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Zoroastrians are facing the depletion of their ancient beliefs

Article author:

The Associated Press

Associated Press

David Crary

New York (AP) — Founded over 3,000 years ago, Zoroastrianism is the oldest and most historic religion in the world today. Has an influence on. Its supporters maintain a vibrant community on four continents, but admit that their numbers are very small, perhaps 125,000 worldwide.

Starting Friday, approximately 1,200 participants from 16 countries will assess their faith prospects at the four-day World Zoroastrian Conference in New York City. This is the first conference held in the United States since 2000. The

agenda reflects a keen awareness of the challenges facing their religion. Growth prospects are limited given that Zoroastrians do not try to convert outsiders and often do not consider mixed-marriage children to be members of the faith. But there are also some optimistic reasons.

"Have we ever been in such an era?" Mumbai-born New York-based architect Arzan Sam Wadia wondered, co-chairman of Congress. ..

"If all of us are desperate and give up," can't do anything, just die peacefully "or do you have hope for the future? "He told The Associated Press.

Here is some basic information about faith:


Founded over 3,000 years ago, Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest surviving monotheistic religions that preceded Christianity and Islam. For centuries. However, the details of its origin are inaccurate.

The Prophet Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, was the founder of the faith, which became dominant in Persia before Arab Muslims conquered the region in the 7th century. Respected.

Being wary of persecution, many Zoroastrians set out for destinations in western India, especially Mumbai and Gujarat. India's Zoroastrian population, known as Parsis, is larger than any other country, but it is increasing in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, while its number is declining.


At its core, Zoroastrianism is a never-ending battle between good and evil, the struggle between the religious god Ahura Mazda and the evil spirit Ahriman. I'm emphasizing. Believers have the freedom to make good and bad choices. They were encouraged by Zoroaster to think good ideas, say good words, and do good deeds.

Scholars state that these doctrines and other aspects of Zoroastrianism had a great influence on other religions, especially Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. increase.

"You have these ideas that have fundamentally shaped Western society," said Jamshid Choksheed, a professor of central Eurasian studies at Indiana University. "Fighting good fights, the purpose that exists to do good things, the prosperity of the world, working together, respecting and loving each other ... all go back to Zoroaster."

Traditional temples have a sacred fire intended to burn forever. Another ancient custom: a raised circular structure known as the Tower of Silence. The corpse was placed to disassemble rather than be buried.


Incorporating ancient Zoroastrian traditions, Nowruz's holiday, a major event in the Persian calendar, is still a major event in the Iranian calendar. In other areas that were once part of the Persian Empire, it is widely celebrated around March 21st.

For Zoroastrians who left Iran and settled in India or ultimately farther areas, their community became famous for creating entrepreneurs and philanthropists. Being wealthy was encouraged within the bounds of faith, provided that wealth should be used to help others.

Born in India in 1839, Jamsetji Tata became one of the most prominent businessmen and philanthropists of the 19th century, and the Tata Group he founded is one of the largest multinational corporations in the world. is.

Another prosperous conglomerate, the Wadia Group, was founded in 1736 by Parsis's shipbuilding company Rob Jiwadia. Today's holdings include fashion magazines, cricket teams, textile and biscuit makers.

However, the most famous modern-day Parsis was neither an entrepreneur nor an industrialist. Freddie Mercury, the legendary lead vocalist of rock band Queen, was born in 1946 to Gujarat's parents who lived in Zanzibar as Farok Bursara.

In the future

The potential for further shrinking of the Zoroastrian community around the world is very much in the hearts of New York Parliamentary attendees.

Some sessions will focus on Zoroastrians in their 20s and 30s. In explaining the rally, the organizers promised that participants would leave "with certainty that the fate of faith is in the hands of passionate and visionary young Zoroastrians."

Other topics on the agenda include entrepreneurship, pagan cooperation, and the role of women.

Wadia, co-chair of the family-independent parliament behind the Wadia Group, has taken the lead in two separate initiatives aimed at strengthening religious prospects. I am.

One is a global study conducted by SOAS University in London aimed at shedding light on the factors that promote or impede the growth and vitality of Zoroastrianism.

Wadia is also the program director of the return to Zoroastrian roots, planning a trip to India for young Zoroastrians who want to know more about the history and culture of Zoroastrianism.

Wadia is convinced that faith will survive, but perhaps while undergoing major changes. In North America, for example, he believes that Zoroastrians maintain basic spiritual guidelines, but may have reduced compliance with certain cultural traditions.

Zoroastrian professor Almut Hinze of SOAS University describes the global community as "microscopically small" and is concerned about the decline of Parsis in India. ..

"But Zoroastrians are doing well with the global diaspora," she said in an email. “Secularization and marriage law pose a threat, but numbers will be stable.”

Choksy, a professor at Indiana University, sees North America as the most promising region for growth. He estimates that the United States and Canada currently have more than 30,000 Zoroastrians, more than Iran's latest figures.

"North America is where there is hope," Choksy said. "I feel that the community has many children and is stable, partly because of immigrants. It's a bright light."


The Associated Press's religious coverage is Lily. Funded by Endowment Inc., supported through a collaboration between The Associated Press and The Conversation US. AP is solely responsible for this content.