Witness Statements

Mariet Michaelian

Mariet Michaelian

Mariet Michaelian (left), with her father Tateos, mother Juliet, sister Helen and brother Galo

Mariet Michaelian was speaking to Article18 on the 25th anniversary of the murder of her father, Tateos, an Iranian-Armenian church leader and translator of over 60 Christian books into Persian.

Please tell me about your father. What are your memories of him? What was he like? 

My father was not only a father for me; he was a friend, and he was my teacher. He was my mentor. Whatever I know from the Bible… He was one of those parents who intentionally tried to teach me the Bible and tried to be a Christian example for me, and he was living what he was preaching, and that was very precious for me. 

Tateos Michaelian was 62 when he was killed

I was one of the close observers of his life, and when I was listening to his sermons I couldn’t feel that he was preaching but not living it. He was living whatever he was preaching.

He was a man of prayer. I always remember that during the hard times he was staying awake, praying; trusting God in everything. And he was a man of the Word of God. I remember waking up in the morning and seeing him reading the Bible. Or during the day, always the Bible was next to where he used to sit. He was a man of the Bible, and he knew the Bible really well. Reading the Bible and being fed from the Bible was part of his life.

Something else I always admired in him was his trust in God. He was completely trusting him. He believed that nothing will happen without God’s permission: this was his belief.

I remember when Iraq was bombing Tehran, we were so afraid. We were going downstairs to take refuge, because our house was on the second floor. And he was very peacefully in his room, and we were saying, “Aren’t you afraid?” And he was saying, “No, nothing will happen without God’s permission.” He was not faking it; he was living it. He knew that God is in control. So I really admired his faith. He literally believed that God is in control, and he was trusting him wholeheartedly.

He was saying, “If you want to know if a believer is a true believer, just check how he spends his time and money.” And he was giving 50 per cent of his income for the work of God. He was saying, “Tithes are for the Jews. They were stingy, so they were paying 10 per cent. We are Christians, under grace; we are not under law. So it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay; we should pay more.”

So half of his salary was going for helping others, and he was so compassionate. During the last 15 years, he was the pastor of an Armenian evangelical church, and when he saw a young couple struggling finding houses, because the rents were going high, so he started a fund and started giving them loans, without interest. So he was giving from his own salary, and he was talking to others who could help, and through this fund more than 30 couples got houses. So he was passionate in helping people; not just talking, telling them God is with you. He was trying to be the hand of God in helping people. 

When he died, many, many people came to us and told us: “Take this money; this is what he gave us when we were in need. We know that your family is now in a difficult position. Take this bag; this is what he gave us.” 

We didn’t even know who he had helped. He was happy when he saw he could help someone. I remember I was checking his Bible when he passed away and I found a small note in his Bible. It was Galatians 6:9, and he wrote a date – it was almost 10 years before his death – and it said: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” And he said, “God gave me this verse and told me to use the rest of my life living based on this verse.”

And when I read that, I realised that he did that with all his life. He lived helping whoever he could, and we didn’t even know about it, but we heard about it when he passed away.

He had a degree in law, but he was 18 years old when he had a personal encounter with Christ, and he decided not to practise law but to serve the Lord. From that day on he decided to give his life to Christ and to live for him. So he didn’t practice law; he started serving in a school which belonged to a church. He became the principal there, and then he became the Executive Director of the Bible society, and Executive Director of the Synod of Presbyterian Churches in Iran, and for the last 15 years he was the pastor of St. John’s Armenian evangelical church in Tehran.

Please tell me some more about his ministry. I hear he was a prolific translator? 

One of his characteristics was that he was using his time wisely, and again when he passed away I was going through his calendar and I realised that he had plans for every hour of his day. 

A selection of the books that Tateos Michaelian translated

Every week was planned. The weeks after he passed away he had planned – hours for translations, hours for Bible study, hours for visitations.

