FEZANA’s very own Dolly Dastur was just elected as Vice Chair on the Board of Trustees at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Dolly is an active member and contributor to the Zoroastrian community and we are proud to have her represent us in the larger religious community. Congrats Dolly!
I participated in following events recently, representing Zarathushtis, and also got a banner created by the Guibord Center, with the Fravahar symbol that was displayed on stage at The Guibord Center Annual Fundraiser Dinner event at which Artemis Javanshir’s daughter (who attended with her aunt) also gave a short talk on stage.Regards,Maneck Bhujwala 1. Walk to End Genocide event organized by the Jewish World Watch (JWW) organization, at Pan Pacific park in Los Angeles, on March 31 with my banners about Genocide of Zoroastrians after Arab invasion of Iran in seventh century C.E. and after the walk in the Fairfax area of L.A., I was also invited to sit on stage with other speakers representing countries suffering genocide, and informed the audience about Zarathushti religion, Persian empires, and suffering of Zarathushtis after the Arab invasion. I also advocated more involvement by all communities in interfaith dialogue, events and organizations. I also mentioned the online petition for a religious arm of the United Nations and gave the website address where it can be accessed to the director of Advocacy of JWW. Here is a picture of speakers on the stage. I am sitting second from the right side.
2. Yom HaShoah ceremony held at Pan Pacific park in Los Angeles, to remember Jewish victims of the Holocaust and recent anti-Semitic attacks, attended by Mayor of Los Angeles, Israeli Consuls from various cities, survivors of the Holocaust, general Jewish community and friends. This was organized by the Jewish Federation and I had informed them that I was representing Zarathushti solidarity with the Jewish community in their hour of tragedy. They were thankful and expressed their appreciation to all attendees who were not intimidated by the recent anti-Semitic attacks. 3. National Day of Prayer celebrated with a Prayer Breakfast meeting organized by Mayor Garcetti of Los Angeles at his official residence at Getty House, where several religious community representatives were invited. I said a short prayer asking the Wise Creator who is known by many names, to give us all wisdom to put back our biases and ignorance about others which create fear of others and hatred towards others, and to realize that we are all brothers and sisters. I met the Mayor, told him that I was a Zoroastrian and got a picture with him, seen below.Here are pictures of me with a few religious leaders in front of Getty House and picture with Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti:
4. New Banner (which I requested) with Fravahar Symbol unfurled on stage at The Guibord Center event. Picture 2 has Yekta, daughter of Artemis standing in front of banner:
Parliament Planning for Kids and Children This Time
Plant an Interfaith Garden
by Vicki Garlock
For the first time ever, the Parliament, in conjunction with Spiritual Playdate, is offering a kids’ program! The theme for the first-ever family festival in Toronto this November is “Plant an Interfaith Garden.” The event promises five days of joyful and engaging exploration for all who are young at heart. As Edwina Cowell, founder of Spiritual Playdate, put it, “The Parliament has never really done outreach to area families before. There are so many folks out there, especially those who care for or work with children, who are hungry for information on other religions. They are seeking a more inclusive approach to exploring faith and spirituality with kids, and the Parliament is the perfect place to dip a toe into the water.”
A stroll through the interfaith garden will reveal a huge variety of fun, age-appropriate, and always respectful, activities for kids and caregivers of all ages. You’ll find arts and crafts for kids, virtual reality activities for teens, hip-hop performances, yoga sessions, parenting workshops, a Friday night Family Shabbat, and even a Grandparents Day!
One of the most exciting features will be the roll-out of the newly-created World Religions Game – a unique learning experience that promotes religious literacy and a deeper appreciation for the various faith traditions found around the globe.
Clay and Paper Theater
Clay and Paper Theater and their giant puppets will definitely be a big draw. Started in 1994, Clay and Paper Theater is known for its cutting-edge, community-centered, diversity-embracing art form. They are a theater without walls – performing in parks, gardens, and other public spaces – in an effort to promote reflection and dialogue. The Parliament has commissioned a brand-new puppet show, “Golden,” that showcases the Golden Rule, so keep an eye out for those performances. The troupe’s signature over-sized masks and eye-catching stilt performances are sure to be a hit with all ages!
