By Florence Avakian
On Thursday, December 8, the Eastern Diocese’s Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center presented a screening of the documentary “Havresc: Stand on Courage,” examining the daily struggles of Armenian and Assyrian Christian Iraqis and the village they built on the edge of ISIS-controlled territory.
The documentary, produced and directed by filmmaker David Ritter, detailed the history of the village from the time of the Armenian Genocide when a group of survivors migrated to Iraq and built villages for their families, including Havresc which became an agricultural area that also drew other persecuted Christians, Assyrians and Yezidis. Many villagers fled in 1975 when Christian villages in Iraq were destroyed in order to foster assimilation, but in 2006 people returned to Havresc to rebuild homes, churches and schools with help from the Diaspora.
Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, executive director of the Zohrab Center, introduced Ritter and the documentary, saying that the issue of Christian persecution in the Middle East “transcends ethnic interests. One doesn’t have to be Armenian to care about others.”
The film also followed Murad, the leader of the village’s 22-man militia, who was shot and wounded by ISIS forces shortly after the documentary’s completion. Footage showed Murad’s home, which also served as the militia’s headquarters, housing an armory of weapons which contrasted with villagers tending to flocks of sheep and farming their land.
“Even trees need water to live,” said Murad in the film. “We are like these old trees. We never give up. Let us live like lions, and if need be, die like lions.”
Ritter, who spent months living in the village to detail the area’s daily struggles, has gone on to other areas of the world where Christian communities are in danger. As he tours Armenian communities to screen his documentary, he announced 30 percent of DVD proceeds will go back to the Havresc community, having raised over $2,000 already.
For more information, to purchase a DVD, or to help Havresc, visit www.echo612.org.