He was a dedicated translator; he translated more than 60 books. And last time, when I was there, brother Edward [Hovsepian] was telling me that “I asked him what makes you eager to translate all these books into Persian? And he told me that, ‘Edward, now we have very few Persian-speaking Christians, but I know God will have plenty in a few years. I know that this is God’s plan for Iran, so I’m not translating it for now – for Christians we have now. I know that God has a plan for Iran; I know that the doors will be opened for Christ, and then we will have a famine, so I’m translating for those days when people will be hungry to read and there will be no resources’.” 

So he was dedicated; he was preaching not only verbally, but translation was his way of communicating God’s love and care, and he was translating theological books, philosophical books, devotionals.

Please can you tell me about the day you heard about his death? What were you doing? What are your memories of that day?

I was pregnant, and it was the day that my daughter was supposed to be born. It was a Wednesday, and we were getting ready. My mum came to our house. We were getting ready for the baby because I had to go to the hospital the next day. The doctor told me to come on Thursday for a check-up, and so my mum came and helped me. And my dad was so excited, because it was his first grandchild, and he helped me buy lots of stuff for my daughter. 

… My mum called me at night – it was Wednesday night, 10 o’clock. She called us and told us, “Dad didn’t come back.” And it was so unusual because wherever he used to go he used to let us know: “I’m going to this place, I will be back at this time.” But on that day, when Mum was at our house, he left the house without any notice, and he didn’t come back. 

Tateos Michaelian (right) speaks while his fellow church leader, Haik Hovsepian, sits behind him

So it was six months after Haik [Hovespian]’s death, and we were terrified; we knew something is not right. He had received lots of threats, so we were waiting for that day. But you know, when the day comes, you don’t want to believe it.

So we went to his house; we started looking around. We went to all the hospitals around our area; we went to the police station, with a picture. And then on Thursday we wrote letters to different ministries – even to the president. And usually they do it at the weekends, so that everywhere is closed and you don’t have access to any place. So for two days we just went to different places. Nothing happened; no news. 

My husband went to the doctor and told him the situation. He told him to bring me to the hospital. 

I went to the hospital on Sunday. My mum and my husband took me to the hospital on Sunday, and when they went back, the government people came to church telling them that he is dead. And this is because my brother found him on Saturday, in the morgue. So they had to tell us that he’s dead. 

They were not expecting us to find his body, and they didn’t return Haik’s body for several days, and they even buried him, but with my father, my brother found him in the morgue. When they found him in the morgue, so they had no other choice but letting us know that, “Yeah, we found him; he was killed.” 

They told my brother not to let anyone know; they wanted to bring the news. So they came on Sunday and gave the news to my mum and the church. 

It was the day my daughter was born. I didn’t know about it till a few days later. The doctor told them not to tell me, so I heard the news two days later. And at that time, every minute I was just praying for him; I was thinking, “He is in one of the prisons, and they are torturing him.” I didn’t know that he was already dead. 

So it was my brother who saw him, and, I haven’t asked him, but I guess his face was not even recognisable, if they shot him from the back. And even after that they didn’t give us the body for many, many days. I don’t remember how many days – maybe ten days.

And when it was his funeral, there were lots of secret-service people and police. They were checking every move; they didn’t let us open the casket; they were afraid of things happening. But there were lots of people there. It was packed. People from everywhere were there, because he was known as one of the heads of the Church in Iran.

What did you make of the regime’s story of events – that he’d been killed by the opposition MKO? Did it ever convince you, or other Christians? 

No! How can you be convinced when they just killed six, seven people in the same year? After the funeral, my brother and a few other colleagues from the church were called to the Ministry of Intelligence. They called all the pastors and told them: “Come for a briefing. We want to let you know what happened. We have some facts.” And the person who was doing the briefing and was telling them: “These ladies killed him; these are the ones that are working against the Islamic Republic; we will prosecute them.” The person who was conducting this briefing and explaining that “everything is under control now we have them arrested” … he committed suicide in the prison a few years later. 