Beads on One String
Each element of the family program has also been carefully considered to ensure inclusivity, the theme of this year’s Parliament. Dennis Warner’s “Beads on One String” project, which honors our universal connectedness and the power of diversity, is a perfect example. Originally published in 2004, Beads on One String began as a song, blossomed into a book, and has become a curriculum tool to address bullying and promote character education. It will be a busy couple of weeks for Dennis, who will perform every day the Interfaith Garden is open, after spending time visiting Toronto-area elementary schools!
Another series of highlights will take place in the Festival’s Garden Center. Fun, interactive, and experiential Learning Patches will be hosted by both faith-specific and interfaith organizations. Kids can get their own Good Deed Pocket, build their own Altar, or walk through the fascinating Chestahedron to gain an enlightening glimpse into spiritual and faith practices from across the globe.
Spiritual Discovery Sessions
Additional opportunities will be available throughout the 5-day program. Kid-centered workshops will include “Real Life Superheroes” and “Cartooning from the Heart,” while programs like “Healing the Teenage Heart” and “Interfaith Leadership Training” will be geared to teens. Seminars on “Golden Rule Parenting” and “Raising Prejudice-Free Kids” will offer practical take-away strategies for parents and other caregivers, and workshops like “Restorative Practices/Circle-Keeping” will focus on classroom techniques for teachers. While many sessions have a particular target audience, other activities, like “Ability Yoga,” are intentionally inter-generational and aim to bring people of all ages together in one space.
A Few Logistics
The Interfaith Family Festival will be located in the Main Exhibit Hall and provide daily programming from Friday, Nov. 2 through Tuesday, Nov. 6. Adults must be registered for the Parliament before registering children. Click here for a list of pricing options and to register an adult. Then, click here to register one or more children. A full pass for kids age 6-12 is only $100. A weekend pass for kids age 6-12 is only $50! Single-day tickets and under-age-5 discounts are also available. There are still a few available slots for field trips and large group events, too, but space is limited, so sign up now!
As someone whose vocation centers on the interfaith education of kids, I am ecstatic about the Parliament providing physical space and valuable resources for this important endeavor. Furthermore, I hope the kids-and-family program becomes an ever-growing highlight of future Parliament gatherings. If we want to create a more compassionate, open-hearted, and understanding world, we need to start with kids. The Parliament’s Plant an Interfaith Garden initiative is an excellent place to start.
Botanical clues show the shared heritage of the Rig Veda and the Avesta.
Soma is a celebrated plant in the RV as well as the AV where it is called haoma, later shortened to Hom in Pahalvi.
Theories about the homeland of the Aryans have been in news of late because of genetic studies. The theory that ascribes an indigenous origin to the Aryans can be shown to be untenable on very simple considerations based on a comparative study of the Rig Veda (RV) and the related Zoroastrian sacred text Avesta (AV). The Rig Vedic and Avestan languages are essentially the same, with very minor differences in grammar. They share a common vocabulary in the fields of mythology, ritual, culture, and religious practices. There are some phonetic differences but the changes take place according to well-defined rules (Sanskrit s into h, h into z). Ahura in AV (as in Ahura Mazda) is cognate with asura in RV with the same meaning, lord (asura as a demon is a later development.) Yama son of Vivasvan is known to AV. Nabhanedishta is a son of Manu in RV; it becomes a common noun in AV meaning “nearest in relation”.
The Avesta proper consists of three parts: Yasna, Visperad, and Vendidad. Yasna in turn includes 17 hymns, called Gathas, which are attributed to Zarathushtra himself and thus constitute the oldest parts of AV. He describes himself as a zaotar (hotr), while later texts call him athaurvan (atharvan).
