It has recently been reported that two years ago, Pakistan’s top Zoroastrian trust explicitly declared that children with at least one Parsi parent can enter the faith. This means that even children of Parsi women who have married outside the community are eligible.
The Karachi Parsi Anjuman Trust Fund (KPATF) also allows the funerary rites of Parsis who were cremated to be performed on its premises. The practice of cremation is considered antithetical to the religion. "The basic criteria is that if the mother has not changed her religion and continues to be a practicing Zoroastrian, her children should have the right to be Zoroastrians," says Byram Avari, the KPATF president, in an email interview.
This is a contentious issue in India. The Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP), the largest Parsi trust in the country, disapproves of allowing children of mixed parentage into the community. However while children of Parsi men and non-Parsi women are routinely inducted into the faith, kids of Parsi women married outside the community are infrequently initiated. Dinshaw Mehta, chairman of the BPP says, "The high priests are categorical that if either party is non Zoroastrian then the child’s navjote (initiation ceremony) cannot be done. We follow that."
On the other hand, liberal Parsis have praised the KPARF’s decision. "It’s a good step and it should be emulated by anjumans in India as well," says Jehangir Patel, editor of community magazine Parsiana, which broke the news. "Women have equal rights."
Vispy Wadia, founder of the liberal organisation Association for Revival of Zoroastrianism (ARZ), helps conduct navjotes for the offspring of mixed couples. He believes that trusts in India will be compelled to take a similar step if they want to save the community from extinction. There are less than 70,000 Parsis in India.
Roshni Maloo, a Parsi businesswoman whose husband is Catholic, is keeping her fingers crossed in the hope that Indian trusts will one day make a similar move. Last year, the navjote of Maloo’s two children was conducted under police protection as a group of orthodox Parsis threatened to disrupt it. Patel believes that many Parsis will be relieved if trusts pass such a resolution. Kids with a Parsi parent, he says, are often distressed that they can’t enter fire temples or participate in religious ceremonies. "A religion should bring family together not separate them," he says.