So he was one of the agents who was orchestrating all these things, and I don’t know what happened, but after the killing of the writers, the Persian writers, maybe somewhere he dropped the ball and he was arrested, and he committed suicide in the prison… Suicide? I don’t know; I mean they killed him also.

After that, they sent us some notices for the court. They called me, my mum and sister (my brother left the country) to the court, and told us: “This is the day we want to … I don’t remember if it was one or three ladies; I don’t remember even their faces … but this was the court for them; “come and just be a witness, tell that they have killed your dad. We will have a sentence for them”.

We literally told them we don’t believe that they did it, and we don’t want your justice – we’re asking for God’s justice for the true killer.

So we went to the court and they called us one by one: “Do you accept that these people killed him? And do you want us to sentence them?” So, we knew that they didn’t do it. I knew that they were themselves victims, because back in those days they used to have these mujahideens cooperate with them, promising them that they would have a lesser sentence.

So I told them that I know that God is the best judge, so I give everything to Him; let him judge the one who killed my dad. So we basically said, “We don’t have anything against them; we don’t want them to be prosecuted.” And they were angry, because they wanted us to just say “thank you for arresting them; thank you for doing this court for us, bringing justice”. And we literally told them we don’t believe that they did it, and we don’t want your justice – we’re asking for God’s justice for the true killer. 

So they took us several times to that court, and one thing that was interesting: one day when we were in that office, by chance I saw one of the notes that was in front of the one who was asking questions of us – as if we had killed him – interrogating us … and I saw the date of death, and there was a discrepancy. The letter of the day he was dead, it was telling Wednesday, but what he had there, he had another day. So I told him, “What is the difference? At least let us know when he was killed; we want to know if he suffered, or he was killed the same day.” And he said, “Oh, don’t pay attention to this date; it is a typo.” 

So it was a scenario they didn’t think good enough about the details; they just wanted to show a good image of the Islamic Republic. They killed the ones that they wanted, but they wanted to create a scenario that “it is our enemies that are doing it”. And they gave us a hard time; they called us to the court several times, as if we were the criminals. They were forcing us to wear the chador, entering that room. So I was filled with anger, and all I was praying was that God’s justice be done.

I’ve been told that your father was quite outspoken?

I wish I was a brave as he was. He was not afraid of anything, or anyone; he was just speaking the truth. He was not thinking about his benefits, or his wellbeing; he was just speaking the truth. I remember that it was the fasting month, Ramadan, and in the TV they announced, one of the mullahs was speaking to Muslims, and he said that: “During this month, especially be aware of dogs, pigs and non-Muslims; don’t touch them. They’re unclean.” So the next day, [my father] went to the Ministry of Islamic Guidance, and he opened the door and started shouting: “Are we the pig? Are we equal to pigs and dogs? You are calling us pigs and dogs! You are calling us unclean, and then you want us to tell the world that you are respecting us and that human rights is observed here.” 

So he went there protesting; he went to the ones in charge, protesting about our situation, telling them, “This is what you call us!” He confronted them. And I remember there was a meeting: they called the pastors “ambassadors for Christmas”. Again, they tried to show a good image; maybe they were trying to show the ambassadors “we respect your Christmas, we have a party for you”. And after that party, the Catholic bishop came to our house for dinner with my dad, and it is him who told me the story. He said: “So all of us were there sitting – all Christians, all pastors, ambassadors of Christian countries – and they went and started the day with verses from the Quran, and some talks about Islam and how Islam is the best religion. And we were all there, angry. No-one said anything. And it was your dad, with the Bible, who stood and said, ‘I have a few words I need to say.’ So he went there, he stood in front of everybody and he said, ‘This is for us. We are Christians. I believe if you read from the Quran, we have the right to read from our Bible also. And if we believed that Islam is the best religion, we would all be Muslims now.’ 

