The Australian Baha’i Community has just released a video commemorating the 40th anniversary of the destruction of the House of The Bab in Iran called Sacred Space: Impressions in Retrospect, 40 Years Since the Destruction of the House of The Bab. In this video, three Australian Baha’is reflect on their pilgrimage to this sacred spot, which was destroyed as part of a widespread campaign orchestrated over many decades aimed at extinguishing the life of the Baha’i community in Iran.
The House of the Bab was identified as a critical historical and holy spot for Baha’is, and the release of this video has come at a time when Baha’is around the world have been celebrating the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab, Whose revitalizing message prepared the way for the coming of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith.
I wanted to find out more about the video, so I caught up with my dear friend Mehrzad Mumtahan, who works with the Australian Baha’i Office of External Affairs and was not only a part of the team behind the video (serving as producer and director), but he was also one of the three people featured in the video who shared their experiences of visiting the House of the Bab before it was destroyed. Here’s what Mehrzad had to say:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Mehrzad. Firstly, can you tell us what the video is about?
This video was an initiative of the Australian Office of External Affairs. We wanted to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the destruction of the House of the Bab, which also coincided with the bicentenary celebrations of His Birth. We looked at a few options such as an art exhibition or installation, but concluded that a short video for social media was the way to go, as it provided a larger audience. Given my background and interest in the arts and filmmaking, I was particularly interested in making a video. I also had the bounty of pilgrimage to the House of the Bab as a child on many occasions, and I felt sharing stories of visits to this sacred space, which is one of the holiest sites and the birthplace of the Baha’i Faith, was a befitting way to provide an opportunity for other Baha’is and non-Baha’is to experience what it was like to visit the House of the Bab, where He declared His mission. I also wanted to show how millions of Baha’is from around the world were deprived of this sacred place, which was very special and precious to them.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us why it was important to make this video?
Well, making this video was highly important because we need to raise awareness about the plight of religious minorities, particularly Baha’is in Iran and the fact that for the last 40 years, all of their places of worship and historical religious sites have been systematically destroyed. It’s about their right to freedom of worship without intimidation and persecution. The House of the Bab was as significant and sacred to Baha’is as the Cave on Mount Hira, where Mohammad received the first revelations from God, is to Muslims, or Mount Horeb in the Sinai where God first communicated with Moses, and the Jordan River where the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus. Imagine if those places were destroyed: how devastating would it be for the followers of those faiths? And what a sad loss it would be for the world’s religious history and spiritual heritage.
Baha’i Blog: What do you personally hope viewers will take away from the video after watching it?
I’d like them to have a deeper understanding of the extent of the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran. I want them to be touched by hearing personal stories of Australian people who visited the House, to go on that journey and pilgrimage with them, as if they themselves had walked through those old narrow streets in Shiraz leading to the House of the Bab. I want them to get so close to the House that they can almost touch the walls, smell the orange blossoms in the courtyard, and feel that indescribable feeling of emotion, love, joy and awe in the Bab’s room. I want them to sense the sunlight through those colored glass panes, and feel as if they were sitting in that room, kneeling in front of the lamp where the Bab sat and declared His mission to Mulla Hussayn, the room which was the dawning place of a new faith of God, the birthplace of the Baha’i Faith.
Baha’i Blog: What’s the response to the video been like so far? Have there been any positive outcomes?
What’s been interesting is that this video has brought out a lot of stories from other Australians who visited or feel connected to the House of the Bab. Many people have shared with me privately or on social media, their own personal stories of pilgrimage to the House. The connection between Australia and the birthplace of the Baha’i Faith is very strong indeed. It has also generated a lot of discussions around the topic of religious persecution and the right of Iranian Baha’is to practice their faith in their homeland alongside other religions, without fear or discrimination.
Baha’i Blog: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview Mehrzad, and thanks to the Australian Baha’i Community and all those involved in making this important video.
We’ve included the video below, and you can learn more about the ongoing persecution of the Baha’is in Iran by visiting: www.bic.org