(Cover satellite imagery of Orzouyieh/kerman. Story stock photo by SAT 7 PARS)
Iran (MNN) ― Days after twin quakes jolted northwest Iran, the government is finally asking for help.
Sara Afshari, SAT-7 PARS* Executive Director, notes the initial response. "Sadly, we make everything political. Even this humanitarian relief, we make it very political. Therefore, Iran rejecting any help was coming from their own (policies) and politics rather than them really thinking about the victims."
It was clear the government thought it could cope with the disaster on its own. Late Saturday afternoon, the magnitude 6.4 and 6.3 quakes struck within minutes of each other near the Iranian/ Azerbaijan border. These were followed by scores of aftershocks, some as large as a magnitude 5.3 yesterday afternoon. The government erected shelters for 50,000 people.
Eventually, state news reports indicated that over 300 people died, and there were more than 3,000 injured, although that number is expected to climb in the days ahead. At least 20 villages were destroyed, and 425 others sustained damage ranging from 50%-80% of their buildings. Relief agencies say roughly 300,000 people have been affected by the disaster.
The delay means aid was slow to mobilize, prompting criticism from observers. However, SAT-7 PARS is using its broadcasts to help. Afshari says the team quickly put together a live broadcast Monday and started talking about needs. "The aim of our show...was just praying and comforting them and encouraging the other people to help the victims of the earthquake by being generous in their giving and in their time, going to the hospitals to give blood or collecting food and collecting clothes ."
Two hours after the SAT-7 PARS program aired, the government started its programming covering the crisis. Many of the survivors felt overlooked by the government response. There were hundreds who were without food and water for 48 hours after the quakes struck. Despair began showing. Afshari says, "I was reading some Iranian Facebook pages, and this person wrote: 'God, did You think we didn't have enough misery and problems, and You just wanted to add another one?'"
That's the bigger problem. Aside from addressing the physical needs and encouraging viewers to give, Afshari says Iranians "...think God has left them. Pray that these people find God again; pray for them to believe their God didn't leave them alone, that God is with them, God is suffering with them, and Christ is suffering with them. It's not about 'God has forsaken them.'"
Their live program addressed this mindset. "Because we believe the power of Christ brings hope and restoration, and helps people to have a new life," she explains, "that was the message we wanted to give to those that were viewing," and not criticizing anyone for the speed of response or blaming people.
Viewers responded to the live program and poured out their hearts. Not everyone was pleased about the prayer efforts, but, Afshari says, "[Sic] We had an opposition calling us and saying 'you are again trying to evangelize your own religion.' Interestingly, the response to that was: 'Today is not about evangelizing anybody. Today is about being with the people who really need hope.'"
This is the mission of SAT-7 PARS. They broadcast Christian television programming throughout Iran and into parts of neighboring Afghanistan where many outsiders could not safely go. While there are presently about 160 Farsi language satellite television channels available in Iran, only 3 are Christian channels, including SAT-7 PARS which broadcasts 24/7. Please keep praying for more opportunities to open the door for the hope of Christ. Pray for the workers who will be the Gospel in this region. Pray for the funding to help.
*PARS is the Farsi language word for "Persian." It references Persian history and culture in a way that unites Iranian people today and reminds them of a time before the current domination by religion and regime.