So the Catholic priest was telling, “This is what we were thinking, but no-one dared to say it. It was your dad who went there and read from the Bible, and said that we don’t believe that Islam is the final and the best religion.” 

And I also remember we were living next to a school – the church he was pastoring had a school next to it – but after the revolution, the principal and the teachers were sent by the government. It belonged to the church, Armenian kids were attending there, but they did not let us have [Christian] principal and teachers. And one morning, they used to start the day with the Lord’s prayer, singing the Lord’s prayer, and after the Lord’s prayer the principal, who was a very fanatic Muslim, stood in front of the children and said, you have to repeat “Allahu akbar“, which is what the Muslims say – “God is greater”. And then you have to say “Down with the US; down with Israel,” the same slogan they always say. And so my dad went down and stopped the children, and told them, “Don’t repeat any of them.” And the children loved him, so they followed him; they stopped repeating those Allahu akbar things. And he said, “These are Christians; you can’t force them to say your slogans.” And it became a huge thing. The principal went and told the authorities that my dad had cursed [Ayatollah] Khomeini. And they wanted to take revenge.

God protected him from many, many different things, and I remember I was in 8th, 9th grade, after the revolution … I was going to an Armenian school but we had one hour for Christianity – we were studying Christianity – but after the revolution they said, “We have to write a book for you, as a book of religion.” So all the Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians had to read that book in school, instead of learning about their own religion. So my dad took all those books, read them through – he was a scholar. Even until his last day, he was reading philosophy. He read all those books and he came up with a letter just mentioning which parts are against our Bible and our beliefs and sent it to the Ministry of Education: “Our kids cannot study this book because this is against our faith.” 

And this was one of his protests. None of the other Christians did this, but he just went through the book and said, “You cannot brainwash our kids with these books.” And he went through the lines, mentioning “these are the parts that are against our faith; you can’t force this and make our kids read it”. So he was brave, and he was outspoken, and he was a scholar. The letters he was writing, they were pieces of art – very good Persian. 

He was the first one to speak when there was injustice against Christians, against minorities, and I remember he told me – he went even to the Hague, in one of his trips he went to the Hague, explaining the situation of Christians there, and he told them, “The picture they [the regime] try to give you is not the right picture. This is the true picture: as Christians we are treated as second-order citizens; we can’t have governmental jobs; we can’t be hired as teachers.” They were not hiring Christians as teachers because they were the ones who were teaching the Muslims. And he told them, “They are considering us unclean; they don’t let us print Bibles; they don’t let us renovate or build churches.” So he told them about all the details, and he was frustrated when they told him, “We know the situation, but we’re not going to change our policy because of one or two Christians who are living there.”

So it was his frustration. He was so outspoken. His last trip, to Cyprus, again in one meeting he talked about all the details. It was after Haik’s assassination, and he even told, “Now they have started killing our clergy.” 

When he came back, the person who went with him told him, “I’m 100 per cent sure that they will kill you… If they forget everything else you have done, just for this last thing you did.” And it happened a few months later.

Did your family think he was killed because of what he was saying?

Not just that. He was very open; he was giving Bibles, he was preaching to Muslims. The last recorded sermon we have from him is when he went to the Pentecostal church, and it was in Farsi, on Acts 18:9, the verse: “Do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent, for I am with you, because I have many people in this city.” And this was his belief; he believed that God had many people in that country, and he really believed many Iranians will come to Christ, and it was his mission to take the Word to wherever he could go. 

The Michaelian family were prevented from opening the coffin at the funeral.

I remember one of the missionaries told me that after the revolution he was in the synod office, he was working there, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards came to arrest these two missionaries to take them to Evin, which is one of the scariest prisons. And the missionary said [my father] told the guards, ‘I am coming with you, I will not let them go without me. I have to go with them.’ “So he came with us to the prison and he talked to them, explained that the church has been a positive influence in this country,” and the missionary was saying, “While they were keeping us in a room, I don’t know what he told them but they just released us and told us, ‘Go back’.”