Zarathushtra introduces some points of departure from the Rig Veda but does not repudiate the joint Indo-Iranian legacy. Deva and Indra become demons in AV, but Vrtrahana (slayer of Vrtra) who is identified with Indra in RV retains his position in AV as a god in his own right The Rig Vedic and the Avestan people both called themselves Arya, meaning noble. RV and AV are Aryan documents, and therefore need to be read together.
There are no dependable chronological clues in either the RV or the AV. But the common botanical information in them can be used to disceren geography. Soma, for example, is a celebrated plant in the RV as well as the AV where it is called haoma, later shortened to Hom in Pahalvi. A drink of the same name was squeezed from the plant for offering to the gods and for drinking. RV devotes a full mandala to soma, and the longest hymn in RV is addressed to it.
There is a striking similarity between the Vedic agnishtoma and the Zoroastrian haoma ceremony, both of which must therefore have originated in the common Indo-Iranian period. From the textual references we learn that soma/haoma was a scented leafless plant with long-jointed finger-like juicy stalks. Though the ritual was elaborate, the process itself was very simple. The stalks and shoots of the plant were crushed either between two stones or in mortar and pestle. The juice was collected, purified and drunk unfermented.
Yasna (10.10) mentions Haraiti Bareza as the soma habitat. Haraiti is identified with Mount Elburz, which earlier denoted the whole range of mountains extending from the Hindu Kush in the east to the Caucasus in the west. RV informs us that soma grew in the mountains. RV (9.46.1) calls soma parvatavrdh ( mountain grown). The Atharvaveda (3.21.10) calls the mountains somaprashtha ( carrying soma on their back). RV (10.34.1) uses the term soma maujavata, the soma from Mujavat, which according to Yaska’s Nirukta (9.8) was a mountain.
Soma was a common plant in the places where the Rig Vedic and Avestian people lived. In RV (8.80), a maiden, Apala by name, plucks Soma twigs by the wayside and chews them with the purpose of becoming attractive to men. Anyone who maltreats haoma is cursed to remain childless (Yasna 11.3). As if aware of this, in RV (8.31.5), husband and wife “with one accord” press out the soma juice, no doubt as a prelude to sexual intercourse. While there is continuity in the Zoroastrian soma ritual, there are clear signs that the Vedic people moved away from the soma habitat. In the Baudhyayana Shrautasutra (6.14) the Adhvaryu asks the seller if the soma came from Mujavat which obviously was still a source of supply. Katyayana Shrautasutra (10.9.30) talks of rationing soma. It enjoins the priests not to give it to a kshatriya or a vaishya even if available, but asks the priests to give them a substitute. Shatapatha Brahmana (188.8.131.52-6) lists the substitutes to be used in the ritual when soma is not available. In course of time, soma became a mythical plant even for medical texts. Sushruta Samhita (29.21-22) and Charaka Samhita (1.4-6) both believe that soma had 15 leaves which appeared one per day during the waxing moon (shuklapaksha) and dropoff one by one during the waning moon (krishnapaksha).
The Brahmana texts reverentially reserve the name soma for the original soma plant and talk of its substitutes. The reverence disappears in later times when the term soma, suffixed with lata or valli (meaning creeper) is applied to different local plants, which like the original soma are leafless.
There is a broad consensus among scholars that the ancient soma/haoma plant be identified with high-altitude varieties of ephedra which have a high alkaloid content. (ephedra grows in plains also but these varieties have no juice.) The botanical identification of soma is however not quite relevant for our present discussion.
There can be no doubt whatsoever that the Rig Vedic and the Avestan people had a common heritage and lived in close proximity to one another. Their joint habitat was the Somaland. Indian plains do not match the RV and AV description of Soma-growing areas. Even otherwise, if India were the Indo-Iranian homeland, it is the ancient Iranians who would have been looking for soma substitutes and not Indians. The conclusion is inescapable: Rigvedic people, like ancient Iranians, must have lived in mountainous areas where the soma plant grew.
