By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent BosNewsLife
WASHINGTON, USA (BosNewsLife)– The U.S president of an influential Christian broadcaster has warned that American churches could face similar persecution as denominations in Algeria.
Rex Rogers, whose SAT-7 television network broadcasts for the Middle East and North Africa, noted that churches in the United States face severe COVID-19 restrictions on worship and gatherings.
Rogers leads SAT-7 USA, the American promotion and fundraising arm of SAT-7. Across the U.S., there have been new restrictions, including limiting the size of religious gatherings, he explained. They also outlaw choirs, prohibit congregational singing and dictate stringent health protocols.
In some U.S. states, churches failing to comply could be shut down, resembling the situation in Algeria, Rogers claimed. “While we’re facing great uncertainty with new restrictions in the U.S., churches in Algeria are already shuttered and silenced,” added Rogers.
He warned they could soon experience similar situations as in Algeria, where churches have been closed down and might never be allowed to re-open. “What is happening to churches in Algeria is alarming and should alert us in America to be vigilant about our religious freedoms that are even now on shaky ground,” Rogers stressed.
Authorities in Algeria — a nation that is less than one percent Christian — launched a wave of church closures late last year, culminating in a blanket ban on churches opening when the pandemic hit.
Following the closures last year, one congregation reportedly worshipped on the steps outside its locked building. And in August, an Algerian court rejected another church’s appeal to re-open, setting a likely precedent and leading to fears that the closures could be permanent.
“What we’re seeing in Algeria now could be the future for the church in America,” Rogers said. “The encouraging news is that God is on the move, and he’s using new technology to bring people together and fulfill his promise to build his church.”
Prevented from worshipping together in their church buildings, Algeria’s Christians are turning to their televisions and online devices for spiritual support, he said. It is their “only refuge” amid rampant job losses and anxiety about the future, according to SAT-7’s local coordinator Samia Kessai.
Thousands of Algerian believers are tuning into SAT-7 ARABIC’s new Rest in the Lord program in the local Kabyle dialect, the broadcaster said. Mant viewers reportedly look to the network’s social media channels for encouragement and online community.
In recent months, SAT-7 has seen soaring engagement with its social media across North Africa and the Middle East, the network said. The network’s television programs have also experienced a surge in viewers as the pandemic has forced people to stay home.
“God’s will is not always clear to us,” a local presenter recently told viewers. “But his will is that we have a relationship with him, worship him, and seek him.”
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, the network added.
SAT-7 says its mission is to make the Gospel available to everyone, “and support the church in its life, work and witness for Jesus Christ.”
The station broadcasts day-and-night in Arabic, Farsi (Persian) and Turkish, using multiple satellite channels and online services.