Zoroastrian Experience Attending the 2015 Parliament of World Religions
The Parliament of World Religions is a historic event where we get to meet and interact with people from many different religions and learn from them. We also have the opportunity to educate others about our 4,500 year old, monotheistic, revealed religion, founded by Iranian Prophet Zarathushtra (also known as Zoroaster by ancient Greek philosophers like Plato). As many such previous events have taken place at distant places, I was not able to afford the expense. Luckily, the 2015 Parliament was much closer, and it was a dream come true to be able to finally attend it with over twenty Zoroastrians from USA, Canada, Singapore and other places.
Towards the end of 2014, I was informed by my colleagues at the Southern California Chapter of the Parliament of World Religions (SCCPWR) that they were forming a group of ten people to get the group discount, so I took their offer and registered.
Next, I added my name to Federation of Zoroastrian Association (FEZANA) proposals as a presenter to two panel discussions (Stewardship of the Environment from a Zoroastrian Perspective and The Interfaith model-Does It Need Tweaking?) and one Zoroastrian Jashan (Thanksgiving) ceremony demonstration. I also made a separate proposal, ‘Effective Ways to Spread Interfaith Education in Our Communities,’ affiliated with Claremont Lincoln University (CLU) where I was taking an MA course in Interfaith Action. Other colleagues also presented proposals for ‘Relationship with the Divine’ and ‘Petition for a Religious Arm of the United Nations.’ We were gratified that all of our proposals were accepted by the Parliament organizers.
In January 2015, I obtained information on exhibit booths, and with guidance from other Zoroastrians who had attended previous events, I proceeded to fill out the application forms with selection of location for our booth, then had it sent over with a check to the Parliament office. Tax exemption application related to sale of books and items, was also made to Salt Lake City government. And, availability of copy services, electricity and WIFI was also confirmed.
Some Zoroastrians brought posters, books and items for the booth. Another logistical item was finding an affordable decent hotel where we could stay in Salt Lake City. I obtained information, suggesting the Red Lion Hotel to FEZANA attendees with price, and phone number information. Most of us stayed at that hotel, where we took pictures of our group, as we did in the parliament lobby and at the opening plenary with men in the traditional all white dress and priests with white caps.
Each day was a fresh experience at the parliament, starting the first day with discovering the convenient free shuttle light rail provided by the City of Salt Lake, checking out the layout of the Parliament halls where we had to go for our presentations and plenary sessions, setting up the Zoroastrian booth (listed in the program book as FEZANA), signing the petition for a Religious Arm of the United Nations (initiated by the Zoroastrian Federation), and watching our head priest representing the Zoroastrian faith on stage at the opening plenary.
The following days were filled with sessions, presentations, delicious free lunch served by Sikhs, visiting exhibits, and dinner with Zoroastrian friends. I also met teachers, staff, and students at the CLU booth. The final days ended with free concerts provided by the Mormon Church and commitments to religious harmony expressed at the closing plenary.
- Great opportunity to meet attendees from all over the world, learn about them and make them aware of our religion and community, with face-to-face communication at various sessions, through presentations, at exhibit booths, at lunch, and at Mormon concerts.
- The Zoroastrian Thanksgiving ceremony demonstration which I and another priest performed on the first day, and an explanation of the ceremony impressed the large audience that packed the hall.
- Seven Zoroastrians made successful presentations on various panels, referencing Zoroastrian beliefs to support major points in their presentations.
- The Zoroastrian team enjoyed the camaraderie developed at the booth, and at our dinner get-togethers at various restaurants in Salt Lake City.
- We shared a feeling of brotherhood with attendees of all faiths.