Jal Panthaky presides over an interfaith Zoroastrian wedding ceremony. (Tania Mehta/CBC)
Jal Panthaky is a Zoroastrian priest, with a love of life and a staunch dedication to his faith. He is both a proud father and a deeply spiritual man. But neither of these are static roles. Recently, his devotion to his religion and to his children collided; he felt moved to examine the tenets of his faith, and that has led him to be open to new relationships and embrace new horizons.
The collision occurred when his eldest daughter, Rahnuma, brought home a man she was dating who was not Zoroastrian. In Zoroastrianism, mixed marriages are frowned upon. Not only that, but the rules are different for men and women.
A Zoroastrian man who marries a non-Zoroastrian woman can at least ensure that his children are raised in the faith. But the same is not the case for a Zoroastrian woman who marries a non-Zoroastrian man. She is unable to practice, to enter the temple, or even to attend a family funeral.
Orthodox roots run deep
“I was born in a priestly family [of] many generations,” Jal says. “My father was a high priest in a place of worship, and my brother was a principal in a monastery where they taught new Zoroastrian priests … the belief was that you don’t allow any non-Zoroastrians into any of our religious ceremonies, and you don’t allow our children to marry outside the Zoroastrian faith.”
So when Rahnuma introduced Michael to her family, Jal was at a loss. Outwardly, he initially didn’t extend much of a welcome to Michael.
Rahnuma recalls, “When he got an inkling that I was dating Michael at the very beginning, he basically said, ‘You are not going to date him, and if you do I will make it very difficult for you.'”
But inwardly, Jal searched his faith for answers to his dilemma: What was behind the rules against interreligious marriage in Zoroastrianism? And how would they affect his daughter’s wish to marry outside the faith?
A faith examined
Jal’s quest for understanding has led him to embrace his son-in-law and has changed his practice as a priest; he now performs mixed marriage ceremonies.
“We proudly say that Zoroastrianism is the first monotheistic religion. If we believe in one God, then all these people are his children. So why should we discriminate [against] them? And I started to open my mind to observe the people; and especially in my own family, my own daughter.”
– Jal Panthaky
Jal Panthaky’s daughter, Rahnuma, and her husband, Michael. (Tania Mehta / CBC)
His journey has not only enriched his family life, but it also represents an important step for Zoroastrians. A broader outlook on marriage may be a boon to this ancient religion; by some estimates there are fewer than 200,000 Zoroastrians in the world.
Click listen on this link to hear CBC Producer Tania Mehta’s documentary Jal’s Journey: A Zoroastrian Priest’s Path to a New Normal.
Jal Panthaky, Zoroastrian Priest, and ‘father of the bride’. (Tania Mehta / CBC)
We must all learn to accept that others can be different, an Interfaith event emphasises
We read about religious tensions in the world daily. When we spend time to reflect on the events that take place, we wonder why humans are unable to interact harmoniously. Unfortunately, we each have different perspectives on our values, and some are more passionate about their religious and political views than others.
Past and present events intensify the tensions between people. This leads to unhealthy and unproductive relationships. Those sheltered from such unfortunate events might not appreciate the complexities in the relationship. Whilst we should all respect and understand each other, for some, the process is difficult. But this should not stop us from endeavouring to create bridges of trust and bonds of peace.
There are many events held throughout Victoria that promote respect, harmony and understanding. The Manningham Interfaith Network (MIN) and the United Muslim Migrant Association (UMMA) Mosque and Community Centre hosted an event entitled Unity in Diversity last month.
With guest speakers and an extraordinarily multicultural three-course dinner, the event encouraged members of various faiths to network in person with fact, fun and food.
Approximately 170 guests from all faiths, spiritual beliefs and community groups attended. These included faith leaders representing Bahá’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Chinmaya Mission, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Sai Baba, Heavenly Peace and Zoroastrianism.
Fifteen speakers shared their views on the topic The relevance of faith in our modern society today and beyond. Every guest speaker encouraged the community to appreciate other faiths and to collaborate with each and every person in a positive way.
