“Ready and Thankful to Give it All I Can”
A tribute to Rev. Tateos Michaelian, a faithful Iranian Presbyterian on the 25th anniversary of his martyrdom.
(Updated on 7-3-19)
“I am ready and thankful to give it all I can.” That was the response that Rev. Tateos Michaelian wrote to his friend when invited to lend his expertise to a new translation of the Bible for the Iranian world in May of 1994*. On July 2nd Rev. Michaelian’s family identified his brutally murdered body.
Twenty-five years after his assassination, being a Christian in Iran still represents serious threats. Although historical churches are given a limited amount of freedom, Christians continue to be the target of governmental pressures such as the seizing of properties and prohibiting the distribution of related educational materials.
Rev. Michaelian dedicated much of his efforts to the development of resources to strengthen the faith of the church as a minority facing severe social pressures. Born of an Arminian family, he committed his life to Christ at the age of eighteen. He earned a Law degree from the University of Tehran and later another in theology from The Near East School of Theology. In 1965 he married Juliet Hakoopian and they became parents to Mariet, Helen, and Galo. He was ordained to the ministry in 1976 by the Evangelical Church of Iran, a denomination dating back to the beginnings of Presbyterian Mission work in Persia in the late nineteenth century.
Michaelian was known to have a very disciplined life of prayer and generosity. He made it a practice to give half of his salary: Twenty percent to the church and thirty percent to those in need. Proficient in the Persian and English languages, Michaelian completed the translation of around sixty books about the Bible, theology, ethics, and spirituality. Former Presbyterian Missionary in Iran and linguistic consultant Kenneth J. Thomas describes Michaelian’s writings as “easy to read and popular” as well as “a fervent act of Christian witness.” **
As Executive Secretary of the Bible Society of Iran Michaelian coordinated the publication of the Injil Sharif, also known as the Good News translation, which soon became the most popular version of the New Testament in the country. He led the Society to a higher organizational level by helping it become an associate member of the United Bible Societies while maintaining an autonomous board of directors coming from a variety of denominational affiliations.
Toward the end of the 70’s Michaelian also became the Executive Secretary of the Synod Council of the Evangelical Church of Iran and a prominent teacher in its theological education program. His deep knowledge of philosophy, psychology and Persian literature made him a very esteemed educator.
Following a period of relative freedoms after the 1979 revolution, there came a wave of intense sanctions against Christians. It was even made illegal for churches to receive Muslims seeking to embrace or claiming to have embraced Christianity. In different ways and on different occasions he opposed those violations to religious rights and made the international community aware of them.
In 1994, Michaelian courageously became the Chair of the Council of Protestant Ministers after his predecessor and friend, Bishop Hovsepian Mehr was mysteriously abducted and killed. On June 29th, 1994, Rev. Michaelian himself disappeared. A few days later his son Galo found the body of his father in the morgue.
The church in Iran continues to be violently discriminated against. While the distribution of the Bible and Christian literature is considered to be a serious crime, there is an unprecedented number of people in the country professing faith in Christ and gathering at homes for worship, learning, and mutual encouragement. (Listen to a recent podcast from our Coordinator of Iranian Ministries, Dr. Sasan Tavasoli). The church in Iran is considered to be among the fastest growing in the world. Many of the books translated by Rev. Michaelian are enriching the lives of hundreds of thousands of new believers.
The devotion and dedication to Christ that Rev. Tateos Michaelian lived serves as an inspiration to Presbyterians around the world. His life was taken less than two months after he committed to giving all he could to a new project of Bible translation. The Iranian Christians that carried on the translation work honored his memory by naming it “the Michaelian Project.” The ceremony of dedication was held in London five years ago with representatives of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the British Evangelical Alliance, and the Vatican. The first published copy was appropriately presented to his widow Juliet.
The Outreach Foundation is grateful to the family of Rev. Michaelian for graciously allowing us to ponder his life and witness and for its ongoing commitment to God’s work. They have requested that those desiring to honor the memory of Rev. Tateos Michaelian may do so by helping provide Theological Education for leaders in Iran and the Iranian diaspora. Click here to donate.
*“Rev. Tateos Michaelian: 1932-1994.” Elam Iran, Winter 2014/Spring 2015.
**Thomas, Kenneth (2015) By the Power of the Spirit. Stories of Iranian Christians. Association of Iranian Presbyterian Churches and Fellowships in North America. P. 94