No-one would want to go near even to Evin, but he was the first one who was jumping to help others. I know another brother, they came to arrest him at night, and his mum just called my dad. My dad and mum went there, and again it was the Islamic Revolutionary Guards; he convinced them not to take him at night; he brought him to our house. And the next day, when they went and talked, it was clear that it was just one group taking revenge on him. 

So he saved many people. He was brave – going and taking people even from Evin, taking them out. He spoke against them. 

It was many years that we knew that it would happen [he would be killed]. I was working in an embassy, and again they called to ask some questions, and they told me: “You know what, we are watching your dad. Tell him to be careful. We are sending people there just to check him. He gives Bibles very freely and he talks about Christianity, convinces people to become Christians. Tell him to be careful.”

So we knew it is coming, we knew that they are planning it, because he was one of the brains of the Christian community there, so they thought if they take him, they will get rid of many problems.

It was interesting that when I told him that “they’re telling me that they’re watching you; be careful”, he just told me this verse – Acts 18:9: “Do not be afraid, just speak, because I am with you.” And he just told me the story of Peter and the apostles, who said, “We must obey God, rather than man.” Even several times, when the Ministry called him and told him, “Be careful, we’re watching you. Stop evangelising, stop giving Bibles; stop protecting Christians,” this was his response: “We must obey God, rather than you. I am the servant of my God, my Christ, my Saviour. Not you.” 

So he was wholeheartedly serving and following and trusting Him. And when my mum was telling him, “What will happen to us when they kill you? Be careful. Don’t do this, don’t do that”, he used to tell us, “God is your father, he will take care of you.” 

And God took care of us for the rest of our lives; he was right … but we lost him.

Is there any way you can express yours and your family’s reaction when you found he had been killed? 

For me, the first few days was like hell, because I didn’t know he had been killed – I was thinking they are torturing him – so I was just praying that God will send him back, safe and sound, but it didn’t happen. And I don’t know – during those days I really believed that it was God’s will. I always remember him saying that “nothing will happen without God’s permission”, and even up to this day I don’t know why, but like Tertullian said, “the blood of martyrs became the seed”. After those days, we see the Christian Church growing. 

I remember those days like dark days, but what kept us going was the Christians around us – the visitations. People used to be in our house for maybe one month, or even more, they were coming; visiting us, supporting us, and one of the things that really encouraged us was the letters and cards we were receiving from outside. You know in those days you feel you are helpless; they can do whatever they want with you; you don’t have anyone protecting you. But we had hundreds, thousands of letters and cards – from all churches, from embassies, from countries; from the World Alliance of Churches – all the big organisations… Just telling us that they are praying for us, and they were protesting. 

Mariet Michaelian (centre) flanked by her parents and siblings

For several months there were articles written in newspapers – inside the country and outside the country. Even his death became a way that God used it … Many Muslims were asking, “What happened? Why did they kill him?” Even the Muslims knew they killed him, so many people were talking about it. The support we received from the letters, and the cards from outside – the brothers and sisters – we felt that “we are not alone”. Because they want to make you feel that you are a minority; “this is the end of Christianity; we are the majority; we are the best religion, and now this is your end”. But receiving those cards and letters just gave us a different perspective. It reframed our way of thinking. It helped us see that “no, God is in control. The big churches are there; they are persecuting us here, we are just a few here, but God’s Church is out there and they are supporting us”. And those cards, those letters, they were what kept us going. And of course you have this anger, you have this rage, and you think that they just killed one person for his faith, for what he was thinking and believing and living, so it is really hard to accept that he was killed not because he was a criminal, not because he did something wrong; just because he believed in Christ.

