By Michael Ireland

Journal Chretien e6688
Jan 8 2008

Two brothers, a murdered father and an untold story of pain and
forgiveness are the inspirations behind a six times award-winning
documentary on the secret death of a prominent evangelical pastor in
Iran, Haik Hovsepian.

The movie is the untold story of Iranian Christian martyrs, and
Christian converts, who became the victims of their beliefs and paid
the ultimate price - their lives.

Two brothers from Iran, Joseph and Andre Hovsepian, who made the
documentary A Cry From Iran about the life and work of their father,
recently joined international journalist Dan Wooding as guests on
his for Front Page radio program on KWAVE in Los Angeles.

Their documentary is the story of Bishop Haik Hovsepian, who was the
superintendent of the Assemblies of God and, later in his ministry,
the representative of protestant churches in Iran.

Joseph Hovsepian explained : "Living with him for twenty years of
course I've had a lot of good memories from him, but thirteen years
ago in 1994 because of his faith and all he did for Christians and
defending them, he one day disappeared and then we found him stabbed
to death because of his faith. "

Joseph continued : " After going through all the tragedy and comfort
and different stages of forgiving (and) having a background in film
industry, the idea of making this documentary started two years after
the actual martyrdom. In 1996 we started gathering several documents
and all the clips that I had shot when my dad was alive - and at
the time we didn't think that those clips could become so vital and
important and the world would see them - but praise the Lord with the
support of the Holy Spirit and family and churches we came a long way,
and two years ago with partnership with Open Doors we could officially
start producing this documentary fulltime working with my brother on
the board, and as a result a Cry from Iran has been born.

DVD cover for the documentary video A Cry From Iran.

On the question of who killed Haik Hovsepian, Joseph replied:
That's a good question. We hope that the audience, after watching the
documentary, can judge and know the answer for themselves. We haven't
pointed our fingers at any special person or group or government but,
as we know, that our main enemy is the devil that works through people
and not people themselves. But of course it's been very, very hard,
very sad at times. During the editing process our goal was focus,
was to see beyond our pain and memories, and see what this film can
do for the people in the west who appreciate their freedom and to
the people in Iran to see that the martyrs names still go on.

"Andre Hovsepian said he was only ten years old when his father was
martyred so he didn't have as much memory as Joseph and the rest of
the family did.

"But I do definitely have a lot of memories still and a lot of
pictures of him in my head because I was ten years old and I lived
with him for ten years, but definitely besides memory what I heard
about - his life from other members of the church, from other family
members - really impacted me so much. And of course after making this
documentary spending sometimes twelve, thirteen, fourteen hours a day,
at times I think I saw more footage from him and clips and pictures
than I'd seen in my ten years. "

Wooding wanted to know what did Andre learn new about his father
from making the movie ? " When you started working on this movie A
Cry >>From Iran you must have been amazed that you found out all sort
of new things about him, " said Wooding.

"Yes, I did actually, and one thing that stood out I would say (was)
the amount of passion and the vision that he had, because everything
I believe starts from one person's vision and then does something
to its community or results and is fruitful, and in the process of
making this documentary I saw that vision that my dad had and at the
end of course resulted in growing the zeal of Christians in Iran. "

Joseph Hovsepian said the documentary is narrated by a well known
award winning voice-over who did the Verizon Wireless commercial a
few years ago.

He pointed out that when some people think of documentaries they
think of boring talk and a program full of talks, whereas a lot of
audiences have already said A Cry From Iran is a docu-drama.

"We're very glad that this film has not only won awards in the
Christian awards but also has gone beyond that and even in the scope
of human rights issues and freedom of religion, freedom of choice,
has brought a lot of interest in (the situation in Iran), and we're
very excited about that. "

Joseph said they carried out a of reenactments, shooting about
two-hundred hours footage of his father, so in the last years of his
life they had enough coverage. But the first part of his life and in
covering the radical parts of country of Iran they had to reestablish
(through reenactment), and the brothers had to travel to five countries
and also five states in America.

"We have shot over thirty-five interviews and thirty-five hours of
reenactment and the result has been fifty-five minutes of packed
documentary, plus a lot of behind the scenes (footage). "

"Take us back to the period when there was all this trouble for your
father. What led up to it ? " Wooding asked.

Joseph responded that sadly the situation hasn't changed that much
from that day to the present.

Bishop Haik Hovsepian seen here preaching form the Word of God.

"But going back to 1993, the church at the time had big clashes with
government officials and the church had to be closed down and my dad
as superintendent of the churches in Iran was the front person in the
battle and would always get involved in the situation. But it came
to its climax in 1993 when Mehdi Dibaj, who was a Muslim convert and
a Christian brother had served ten years in prison and he was to be
executed for his faith. The only punishment for his conversion was
basically dying for it and paying the price, and my dad stood against
that execution order and brought it to the attention of the government
officials in Iran and then took a bigger step to the Christian world
outside, to the United Nations, and even involving the congress of
the US. So as a result of his activities and campaign he was released
and this was a big victory for the church of Iran, but soon after he
had to pay a bigger price - and that was his own life. "

Wooding asked Andre to " take us the next step : what exactly happened
to your dad ? "

Andre said : "Basically what happened was that after several threats
that we got in different ways, finally one day my dad was on his way
to the airport to pick up a friend from church and he disappeared for
eleven days. We had no news of him - I mean you could only imagine
how hard it was for us - and of course I have to mention here that
the whole church was very supportive internationally, worldwide. We
received many, many support from different believers around the world
and that of course helped us a lot to cope with the situation. But
after eleven days, unfortunately, we received the call in which they
said we need your eldest son (who was Joseph) to come and identify
some pictures.

