Last Saturday, I was invited to a special preview of Faith in Chains, a documentary about religious intolerance in Iran – especially after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Although Khomeini has long since passed on, under the present government, headed by other Ayatollahs, there remains religious persecution of minor religious groups in Iran.

The documentary focuses primarily on the plight of the Baha’i followers, who were (and are) constantly harassed, tortured, and killed. From the old film footage that the filmmaker produced, it was evident that they suffered the brunt of the persecution during the Shah period – though it continues in the present day. Not only were the leaders of the Baha’i faith systematically tortured, but those who remained true to their faith were also eventually executed. Iran’s Islamic government considers anyone who doesn’t believe in Shi’a Islam an apostate deserving of capital punishment.

The filmmaker, Shapour Daneshmand, who was present at the premiere, focused especially on the condition of the Baha’i faith in Iran. Because of the current political discrimination of Baha’i followers, most of the documentary was shot in the U.S. The filmmaker confided that it would be a suicide mission to make a documentary in Iran about a faith that is on the country’s ‘hit list.’ Moreover, the majority of Baha’is have already fled the country. Hence, the interviews of the survivors of imprisoned, missing, or murdered family members were conducted in the U.S.

It was absolutely heart wrenching to hear the stories of Baha’i survivors who were tortured simply because they practiced a different religion. Their words were moving and evoked intense emotions. The children of the martyrs – most of who are in Europe or the U.S. – are doctors, lawyers, and engineers who are keeping the work of their parents alive with social activism.

The documentary not only highlighted the present state of religious intolerance of minor religions in Iran, but also offered a history of the Baha’i faith when Baha’u’llah founded it in 1863. Despite persecution in its country of origin, the current population of Baha’i followers worldwide is between five and seven million.

Baha’i, as a faith, places emphasis on unity – the unity of all things, including god, religion, and people. This ‘oneness of three’ is the central teaching of Baha’i. Faith in Chains will be released worldwide in the fall.