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Sunday, January 6, 2008
brothers honor their father's martyrdom in award-winning movie A Cry From
By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
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.
The Hovsepian Brothers with their Best Documentary awards for A Cry
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
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
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
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
"Take us back to the
period when there was all this trouble for your father. What led up to it?"
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 alread y 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
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
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
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
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 Christ?
"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
Radio stations interested
in airing the full interview with Dan Wooding and the Hovsepian Brothers may
e-mail him at
Danjuma1@aol.com for the MP3 file. (This is for media contacts only,
ASSIST News would like to
thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.
** Michael Ireland, Chief
Correspondent of ANS, is an international British freelance
journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London newspaper and
has been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian
radio station. Michael's involvement with ASSIST News Service is a
sponsored ministry department -- Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM)
-- of ACT International at:
Artists in Christian Testimony (ACT) International. His weblog
Michael Ireland Media Missionary.