Day 02: XVII North American Zoroastrian Congress 2014

The second day of the Congress was a blur of activity with a full schedule and many many presentations pulling people in all directions.

Some of the presentations that I did attend included a wonderful journey looking at Zoroastrian footprints along the fabled Silk Road. Jenny Rose spoke of her research and travels in that part of the world, and the connections to Zoroastrianism she found there.

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Dan Sheffield was the Khorshed F. Jungalwala Memorial Lecture speaker. Daniel Sheffield is a Ph.D in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University, specializing in Iranian and Persian studies.

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Dan discussed…..” Zoroastrians have never been isolated from the world around them. As Iranians in Antiquity left their homes for commerce and conquest, they came into contact with a variety of religious traditions spanning the Asian continent. The universe of of medieval Zoroastrian thought written in Farsi, Sanskrit and Gujerati share intellectual spaces with their Muslim, Hindu and Jain neighbors. Emergence of ideas of religious pluralism among Zoroastrian thinkers in the 17th and 18th centuries. And, finally the impact of European education on Zoroastrian communities, how language and education affect how we interpret our faith, our view of the world, the place if our communities within it, and the role of other communities around us.”

The 2014 FEZANA North American Zarathushti Community Awards were presented to the winners at a glittering ceremony.

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The winners are

Rohinton Rivetna Outstanding Zarathushti Award
Sam Vesuna

Dinshaw Framroze Joshi Excellence in Performing Arts, Painting or Literature Award
Arzan Gonda

Jamshed and Shirin Guzder Excellence in Business or profession Award
Dinshaw J. Patel

Jamshed K. Pavri Humanitarian Service Award
Nazneen Spliedt

Shirin Nariman Dastoor Outstanding Young Zarathushti Student Award
Persis Bhadha

Shirin Nariman Dastoor Outstanding Young Zarathushti Award
Ervad Poruz Khambatta

North American Mobeds Council Community Services Award
Ervad Rayomand Ravji

The afternoon sessions were “Yin and Yang of Zoroastrian Thought”  moderated by Khushroo Lakdawala and included panelists Ardeshir Anoshiravani, Behram Deboo, Kaemerz Dotiwala, and Farhad Sidhwa

The Young Adults track had the “Break Ya Ice!,” put together by  Khush Italia

Afshin Sepehri, and his daughter Nusha Sepehri had a Shahnameh recital.

Maneck Bhujwala spoke about the Zoroastrian presence on the Interfaith World Stage.

The Teen track continued with a workshop on Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds. This was moderated by Arzan Sam Wadia and included Autusa Behroozi , Dinsha Mistree and Afshin Sepehri as panelists speaking about their projects and passions in service to the community and society.

A panel on Navigating Zoroastrian Parenthood – Raising Children in North America, was moderated by Trity Pourbahrami and included Natalie Gandhi, Fereshteh Mazdyasni and Shahram Sohrab as panelists.

Houtoxi F. Contractor and Ervad Soli Dastur moderated a very interesting panel on The Achievements and Challenges of Young Mobeds in North America. Panelists include Ervad Bahrom Firozgary, Ervad Zerkxis Bhandara, Ervad Burzin Balsara, Ervad Rayomand Ravji, Ervad Rayomand Katrak

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The main evening social event was an hour long regaling of the audience by the World Zoroastrian Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra included soloists Neville Bharucha and others including Meher Pavri.

The evening reception was Parsi themed with songs, dances and nataks. Local members of the community were felicitated for their contributions to the community.

The evening ended with  Generation One, the live Parsi Band from Houston; led by the dynamic Firoz Firozgary making the audience dance away into the wee hours of the morning.

Some candid comments from Day Two.

Events such as this Congress bring about opportunities that are something mind boggling. And one such opportunity transformed into a impromptu session that was not on the agenda, but which turned out to be arguably one of the best sessions in this Congress. The circumstances were perfect. Rarely do you get two of the leading young scholars of Zoroastrianism in the same space, with time to spare. Add 50 odd young folks to the mix, and you have the perfect setting for a fireside chat.

Dinsha Mistree saw that opportunity and requested Yuhan S-D Vevaina and Dan Sheffield if they would be up to talking to the young folks. They readily agreed. The news was put out over social media and by word of mouth and two hours later the event took place. And what came about was a 2.5 hour session of mindblowing discussions about anything and everything to do with Zoroastrianism. Yuhan and Dan both patiently answered questions that folks had. No question was taboo or too basic. It left the youth in the room wondering why such sessions are not mainstream and part of the overall program.

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