My daughter was born the same day. She was the joy of our life during those days. God gives gifts. I mean, look at the timing! She was the one who was helping us be happy in those dark days. My mum used to just hug her. Now, after several years, because we all were wearing black, she kept asking, “Why did you wear black when I was born? Everybody … I see all the pictures, they’re all in black.” It was several years later that I explained that “You were born the same day they killed him.” She was the joy of our life – God took something but gave us something else to be happy over.

I’m interested in what happened to the church he was pastoring in the days and years that followed

It was the Sunday when the authorities came and announced the news, so it was the day of worship, but the congregation … everybody was shocked, everybody was crying. The worship service turned into a mourning service. They just came to our house, they started crying, everybody was in shock. 

Hundreds of people attended Tateos Michaelian’s funeral

For several days the believers used to come to our house, because for several days – from Wednesday to Sunday – we were all praying for his release, we were praying for his safe return. 

But he was so organised. When he was killed, everything was organised, and it was like a wheel that continued rolling. He was a great mentor; he had trained two people to become pastors after him, so they were ready. He was really a man of God; he was one of those who was thinking ahead of time. He prepared those people to become pastors, and they were the ones who took charge. One of them was my husband.

It was interesting that he left but everything he had organised for those who survived to continue. So my husband and the other colleague took over the church, and it was a shock for the church and it took several years maybe to get back. He was not only a leader in the church; he was kind of a leader for the whole evangelical community. After Haik he was the head of the pastors – they had a meeting together, all the evangelical pastors; he was a person who even the Orthodox priest, the Catholics, used to come. So it was a position that couldn’t be filled easily, so it was a huge loss to the Church.

Is his church still going now?

Yes, and the same pastor who he trained is still pastoring. We left the country but he – Sergey Sharbadian – is still pastoring the church. He and his wife were two of the people he mentored personally. They are great teachers, and he mentored them. He not only taught them in seminary – we had a Bible school there – he was working with them on a personal level, mentoring them. So they are the ones continuing the work.

And there haven’t been problems for them?

Of course there are problems with them now. Sergey used to also pastor the Persian-speaking church but they closed that church. They told him, “You can’t have any contact with any Persian-speaking believer.” So he’s now restricted; he can’t have any Persian-speaker in his house; he has to just speak in that church. 

And then they didn’t let them have worship meetings on Friday, because Sunday is a working day, so my dad started worship services on Friday so that families can come. Now they don’t let them have worship services on Friday. They tell them “Friday is our day; you can have worship on Sunday”. So in this way not many people can come, because Sunday is a working day. And whatever activity they want to have, everything they have to report and get permission. So they are very restricted; they are very much under pressure, very tired, but they still keep going.

And what about you and your family? When did you leave and what led you to move? 

My brother was the one who found the body and he was really in a very bad situation. He was filled with anger. So he left the country. The head of the Armenian Missionary Association invited him to the United States, so he came here two or three months later. 

But the rest of us were there. My sister left one year later as a refugee, came to the States. My mum and I stayed there for two or three years, and then my husband decided to do a Masters of Divinity in Lebanon because there were no seminaries in Iran – we had just one small Bible school. So together we went to Lebanon for four years; together we studied for our Masters of Divinity there, and we came back because we promised that we would serve in that church. So we came back and served there for seven years. 

It was really hard for me. Every call late at night used to make me really terrified – I still don’t like the calls late at night because I still have that trauma inside me.

But it was getting harder and harder for me, having had that experience. Every time my husband used to leave the house I was really worried … because back then we didn’t even have cellphones, so I had to just wait and cry until he comes back. 

It was really hard for me. Every call late at night used to make me really terrified – I still don’t like the calls late at night because I still have that trauma inside me – so it was becoming really … because none of my family members were there, so we decided to come here. 

He just saw how hard it was for me to keep serving in that situation, so we decided to come here. One of the churches invited us and he came here as a pastor. It was a hard decision; I was thinking ‘I’m betraying the church my father used to serve’, but I guess it was – now when I look back I think it was a good decision, because many of the church members left after we did and now we have a group here – also the ones that came from the same church – and we have a wider opportunity to serve here. So I don’t know, we just left. It was because of me.

