Philip Earl Steele – Tudor Petan, thank you for speaking with me. You are the founder and CEO of Alfa Omega TV in Romania, with its roots going back to 1994. In the over quarter-century since, you have created a Christian media empire in by far the largest country of the Three Seas after Poland. That empire encompasses television, online media, print publishing, and social media. Let me cite just a few relevant facts: Alfa Omega TV, which of course creates its own programs, is broadcast by satellite 24/7, free-of-charge, and is carried by other Romanian national channels, as well; Alfa Omega’s website is an enormous source of information, and is visited over 300,000 time per year; Alfa Omega Publishing house can boast some 200 books since launch in 2002, and AOTV Magazine has the highest circulation of any Christian periodical in Romania; lastly, Alfa Omega posts up to 150 clips online per month, ones that are viewed up to 12 million times per year.
It rather makes one believe in miracles, doesn’t it?
Tudor Petan – Yes, Alfa Omega, it’s a continuous unfolding of miracles. We started in 1994 as a non-denominational Christian media entity. I was then a born-again Christian, but had been only for a very short time. I’d come to the Lord in 1992. Let me explain how this happened. I grew up and was educated and spent my first 40 years in a communist system. I’m used to saying that I and my generation are a product of the communist educational system. And so I didn’t know anything about the Lord. Yet through a miracle in late 1992 someone came in my office and said “Mr Tudor, you have to come to the Lord, because God has a plan for your life”. Then, within I think just two weeks, I completely changed my life. Very soon I knew His plan was something with media, because during my university studies I’d been involved in communist media, and this was a passion for me. So, I started to look around intensely to see what could be done in Christian media at that time, in 1992, ‘93. But it turned out that nothing of the kind existed then. So in 1994 I decided to establish my own Christian media organization – and honestly I didn’t want to name it Alfa Omega. However, over that first week almost everything around me – prophetic voices, friends who’d come to me – were saying, ‘Tudor, I heard a whisper from the Lord, something about the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, I’ve seen this picture, this vision…’. So I decided in the end, ‘Ok, Lord, if it’s your will that the name be Alfa Omega, I’ll make that the name of this media ministry’.
It was clear from the beginning that this would be a Christian media ministry, but not just any Christian ministry. We wanted it to be something related to the beginning and to the end of history. Ever since then we have adhered to this idea, to this DNA, and so our ministry has been focused on the end times.
Yes, looking back, I see a lot of miracles during this period of my life, now 27 years of working in Christian media ministry. One of the early miracles was the opening of doors in social areas. It was over 20 years ago that we as a true pioneer began streaming and created our website along with other social, digital projects. There were many miracles. For instance, almost at once we began to distribute Christian content through secular TV stations, a lot of them, even commercial stations in Romania. Even now we’re continuing to do so. Over 30 stations are still on our list for monthly distribution. So it’s something really unique. All thanks to the Lord.
Other miracles… In 2002 we started a publishing house, and have built it up since step by step. As of today I think we have published around 200 books or more in Romanian. 15 years ago we applied for a license as we were launching the Alfa Omega TV satellite network. This was the first such network in this part of the world, in Romanian language of course. So, this was very pioneering. God gave us a mandate to start something, and it just exploded after that. A whole Christian TV station came into being. We also launched a magazine in both a printed and electronic format, as God told us it was time to provide one. And within a few years we’d become the largest printed Christian magazine in Romania, Alfa Omega TV Magazine.
Truly – a lot of miracles have happened. One after another. Like our own media center where we work. God gave us the money for it. We built it over a period of just 7 years, brick after brick, without borrowing money from banks or other persons. It’s completely Alfa Omega’s own building, and serves as our ministry house. And there’ve been many, many examples like this. But the biggest miracle is that the 25 people working in Alfa Omega ministries come from different churches. They are all born-again Christians who came to the Lord at differing stages of their lives, and they serve Alfa Omega, which, as we say, is a candle in the dark. Together we pursue Christian missions through media. This is our main calling.
P.E.S. – Romania is a predominantly Orthodox country. More than 80% of Romania’s 20 million belong to the Romanian Orthodox Church. Alfa Omega carefully cultivates an interdenominational profile and message, though it clearly has its roots in Evangelical Protestantism. In fact, it seems to me that Alfa Omega’s closest affinity is to Pentecostalism. It can’t be easy to navigate the differing currents of Christian belief in Romania, and yet you obviously have succeeded.
How did you solve that challenge?
T.P. – Yes, Romania is a country in Eastern Europe, and the main denomination is Orthodoxy. 80% of the population is Orthodox, and so our viewers are primarily of that flavor. Around 10% of Romanians are Greek or Roman Catholic. About other denominations, Romanian Evangelicals number from 3 to 5% of the total population – so they’re a notable color on the palette. But from a ministry point of view, from the very beginning God told us to serve the non-Evangelical audience. It was important for us from the beginning to promote values, and not to promote doctrine. Not Pentecostal doctrine, not Baptist doctrine, not Catholic or other doctrine. Rather, we promote Christian values. So this non-denominational identity, it’s something that we’ve cultivated from the beginning. We are trying to promote Christian values, and to restore Christian values in a country where for decades the communist system tried to destroy, to annihilate any kind of Christian identity, even though the majority of Romanians were Orthodox.
