that once a person is imprisoned, they’re gone forever.” The most important thing is his relationship with God, he told the program’s presenter.
“We will not abandon Lebanon or its people,” El-Mounayer said. “In the midst of all the hardships and anxiety, God is speaking to people’s hearts and changing their lives.”
Launched in 1996, SAT-7 USA (www.sat7usa.org) — with its international headquarters in Cyprus — broadcasts Christian and educational satellite television and online programs 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), Dari, and Turkish, using multiple satellite channels and online services.
PHOTO CUTLINE: CRISIS-HIT LEBANON ‘NEEDS MIRACLE’: Christian multimedia ministry SAT-7 (www.sat7usa.org) says Lebanon “needs a miracle” as the nation faces a deepening economic crisis. The Middle East broadcaster “makes God’s love visible” via free-to-view satellite programs and online streaming.