One solution to the dilemma of a decreasing Zarathushti population through assimilation in the Diaspora is to increase Zarathushti education in the home. A child cannot be expected to grow up embracing a strong and deep Zarathushti identity when identity shapers are absent in the surroundings. Especially in multicultural communities, parents hold a supersized responsibility to ensure that Zarathushti values, history and heritage are passed on to their children. This takes a conscious, unwavering commitment over a long period of time.
Make a Zarathushti home a priority. From a special altar for prayers and pictures of Zarathushtra to books about Zarathushti history and religion to tablecloths with Persepolis figures to mugs with farohars to mealtimes, children should see evidence of their Zarathushti identity displayed in their surroundings.
Make religious education a priority. No parent says, “Soccer practice is more important so it’s okay to miss school” or “I don’t know enough about mathematics to help you, but you’ll pick it up somehow somewhere, no worries.” The same kind of importance given to secular education needs to be given to religious education. Local associations can support families in this by organizing religious classes for all ages according to their interests. Art and songs may interest children but young adults may prefer ethical debates and photography projects.
Make Zarathushti holidays a priority. The story of the discovery of fire at Jashan-e-Sadeh, the setting of the Nowruz table, the thanksgiving ritual of gahambars, the inviting of fravashis during Mukhtad can be just as appealing to children as July 4th fireworks and Santa Claus. In the West, Zarathushti families are bombarded with the dominant culture’s festivals. Christmas, particularly, is a holiday that has lost its religious basis and has become a secular festivity. As such, Zarathushti families have adopted many of the festival’s celebrations such as decorating the house with a Christmas tree and exchanging presents. Zarathushtis are renowned for adapting to their surroundings, yet if we are to maintain our cultural and religious identity, we have to make an effort to showcase and illuminate our own traditions. Nowruz is just the occasion to involve the family in celebrating our traditions.
Make socializing with Zarathushtis a priority. Parents need to make opportunities for their children to meet other Zarathushtis even if this means driving two hours to attend a wedding, inviting other families over for a weekend, persuading children to attend camps and conferences organized by Zarathushti associations.
Make service and charity a priority. Parents need to exercise civic responsibility – raise funds for a worthy cause, volunteer, vote, advocate for marginalized groups, be environmentally responsible – and explain to their children how this matches the Zarathushti duty of working towards a perfect world or freshokereti.
Files coming soon.
‘Discovering Ashavan’ vividly portrays the era of superstition and irrationality that pervaded ancient Iran four millennia ago when Zarathushtra Spitama, the prophet of the first monotheistic religion of the world, preached his message based on free will and individual responsibility.
In this fictional account, Ashavan, an orphaned stable boy disparaged by his peers because of a deformed leg, gets into a midnight brawl to save a dying dog. This impulsive act snowballs into an alarming chain of events as he fights to clear his name of the charges of sorcery cast upon him by a vindictive man and a fearful community. As the story unfolds, we see how a young Zarathushtra befriends Ashavan, and gives him the courage to resolve the fears within himself and take a stand for what he believes.
Acclaimed author of Ice Candy Man and An American Brat, Bapsi Sidhwa writes:
“...excellently developed characters and adroit sense of place, Dinshaw gives immediacy to a distant time and brings the past vividly to life. She has also managed to bring Zarathushtra down to earth, and, in doing so, makes him accessible. At the same time, the narrative embodies some of the main principles of our faith. It is creditable that Dinshaw accomplishes this without adopting a high moral tone or sounding the least bit preachy.”
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