So yes, our audience is mainly Orthodox believers. Maybe half are Orthodox, half are Evangelical. People watch us even though they are Orthodox, because they find values. They perhaps also find church services – we do air church services – but above all they find testimonies, stories, news, debates on various issues. So this is a big responsibility for us: how to promote values in a country where it is so unusual to be a different kind of Christian than Orthodox. Of course, we try to serve the people through prayer, live prayer. We pray for healing, for deliverance, that people’s needs be met. We encourage people to pray and to share the Gospel. We offer literature, we offer resources, live prayer. Our aim is to fulfill needs. I’d say this is the key. This is the key. And also, Alfa Omega is not only a Christian channel, not only a publishing house and a digital media group – it’s what in English is called a multifaceted media ministry. So, some people identify with one part of the ministry, some people rely more on digital media, some watch TV more than others. This is Alfa Omega. And this is our responsibility – to keep this up, day by day, hour by hour, ever praying that God will open doors, provide us with resources, that He will help us, protect us, allow us to endure and to serve Him until the end.
P.E.S. – Alfa Omega presents a strong pro-Israeli message, one that may aptly be called Christian Zionist. I’ve noted the programs on Israel taught by pastor Marius Birgean, and also that Alfa Omega has partnered with the Dutch evangelist Willem Glashouwer, head of the organization “Christians for Israel”. Alfa Omega has endorsed that organization’s “The Church and Israel: The Twelve Theses of Faith”, which – in line with Evangelical teaching – refutes “replacement theology” and stresses the blessings promised to those who support Israel. You yourself in October, 2017 were an honored guest in Jerusalem at a red carpet event held for Christian broadcasters – namely, the Christian Media Summit, addressed by then-Prime Minister Netanyahu and then-President Rivlin. Then-Minister of Education Naftali Bennett also spoke at the Summit.
Please tells us about Alfa Omega’s pro-Israeli stance, why it’s important in today’s media-environment, and how it impacts Romanian-Israeli relations.
T.P. – About our pro-Israeli position – in all honestly, Alfa Omega was not a pro-Israeli voice from the very beginning. This came about gradually. We’d come to the Lord about a year before our ministry began, so we were discovering the truth and the value of the Scriptures step by step together with our ministry. But looking back, I think in Romania it’s like in many other countries, not only those with a communist past. What I mean is that antisemitism is a pressing matter. So this was and is still today one of the biggest challenges and issues for us – to fight against antisemitism. Secondly, a prevalent doctrine in Romania, in this part of the world, in Europe generally, is replacement theology. So we also have to fight against replacement theology – that is, the idea that the Church has replaced the Jews, and that God has revoked the covenant with His people Israel. Thirdly, and connected with this, we struggle against misunderstandings of the role and place of Israel in end-time developments. Many people have said that in the end times, Israel will somehow be destroyed, but this fallacy is connected with replacement theology… you know, the claim that we as the Church have the last word. People just don’t yet want to understand God’s plan for Israel in the end times. Of course, fourthly, we offer advice on how to pray for Israel, how to bless Israel, why blessing Israel is still a duty for Christians. It’s not just an Old Testament issue.
So we have these 4 points on our agenda for being a pro-Israeli voice, and we use all our media tools to be a voice for Israel. We try through various programs – I think we have 7 or 8 different weekly programs on Israel, in fact even more because we also broadcast related documentaries, ones we ourselves produce, along with news from other places – this all came together as a picture, as a full voice for Israel. And we believe – as we gratefully stress from here in our studio – that if we want to be blessed, whether as individuals, as families, as a church group, as a corporate body, as citizens, as a nation, we have to have a Biblical position toward Israel. A key to being blessed as a nation, as a family, as a church, is to bless Israel and to have a Biblical position towards Israel.
Alfa Omega has an important voice in Romania. For instance, when we speak out in favor of moving the Romanian embassy to Jerusalem, stressing that this will be an important key to achieving a new level of blessing for Romania. But beyond trying to directly influence key leaders in Romania, what Alfa Omega is doing for God is to create a pro-Israeli spiritual atmosphere in Romania. So we are pressing ahead with this, even though we’ve lost a lot of friends. Some people asked me, ‘Mr Tudor, what are you doing? Maybe some rich Jewish person is financing you?’. I always reply that, no, we don’t have Jewish roots, and among our dear Jewish friends, none of them is financing Alfa Omega. We are not part of the Zionist movement, though I wish we were. We are simply doing what God wants for us. You can’t be a good Christian, as I have long stressed publicly, and have antisemitic attitudes. So we will continue until the end to be a pro-Israeli voice and to collect news stories on Israel and present them to our Romanian audience. Recently I conducted an interview with someone in a wheelchair who shared with us that he now understands, finally, what is Israel; that it’s not only about what’s happening in the Middle East around Israel, but about what will happen with us as Christians, it’s about our future according to God’s plan.
