Iranian Filmmaker 'In Search of Heaven'
By Dan Wooding
ASSIST News Service
BEVERLY HILLS, CA (ANS) -- It is hard to believe that an Iranian playwright, noted poet and filmmaker, has written a book that pays tribute to an American Presbyterian missionary who sacrificed his life for freedom in his homeland.
But that is exactly what Ata Servati has done in his new book, In Search of Heaven, to be published in mid-April.
In an interview at the 14th Annual MovieGuide® Faith & Values Awards Gala in Beverly Hills, Servati spoke first about why he had to leave his homeland.
“I was forced to leave Iran because of the political circumstances there and so I came to the United States and I am a resident of Los Angeles,” he said.
He then went on to describe the book. “It tells the story of the American missionary, Howard Conklin Baskerville, who in 1907 went to Iran, and sacrificed himself for Iranian freedom, after Russians had bombed and destroyed the Iranian parliament and killed all it representatives. He is known as ‘The son of Iranian freedom.’ I really wanted to say ‘thank you’ to this man and I want him to also be ‘the son of American and world freedom as well. I want him to be a symbol for living with honor.’”
When asked why, as a Muslim, he was so interested in the story of an American Christian missionary, he replied, “He did such an extraordinary job with such bravery and heroism. He went behind religion and sacrificed himself for the people that he came to love; people that he didn’t know much about. They were Muslim and that has to be noted.”
In the book, Servati said that Baskerville was serving as a teacher in the Presbyterian mission school in Tabriz, Iran. In 1908, during the Constitutional Revolution of Iran, he decided to join the Constitutionalists led by Sattar Khan and fight against the Russian and Qajar despot King Mohammad Ali Shah, who was a puppet of Russia and England at the time. He was shot while leading a group of students, that he trained secretly in the mountain, to try and break the Siege of Tabriz, just at the time people had started to die of starvation.”
In an article in Wikepedia, the writer says, “The affection that many Iranians have for America perhaps may have roots in Tabriz, where this Nebraskan missionary was killed. Baskerville was a teacher in the American School, one of many such institutions created by the American missionaries who had worked in the city since the mid-19th century. He arrived in 1908, fresh out of Princeton University and, swept up in the revolutionary mood in Iran, fought a royalist blockade that was starving the city. On April 19, 1909, he led a contingent of 150 nationalist fighters into battle against the royalist forces. A single bullet tore through his heart, killing him instantly nine days after his 24th birthday.
“Many Iranian nationalists still revere Baskerville as an exemplar of an America that they saw as a welcome ally and a useful “third force” that might break the power of London and Moscow in Tehran.
“Iranians still pay tribute to Baskerville and consider him a martyr. He is buried in Tabriz, Iran.”
Servati went on to say, “The city of Tabriz, where Howard met his end, has recently been postulated as the original ‘Garden Of Eden.’ Certified Scholars identify the location next to City of Tabriz as the modern city of Rezahehe (Oromieh) birth place of Adam and Eve. Christians will be fascinated by this. That includes Jews. The followers of Islam also believe that there was a real birthplace where in Adam and Even were created and call it ‘Baghe Behesht,’ which translates as the same thing as ‘Garden of Eden.’
“In the book, the reader will get familiar with the city that some believe was the place of Garden of Eden and the birth place of Adam and Eve.”
He said that while researching the book, he has become interested in the teaching of Jesus Christ, and when asked if Christ’s message was needed today more than ever, he replied, “Absolutely yes. It is a must. It is with love, understanding, and respect for one another we can live in peace but not with ignorant, bloodshed, and destructions.”
Servati says that he is now developing a movie based on the book.
“Everybody should read this story and learn from this man what religion and heroism is all about,” he concluded.
For more information on the book and work of Ata Servati, go to www.insearchofheaven.net or www.sennapictures.com.
Dan Wooding is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). Wooding is the co-host of the weekly radio show, "Window on the World" and was, for ten years a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC.
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