Calif. — Iranian-born ministry leader
and filmmaker Joseph Hovsepian knows
well the cost some have paid for
proclaiming the Christian faith among
His father, Haik Hovsepian, who was a leader
among Christian churches in Iran, disappeared from the streets of Tehran
on Jan. 19, 1994. Iranian authorities notified the family of his death
nearly two weeks later. He had been stabbed in the chest 26 times.
More than 14 years later, Hovsepian continues
keeping his father's legacy alive with Burbank-based Hovsepian
Ministries. Along with his mother and other family members, the
Hovsepians are committed to giving their testimony, “a journey starting
with persecution, loss and hatred towards Muslims, that ends with
forgiveness, love and interceding for the enemies.”
The ministry's mission is to evangelize and
share the love of Christ with the Farsi speaking world as well as
encouraging Christians by sharing the family's story. However, it is the
Muslim outreach that requires some specific cultural knowledge and
training, Hovsepian, 34, said.
“The major sensitivity to be aware of is that
they are coming from the religion of Islam,” Hovsepian said. “There are
some very strong cultural and belief attachments. To put down all those
and do a U-turn for Christ requires a big courage.”
Muslims who have embraced Christianity have to
cope with major changes to their lives, he said.
“It requires a commitment because the
aftermath is dealing with family members, relatives, and so on,” he
said. “It affects every aspect of your life.”
In addition to family members giving personal
testimony, Hovsepian and his brother, Andre, have produced a documentary
film about their father's plight, “A Cry From Iran.” The film portrays
how Haik Hovsepian did not succumb to government pressure and chose
instead to “tell the world” about the struggles of Iranian Christians.
Pursuing the faith
Haik became the superintendent of Assemblies of God churches in
Iran in 1982, and later he was the representative of all Protestant
churches in Iran.
“If we go to jail or die for our faith, we
want the whole Christian world to know what is happening to their
brothers and sisters,” read a quote attributed to Haik on the ministry’s
Web site. His efforts reached a climax in 1991 when Iran's church
received news of Pastor Hosein Soodmand's martyrdom in the city of
Mashhad. In 1993, Haik was also affected by the news of an execution
order of Pastor Mehdi Dibadj, a convert from Islam, who was put in
prison for almost 10 years.
Dibadj was released Jan. 16, 1994 just days
before his planned execution date. The Hovsepians say the release was
prompted by Haik's diligent work at drawing attention to the human
rights and religious freedom violations of Christians in Iran.
Three days after Dibadj's release, Haik was
Joseph Hovsepian was 20 years old and serving
in the Iranian military when his father died. Two years later, he began
gathering existing film tape and documents about his dad. It was a
familiar task for the man who, as a teen, became interested in film
production and music.
Three years ago, the making of “A Cry From
Iran” started in earnest with the help of Open Doors ministry.
The film, released last summer, has won numerous awards at film
competitions and is available for viewings at churches, theaters and
While the Hovsepian brothers are proud of the film tribute to
their father, the ministry's primary medium is TV, with about 60 percent
of ministry time dedicated to TV programs. Hovsepian said a majority of
Iranians have access to satellite television, where they hear the
message of salvation, learn how to grow in their faith, and access Bible
“A very large number of Christians are being
nourished by satellite TV,” he said. “The church has gone beyond and is
not limited to the four walls of a classic church building.”
Their programming includes a youth-oriented
television show that is broadcast via satellite to Iran and other
Although pleased by the development of
Christianity in Iran, Hovsepian said he is reluctant to talk about
specific numbers out of concern for government retaliation.
“Let me say that the number of Iranians coming
to faith is beyond what my dad had ever dreamed about,” Hovsepian said.
The Iranian-Christian warned Americans about
misperceptions about his country, especially under the government of
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“What the media introduces to us from Iran is
not a correct representation of the Iranian population,” he said. “You
can't judge a nation by its government.
“Iranians are one of the best nations for
hospitality, love and thirst for a true God,” he said. “They are a
nation searching for the God of love. They are one of the nations where
its people are coming to Christ in larger numbers in comparison to other
For more information about Hovsepian
hovsepian.com. Information about “A Cry
From Iran” can be found at