The general consensus was that faith is still relevant in modern society, regardless of whether or not you practice a religion. Faith provides comfort and guidance to those who wish to have the belief. We should not shun those who have no such belief. A belief in any faith is a private matter and we should not interfere with another person’s belief.
As an invited speaker I shared the simple tenets of Zoroastrianism: good words, good thoughts and good deeds. The Buddhist faith also share these values too. For many, this principle is hard to practice. Sometimes, we might be guilty of doing or saying something we regret. It takes courage and humility to practice this tenet and we may need to be reminded about its importance in our daily lives.
Other guest speakers highlighted the importance of learning about different faiths. One speaker commented that “most of us do not really know about the principles of various faiths. We tend to have our views marred by the media. It is unfortunate that very few people ask another person about their faith and what it means to them”.
One speaker thanked the Victorian community for making her transition from her home country to Melbourne pleasant. She noted how tolerant Victorians are and remarked that she “did not have to fear associating with others knowing that her accent, appearance and values might differ”.
Ms Paola-Rosales Cheng, President of MIN, congratulated the volunteers at MIN for organising an event that allowed people of different Faiths to share their views. “I am delighted to see a great turnout at this event and I am pleased to see so many new faces” she added. She encouraged other community organisations to hold similar events that focused on being inclusive.
In attendance included members of MIN, Sonia Vignjevic, Victorian Multicultural Commission Commissioner; Manningham Inspector Geoff Darlison and multicultural liaison officers from Victoria Police; Cynthia Shaw, Co-Chair, Migrant Settlement Committee; Michael Smith, CEO, Eastern Community Legal Centre; Dr Sue Rosenhain, Women’s Health East; Swinburne University Student Advancement and Community Engagement officers and Chaplain; Councillors Dot Haynes, Anna Chen and Paul McLeish of Manningham City Council; Karen Ivanka, Community Educator, COTA for Older Australians.
Such events focus on the importance of people of different faiths connecting with each other. One’s faith should not deter one from saying hello to others. Go on, greet a person from another faith and make a friend!
Carl BuhariwalaCarl is a freelance reporter who has a passion to promote community events, the work of not-for-profit organisations and new ideas. He enjoys meeting people and documenting their work for others to read.
Toronto is an excellent choice for the next convening of the world’s spiritual communities. The United Nations has declared this progressive city the world’s most diverse locale, so to have it host the largest and most diverse global interfaith gathering is wonderfully fitting! Its splendid facilities, supportive local government, engaged academic and corporate stakeholders, multiple ethnic populations, and dedicated core team of religious and civic leaders will serve us well as we move toward this 7th World Parliament.
I look forward to the busy days ahead as hundreds of us work to make our dreams for Toronto 2018 a reality. This energized and creative team in Chicago, Toronto, and around the world will help our staff and trustees to envision and carry out what can become the largest and most successful Parliament in history. Building on the many successes of the past yet striving to be visionary and courageous, we pledge ourselves to this enormous task with excitement and hope.
Looking forward to seeing you in Toronto next year!
Dr. Rob Sellers
Chair, Parliament of the World’s Religions
Mark your calendar for Sunday Sep. 11 and Register here to walk with us.
The 2016 Unity Walk is open and free to everyone. Donors who contribute $50 or more will be thanked in Unity Walk promotional material and will receive free merchandise.
Below is a sample of 2016 Unity Walk merchandise with the winning design by Aurash Aidun, a ZAMWI member and Avesta Class alumnus.
Unity Walk Schedule (Subject to Change):
Walkers are invited to join the walk at anytime along the route.
Walk-in registration, Resource Fair, and Donation Drop-off: 12:30-1:30 pm at Washington Hebrew Congregation, 3935 Macomb St. NW, Washington, DC 20016
Opening ceremony:1:30pm at Washington Hebrew Congregation
The program will include: Greetings by Rabbi Lustig, Washington Hebrew Congregation, a prayer offered by a priest from the Sikh Gurdarwa DC, and a musical send off by David Shneyer and a group of musicians from Kehila Chadasha.