Let me again emphasize that we are airing on our Alfa Omega TV channel many programs on Israel per week, especially on weekends, 7 to 10 programs plus reruns on our TV channel. We have published nearly 30 books on Israel, along with others about the unfolding of God’s plan and understanding our current times. We are very active on social media. We have three Facebook channels, a YouTube channel, an instagram channel, so we post a lot of materials daily, ones that in one way or another present Israel. We also have our live program, during which we pray for Israel and for our own people. We produce an original program called “Why Israel?”, which is a weekly, half-hour program that includes English-speaking guests – of course we translate this into Romanian. So we do our best with what we have.
P.E.S. – Lastly, one wonders if Alfa Omega in 2021 might not have “saturated the market” in Romania. Is further growth possible? What are Alfa Omega’s plans for the future? Let me ask another way: what further miracles are you praying for?
T.P. – What do we intend to do in the future? We will certainly continue to expand our voice on behalf of Israel. This is our desire, to be a voice for Israel. So, the first thing is that we wish to expand the news area. Not only the news – you know, what’s happening here, what’s happening there – but to present the news from credible sources, and then to provide comments from a Biblical perspective. After all, it seems at least half of the news is related to the Middle East, to globalization, to Europe – to things that affect us as believers, as the Church in Romania. And our position in the world requires that we understand about Israel. This is why we present the news based on credible sources, and from a Biblical perspective. This is our main desire.
Secondly, we want to continue an event we started about Israel. Already 12 years ago we began to host an annual conference called “Prayer for Israel”. Last year, because of covid, we focused mainly on a thematic, online campaign. One month on understanding the times. But we want to restore the real, face-to-face event as soon as possible. Thirdly, we want to expand our publishing efforts, and devote it even more to Israel and understanding the times. So, next year we are planning to publish in total 30, perhaps 40 books about Israel and understanding the times. This will include about 10 books, for example, from one of our dear partners, the organization “Christians for Israel” from the Netherlands. Almost everything they publish in English, we publish here. One example of the many such authors we publish is Reverend Willem Glashouwer, who cooperates with the “European Coalition for Israel”. He’s been a guest here with us many times, has attended our conferences. I think we publish almost everything that he publishes in English. These are dear partners, and they inspire to be a voice for a Biblically founded understanding of Israel and for shaping church life here in Romania. This also concerns being more active on social media.
Another upcoming initiative of ours is to produce a new, original program meant to help us in Romania understand the life of Jewish people living in Israel. So, not only about the Holy Land, about the Old City and the Temple Mount, but above all to better understand how normal citizens of Israel go about their lives. Recently we had the opportunity in Israel to tape a large amount of materials – and so we are now ready to produce 10-15 episodes for our new program ‘Israel: People and Facts’, which should begin airing late this year.
I mentioned our wish to expand the news area. We already have contacts with the key media groups in Israel, and we want to add more. We want to expand the news segment in our TV and social media presence. Maybe God will open other doors for us. But we want to extend the news, especially news connected with Israel. Who knows? Perhaps God will place in our hearts the will to become more involved, to be more anointing in the ministry we present to our people – and not only in Romania, but in our broader region, too.
Maybe for my last comments – yes, God has fulfilled his call to Alfa Omega thus far with a lot of miracles. I believe that if God opens further doors to Alfa Omega ministries in the years ahead, that a new season of miracles will unfold. Once we realized that we have become a voice for Israel, God told us in His way that because you obey My voice and have become a voice for My people Israel, I will bless you abundantly and open doors of favor before you in other areas. This is what we believe, and not only because we want to make a deal with God. We want to please God, to obey His calling, to do what He calls upon us to do.
Of course our main priority is to evangelize, to present the Gospel to our nation, Romania. But at the same time we want our nation and our Church, our Romanian Church, to enter into the full blessing. And we cannot enter into this full blessing without blessing Israel. So Alfa Omega – especially because of the Omega dimension – will continue to talk about Israel and will continue to help Romanian Christians to understand God’s plan for the end times. And whether we like it or not, His plan for the end times is about Israel and the Church, and without the Church taking the place of Israel. For God has a special plan for Israel.
When we started to become a voice for Israel, we felt that we were opening a new battlefield in the struggle for our nation, for Romania. But we are also in battle because we stand with Israel. This is why, step by step, our attention is shifting to what’s happening in the Middle East, because the culmination of human history will happen there.
Philip Earl Steele
Historian, editor, former lecturer at the University of Warsaw. Author of the book The Conversion and Baptism of Mieszko I and many papers, especially ones on religious studies, published in Poland, Israel, the Czech Republic, the US and the UK. His Polish-language book entitled Israel and Evangelical Christians: “A Match Made in Heaven” will be published soon.