Evangelical TV in Mongolia Preaches “Faith and Freedom”

Interesting news from ASSIST about the return of an evangelical television station in Mongolia:

For nearly ten years Eagle TV operated as the sole voice of independent journalism on television in Mongolia, airing Christian programming and generating more than 10,000 contacts for evangelism.

Now the new Eagle Broadcasting Company begins broadcasting on terrestrial Channel 8 in Mongolia’s capital city on Saturday, October 22, 2005.

The old Eagle closed down in 2003 following a dispute between American and Mongolian partners. An AP report at the time gave some additional information, including an interview with general director Tom Terry. The article is now fairly obscure, so I’ll quote at length:

“Eagle TV was founded for two purposes. One was to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ and the other reason was for the advancement of freedom and democracy,” Terry said.

Eagle TV went on the air in 1995. Over the years, its programming included evangelists, biblical cartoons, Christian rock videos and testimonies by newly converted Mongolians.

…Eagle TV grew out of an unlikely alliance in 1992 between born-again Christians from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Mongolia’s newly democratic government.

…Mongolian leaders wanted to instill Western-style broadcasting in this former Soviet ally. The country had only one television station — the state broadcaster linked to the formerly communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party.

With many of Mongolia’s 2.4 million people living in poverty, no station stood to make a profit. But the Americans agreed to pay for Eagle TV, on condition that it show evangelical programs along with its other fare.

…Eagle’s coverage included a six-part series in 2000 titled “Swindle of the Century” that looked at claims of corruption at the state-owned Erdenet copper mine, Mongolia’s biggest business. Much of the criticism in the report was aimed at the former ruling party.

Following the broadcast, an Eagle TV editor was beaten by unknown attackers. Burglars stole documents used in the broadcast from the home of another employee.

…Steve Posey, president of the American group that owned half of Eagle TV, said in an e-mail from Sioux Falls that 10,000 viewers have called the station over the past three years to ask religious questions. He said about 2,500 later converted to Christianity.

As the Gulf War got underway, ASSIST reported that:

According to Terry, Eagle’s war coverage began within minutes of the formal outbreak of war. He said that the station cut into CNN news broadcasts hourly with local updates from Arab press agencies, interviews with Mongolian news makers like the former prime minister and live on air telephone calls with people expressing their opinions on the hostilities.

…According to Terry, the country’s government controlled media have commented that people should not be allowed to give their opinions.

Lack of independent television is a continuing problem in Mongolia  – just last summer opposition democrats occupied the state television building in protest against their lack of access to the airwaves during an election.

The relaunched channel is completely owned by a missionary organisation called the AMONG Foundation (AMONG is short for “America Mongolian”), which is based in South Dakota. Both Terry and AMONG’s president, Steve Posey, also work for Campus Crusade for Christ. The AMONG website is not as informative as one might hope – there’s no statement of faith or any schedule, and I’d be interested to see which evangelists and programs are being beamed across Mongolia. However, some extra information is available from Terry’s blog, where he argues for missionaries to support democratisation – a position of “Faith and Freedom”, as he puts it in the title of a recent book. His website includes an extract:

How is it that many missionaries and missions organizations, empowered and supported for their work by American capitalism and American freedoms, must distance themselves from the provision that makes much of their work possible, while many of the countries they reach are moving toward the political ideologies of freedom and democracy? Did the Apostle Paul distance himself from his Roman citizenship when he was on mission, or did he take advantage of it? (Acts 22:25-29, 25:10-12) Didn’t the original eleven Apostles also serve as an example when they refused to obey Israeli [sic] limitations on their religious speech? (Acts 4:18-20, 5:27-29)

My experience at Eagle Television is unique. For Eagle’s American shareholder, AMONG Foundation, faith in Jesus Christ is paramount, but Faith and Freedom are closely related. I am not referring to the specific policies of the American government, which changes leadership every four years, but to the foundational principles that make the American system possible. From my perspective, freedom of speech, press, and religion-as espoused in the First Amendment, according to the original understanding of the Founding Fathers—are so closely tied to biblical concepts; it is hard to divorce them. But not all Christians or missionaries agree, for practical as well as philosophical reasons…postmodernism, cultural correctness and good intentions have pushed many missionaries to do that which is impossible– divorce their political ideals from the religious concepts and liberties that molded them.

UPDATE: Tom Terry has kindly left a comment. As he includes some extra information, I’ll repeat what he says below:

I enjoyed reading your article about Eagle TV and AMONG Foundation. Even in this short piece you have demonstrated what most Mongolian journalists lack. It doesn’t take much to do even a little research to find background information about a subject and produce a well-rounded story. Hats off. Regarding the AMONG web site: We haven’t updated it in some time, but are looking at creating a an AMONG blog. Expect more about that in the coming weeks. For now the most updated information online about Eagle TV is my web site: www.thomasterry.com.

In your piece you mentioned it would be interesting to know what preachers we are airing. Quick answer: None. Our Christian programming features a monthly run of a mini-series or movie event about the life of a Biblical Character. Our focus is simply to find creative ways to present the historicity of Christianity and its principle characters in the Bible. No “name it and claim it,” or other such questionable materials. We do produce a short 30-minute documentary each month based upon the movie segments that ties the life of each biblical character into the New Testament history of Jesus Christ. We try to have all of our productions have as much of a Mongolian look and feel as possible. In fact, Eagle TV has more Mongolian produced programming than every other station in Mongolia combined – and we’re completely American owned. That’s not something you find in foreign media work very often. God bless, Tom Terry Managing Director Eagle Broadcasting Company Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.