We came to the United States in August 2007. It is almost 12 years ago. So we served there for 13 years.

Do you think people who are becoming Christians in Iran today know about the sacrifices of people like your father?

I don’t know. I guess everybody knows Haik’s story, but I’m not sure if they know my dad’s story. We didn’t talk much about him, we didn’t just go publicising about it. The people who know us closely know the story, but we didn’t just go around telling the story. 

When I came to America I continued my studies. I got my PhD from Biola [University]. There, many different people knowing my story appreciated it and they asked me to go and tell my story in different occasions, different Biola events. I guess when people know me personally and ask about the story I am willing to share. 

But I guess many people don’t even know about my father and his story. I don’t know; he has been a blessing for me. 

When I came to America I realised that, it is unfortunate but many pastors just serve for money, and having him as my example kept me going. For him, money was nothing; doing God’s will was his priority. So I don’t know; I think we were not faithful in spreading his story. We just kept it for ourselves.

As the daughter of a martyr, do you have a message for the Church in Iran today and also for the wider Church?

I can tell them that God is faithful when you go through the dark times. You learn the greatest lessons when you suffer. It is interesting that the most precious lessons you learn under pressure, and during those years we really felt that God is next to us; God was our father; God was our helper. We felt His presence; we felt His support. It is hard, but it is during those days that you have closer connection with God. 

I’m just thankful to my God and I just want to tell that he is faithful through it all, and he is our refuge, and at the right time he sends the right people to support you, to take care of you. He is the one who knows your needs; he is the one who will take care of your needs. What we need to do is just trust and live based on what he wants us to live. It is hard; it is not easy. It is easier to preach than to live, but [my father] lived the same way – he was ready to give his life for us. My dad was saying “it is not for everybody to become a martyr; it is a privilege”. So not all of us will become martyrs, but God wants our faithfulness, and He is always faithful through it all.

Recently you and your mother were presented with a copy of a new Persian translation of the Bible, a collaborative effort known as the Michaelian Project in your father’s honour?

Yes, because he was asked to contribute with them in the translation. He was a great translator. Sometimes when you read Persian translations – because they translate literally, word for word – you don’t get the meaning. But he was a very fluent translator. If you would read his translations, you would feel that “this book was written in Persian”. 

Tateos Michaelian’s widow, Juliet, receives a copy of the new Persian Bible from Elam founder Sam Yeghnazar

He had a very great knowledge of Persians. He knew the Persian poetry. He knew the Quran very well. So that’s why he could have debates with Muslims.

And during his last years, many, many muslims were coming to him, and even some clergy from Qom, who were studying Islamics. I remember some of them coming to him, and he was going through Galatians with them; he was teaching them Galatians, because they had to take one course in Christianity – something like that – and he was trying to tell them that Christianity is based on grace, not doing things which you are supposed to do.

So he knew the Quran, so he could talk to them. He knew their language; he knew their faith, so he was very efficient in talking to them. And people liked him – the Muslims.

Mondays was his open day – they used to come to him. He had an open-door policy, and they used to come and talk to him.

Was the presentation of the new Bible very significant for you and your mother?

I was also involved with that translation, and you know you feel still people remember him and you get encouraged, because he was truly a scholar – all he did was writing, reading, preaching. Till his last day he was reading books of philosophy, thinking, “What will the next trend be in philosophy?” 

So when you feel that people still appreciate what he did, and remember him, of course you feel supported, you feel encouraged. Sam Yeghnazar [Director of Elam Ministries, which published the new translation] was one of those who worked with him in the Bible Society, and my mother felt really supported and encouraged, because sometimes, after all these years, she thinks everybody has forgotten him – and her. So this was really an encouraging event for her.