Arabic Christian channel a hit?

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The founder of the nation’s first Arabic Christian TV channel says the programming is attracting phone inquiries from curious Muslims.

The Southern California-based channel Alkarma, whose name means “the vineyard” in Arabic, premiered Oct. 17. It is the brainchild of Samuel Estefanos, an Egyptian-born businessman.

The channel gets 10 to 15 calls a day from Arabic speakers with Muslim surnames who are intrigued that Alkarma would give away a movie known as the “Jesus Film” and other materials.

“Some of them call and say they are Muslims and need to know more about Christ,” Mr. Estefanos said. “Other people are Christians but say they don’t know anything about Christ. In the Middle East, even though if your religion says ‘Christian’ on your identity card, that does not mean that you know Christ.”

Mr. Estefanos invested about $200,000, much of it his own money, to purchase airtime and equipment for the 24-hour channel. The station still needs about $40,000 a month to operate. Total contributions so far total about $10,000 a month.

“I know this is a great station,” he said, “and we are doing more productions. We are seeking to build a good foundation so we can grow more. I believe God will provide and we’ll keep on going.”

He estimates there are 35 Arabic-language TV channels airing nationally, but none of them were Christian until Alkarma began. The channel, which reaches about a million Arabic speakers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, is slowly attracting advertisers.

“It’s great,” he said. “Some people call us and cry on the phone. They say, ‘We knew Christ through this channel.’ People send us e-mails and leave phone messages.”

The channel is one of 25 Arabic-language channels on the GlobeCast World TV satellite, which has 130 radio and TV channels in more than 30 languages. Alkarma, based in Seal Beach, Calif., is part of the nonprofit Media Dream. Its Web site is www.alkarmatv.com.

Mr. Estefanos, who emigrated here seven years ago, said he began dreaming of such a station 15 years ago after he graduated from college in Egypt in 1990.

Beginning in 2002, he said, God began directing him to start Alkarma.

He has had to produce seven original programs in Arabic. One is named “Virtuous Women”; another is called “The Healing Touch”; a third is called “God and Christianity”; and an interview show is called “Where is the Truth?”

“There are no debates between religions,” he said. “Our goals are focused on two things: providing solid biblical teaching and programs for the family.”

Its Arabic programs are in various Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Egyptian dialects. The channel also airs some English programming for children plus portions of “The 700 Club” from the Christian Broadcasting Network.

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