"That was from the morgue officials. Then, I won't get into details,
but of course later on we found out that that he was killed and
actually he was buried in a Muslim graveyard in which they only bury
Muslim people."

Wooding asked Joseph, as the eldest brother, what that was like.

"As Andre said as hard as it was and even is right now to talk about
it, we have captured all these moments in the documentary and when
it gets to this part, the movie kind of slows down. You feel what a
martyr's family goes through when such things happen. But for me,
I think it was very shocking because it was the climax and very
challenging point of my faith for the situation because I had trusted
that God would protect his children in any situation, and this was
something where we thought always and believed in, but maybe I hadn't
seen the other side of the picture. Especially having such a faithful
father whose ministry was very fruitful for God it was the last thing
that passed my mind that in the morgue I would see the twenty-six times
stabbed face of my dad and chest of my dad covered in blood. So I went
in with the knowledge that he won't be there and in fact when we went
through all the pictures of the albums he was not there but until the
last minute before we left they said there's one more picture and we
have already buried this man as an unidentified person, and that was
my father."

Joseph continued : "I think at the time soon I got into this stage of
kind of challenging God, and I was alone with the two police officers
- which were not too comforting either - so I didn't cry at that time
that much and then I walked home to my uncle's house because I didn't
know how to share the news with my mother and my brother Andre (at
the time was ten years old), and he was the first thing in my mind
that in Iran at the time people there are not that many divorces so
not having a father is also a very big deal there. And he came to my
mind, and I just didn't know how to digest the situation and I think
it kind of hit me a few hours after."

So did Andre can do you remember what he said ?

"Yes, I remember exactly," said Andre. "Actually, it's very interesting
if you saw the movie End of the Spear I saw myself in that movie when
the guy comes home and his son is upstairs and he just listens - he
puts his ear on the ground - and listens from another room. That was
exactly me in 1994 because I was in my room doing homework and then
I heard Joseph coming in and I just ran to him and I saw his eyes,
and that was enough for us to know what has happened. And then, of
course, we hugged each other - it was very emotional, very emotional -
but at the same time overall I have to say that I really do believe
that if God let something happen for a reason He also takes care
of you too. He's not a coward God ; He's a very caring God in fact,
and that's why He protected us."

Joseph said it was probably God's plan that during those eleven days
they were very calm and believed that their father would be alive,
maybe somewhere in interrogation, but were expecting him to be
coming back.

"After that shock, I think we all went through several stages of
(what) my mother calls the University of God, which you never in fact
graduate from, you always keep learning. But I think the first stage
was the hatred that we had towards the enemies, and it took us a good
couple of months to start even thinking about (what had happened)."

Did the brothers want to get revenge somewhere ?

"Yes," said Joseph, "I remember even in the very first days my mind was
working that 'ok I have to pay them back, they have killed an innocent
person.' But as my brother said, the support of the church and all the
prayers that were coming from outside in the west and organizations
including Open Doors that we are working now with (really helped). I
think God really touched us and things went very smoothly and as a
result it was a process of forgiveness ; it was a process of not only
forgiving and interceding and finally praising and being thankful."

The Hovsepian brothers said that one thing that always is alive and
never dies is the peaceful spirit of God that works even when your
tears are shedding. Something magical happens through the power
of prayer.

Wooding asked Andre tell some of the lessons people can learn if they
watch their movie A Cry From Iran ?

Andre replied : "One of them, as you already mentioned, I think
it stands out is the appreciation of life no matter what situation
you're in, no matter if you have financial problems or someone in your
family has a disease or anything like that, after watching this movie
the first impact that I think that it leaves on you is that 'wow I
have to appreciate my life. I have to appreciate this freedom that I
have' and of course I have to make a note that Christians in the west
are persecuted too in other ways, which maybe is a whole different
topic. But at least it's not physical - they don't take your life.

"Other feedback that we've gotten from people has been just simply the
awareness, because a lot of people watch the news and they think that's
all we need to know and that's all that's happening on this earth,
in this universe. But after watching this movie, people are really
more aware of what is happening in these third world countries."

Wooding wanted to know : "Are there other Christians and Christian
leaders in Iran who are suffering like your dad did?"

"Sadly, yes," said Joseph. "And I should say that even in the past
two months there were other house group leaders and Christians that
were officially executed, and still there are groups that are always
taken for interrogation and some have paid a price - whether they
lose their job or their kids can't go to school. But the fact is
that what has changed during the past several years after the series
of Iranian martyrs are how the Christians handle their faith and
how they respond to the persecution. They pray for their enemies,
they trust in the Lord more than ever, and my dad being an Armenian
was not from a Muslim background, but defending Muslim background
believers already left a great impact on them and they all say that
if Armenians could give their lives to reach us through the message
of the Gospel how much more we are ready to pay that. So they have
become much more stronger than ever before."

How difficult is it for a Muslim in Iran to give their lives to

"Well it is very difficult actually," said Andre."Because of security
reasons I think primarily, because once you do give your life to
Jesus you're not only making a decision for yourself but also in a
way you are somewhat endangering your family members. So I mean it's
a whole different world out there than here. So I think as far as
that goes it's the security comes in to line, but God leads them to
do the right thing."

For both DVD information and screening information you can go to the
official website which is interro_liens_callback.

Radio stations interested in airing the full interview with Dan
Wooding and the Hovsepian Brothers may e-mail him at Danjuma1
for the MP3 file. (This is for media contacts only, please).