Open House Block 1: 1:50pm-3pm
Annunciation Catholic Church
National Cathedral of Washington DC
St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Open House Block 2: 3pm-4:15pm Community of Christ Church
Soka Gakkai- USA, Buddhist Cultural Center
St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral
Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to the United States
Closing Ceremony:4:30pm, The Islamic Center of Washington, DC
The program will include: Remarks by Rev. Jim Winkler, President of the National Council of Churches, and a performance by Mosaic Harmony, a local interfaith choir.
Resource Fair: This is an excellent opportunity to learn about other faith groups from the greater DC area.
There will be two service projects at the Unity Walk this year. The first will be at Washington Hebrew Congregation (WHC) between 12:30 and1:30pm. Together with WHC and Friendship Place, we will be collecting long underwear to help men, women, and children in need in the DC area. We invite all walkers to donate a pair (or more) of long underwear when they arrive at WHC. Sizes XL and larger are best, although all sizes are welcome.
Come join ZAMWI and the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC) for the 2016 UNITY WALK
Today, more than ever, our message of friendship and unity is critical. So, please join us as we walk down Massachusetts Avenue, NW, and visit houses of worship and other religious centers in a public celebration of solidarity among different faiths and cultures. This is a free event, but you need to register at the IFC website. Click here (also attached) to see a flyer for the event and to see Aurash Aidun’s artwork for the event selected by the IFC! Also, remember to wear your blue ZAMWI t-shirt for the walk. If you don’t have one, or for more information regarding this event, please contact Farzad Aidun at email@example.com
Parking & Transportation
There will be a fair amount of parking (unlimited time) along the route on Massachusetts Avenue since it’s aSunday. The walk ends down a hill, so you may want to strategize if you want to walk uphill or downhill at the end of the afternoon. There are 2 buses (the N4 and N6) that go along the walk route. Bus schedules can be found here, but be sure to give yourself more than enough time since the buses are not that reliable. There is no metro station near the route.
FEZANA is proud to announce that our own Dolly Dastoor has been elected as a Trustee to sit on the Board of the Parliament of World’s Religions. This was announced in a recent communiqué by the Parliament of World’s Religions. She will be the only Zoroastrian on the Board. The trustees are elected for their work in the professional and interfaith field and not necessarily to represent their faith, but more importantly to think globally.
Dolly has been a leading light in the Zoroastrian Community in North America and all over the world. As past President of the Zoroastrian Association of Quebec, and later as the Past-President of FEZANA (Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America) she has been a leader in the community for decades. Her current involvements include being the Chair of the Academic Scholarship Committee of FEZANA and as the Chief Editor of the FEZANA Journal, the flagship publication of FEZANA. The upcoming FEZANA Journal Summer 2016 issue will incidentally be Dolly’s 10th Anniversary issue as its Chief Editor.
Dolly was part of FEZANA’s contingent to the last Parliament of World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah in October 2015.
Besides her community involvement, Dolly is a widely published research clinical psychologist and an authority on psychogeriatrics, most recently at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal. She received her doctorate from Concordia University. Before coming to Canada, she was a Senior Research Fellow in Psychiatry and coordinator of the World Health Organization (WHO) Project on Schizophrenia at the University of Ibadan. She has been active in women’s organizations, especially ZONTA International.
About the Parliament of World’s Religions.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions seeks to promote interreligious harmony, rather than unity. The problem with seeking unity among religions is the risk of loss of the unique and precious character of each individual religious and spiritual tradition; this understanding is key to our framework.
Interreligious harmony, on the other hand, is an attainable and highly desirable goal. Such an approach respects, and is enriched by, the particularities of each tradition. Moreover, within each tradition are the resources (philosophical, theological and spiritual teachings and perspectives) that enable each to enter into respectful, appreciative and cooperative relationships with persons and communities of other traditions.