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Bethlehem Cancels Christmas, 'Isolated' Christians Celebrate Jesus' Birth Online

'How do you celebrate Christmas when you're the only believer on your street?' asks media ministry SAT-7 USA

BETHLEHEM'S BABY 'STILL THE HOPE OF THE WORLD:' From its headquarters in the Middle East, Christian media ministry SAT-7 USA (www.sat7usa.org) uses "every channel possible" to bring together isolated believers across the region, including many who "feel lonely and forgotten" this Christmas.
Dec. 14, 2023

EASTON, Md., Dec. 14, 2023 /Christian Newswire/ -- Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, has canceled its traditional Christmas celebrations, a move that spotlights the challenges Christians in the Middle East face this festive season.
Amid the suffering caused by the Israel-Hamas war, Bethlehem's leaders reportedly feel it's inappropriate to hold festivities, and the town's Christian elders agree.

It's a difficult time for Christians in the Middle East, a typically isolated minority.

Just like the very first Christmas recorded in the Bible when there was "no room in the inn" for Mary and Joseph, there's no place of belonging for many followers of Jesus this Christmas, says SAT-7 USA (www.sat7usa.org), a Christian multi-media ministry that broadcasts free-to-view programs across the Holy Land, the Middle East and North Africa.

'Only Believer in Town'
Only 3% of the region's population is Christian, and the number is far lower in countries such as Afghanistan and Iran, where Christianity is suppressed and its followers are routinely discriminated against, cut off by their families, imprisoned, or sometimes even killed for their beliefs.

"How do you celebrate Christmas when you're the only believer on your street – or the only one in your town?" said Rex Rogers, president of SAT-7 USA. "How do you celebrate Christ's birth together when churches are banned?"

'Not Alone This Christmas'
From its headquarters in the Middle East, the media organization uses "every channel possible" to bring together isolated believers across the region, including many who "feel lonely and forgotten," said Rogers.

"Our message to viewers is that you're not alone this Christmas," he said.

Through the ministry's live satellite television broadcasts, online streaming, and social media, secluded believers who cannot celebrate Christmas openly are able to join live worship, participate in live Bible-based discussions in their own language, and chat in real-time with others who understand their struggles.

"As Christians, we always felt few and lonely," said Samia, a believer in the region. "Here, life is not easy. There is no sense of protection and security for Christians. But God gives us a special grace. Now, (we are) part of the SAT-7 family."

Bethlehem's Baby 'Still Hope of the World'
With more than 2.3 billion followers, Christianity is the world's largest religion and the gospel is spreading across the Middle East via phones and digital devices, even in remote mountain and desert areas that a few years ago were unreachable.

"The Christmas story and its message of love and forgiveness has never been more desperately needed" in the troubled region, said Rogers, a frequent visitor to the Middle East.

"As wars, rockets and acts of terrorism fuel distress and fear in every corner of the region, the baby in the Bethlehem manger is still the hope of the world," he said.

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.


CONTACT: Nicole Ponder, 321-586-2332, nponder@inchristcommunications.com