Second World Zoroastrian Youth Leaders Forum – Bridging Tradition and Modernity

The second World Zoroastrian Youth Leaders Forum (WZYLF 2.0), which was held from 24th to 2nd June, 2024, at The ASHA Centre in Gloucestershire, UK, brought together 29 young and dynamic participants from across the world including India, Iran, Canada, USA, UK and Dubai. The ASHA Centre, an educational charity nestled in the Forest of Dean, which inspired J R R Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’, formed the ideal setting.

Participants received a warn welcome by Sanaya Master, WZYLF Founder – Sanaya Master and her husband, Kayras Irani, alongside the Founder of the ASHA Centre and renowned human rights campaigner – Zerbanoo Gifford. The forum, a blend of enriching activities and profound discussions, was facilitated by Adrian Locher, Alexander Gifford, Arzan Wadia, and Tanya Hoshi, among others. Fun games and team-building exercises catalysed the bonding and camaraderie among participants.

Zerbanoo Gifford inspired all with her journey dedicated to humanitarian work and British politics. She introduced ZASHA (Zoroastrian Alliance of Sisters Here and Abroad), a platform celebrating the strength, intelligence and achievements of Zoroastrian women worldwide. Actor, director and conflict resolution specialist, Adrian Locher, gave a captivating tour of The ASHA Centre, explaining the symbolisms behind its various elements, like the Peace Grove and the Labyrinth, and shared an enlightening talk on human psychology to help identify one’s own temperaments through engaging exercises. The Hero’s Journey workshop, conducted by Alexander Gifford, stood out as the highlight of the forum, where parts of the play ‘Hamlet’ were enacted, providing insights into different emotions and their implications.

A meeting with magistrate and Zoroastrian scholar, Dr. Shahin Bekhradnia, at Cotwolds, helped deepen the understanding of Zoroastrianism and its environmental ethos. Dr. Bekhradnia explained that Zoroastrianism was more than just a religion, it was a philosophy advocating ethical conduct and environmental stewardship. Dr. Jenny Rose’s session on Zoroastrian history, culture, and religion posed critical questions about the survival of our traditions in the face of persecution and discrimination. Dr. Meher Engineer’s session on resilience and resourcefulness from a quantum perspective was another highlight, exploring how concepts like aura, energy, and mindfulness, influence our lives. Zar Amrolia’s session gave an insight into his entrepreneurial journey and business skills. A guided tour of Somerville College at Oxford helped the participants learn about Cornelia Sorabji, the first female graduate from Bombay University and the first woman to study law at Oxford.

A Jashan ceremony was led by Er. Jimmy Madon, accompanied by an insightful explanation of its significance. Group activities focused on harmony and connectedness, emphasized the importance of collaboration. Some days ended on a musical note with choir sessions led by ASHA volunteer, Maris Meos.

Brainstorming sessions on community challenges and creative solutions, led to smaller groups developing action plans aimed at addressing these issues. This culminated into three project proposals – for creating a globally unified Zoroastrian youth organization, for empowering mobeds (priests), and for providing support for The ASHA Centre – were presented to UK’s Zoroastrian community, garnering valuable feedback and encouragement.

The final day included a visit to the WZO House at Feltham, UK, where speeches were made by distinguished speakers and a Boi prayer was held. The day concluded with a visit to the Freddie Mercury memorial, marking the end of an enriching and transformative experience.

WZYLF 2.0 thus helped participants connect their academic and professional background with the rich cultural heritage of Zoroastrianism. The forum fostered collaboration, knowledge sharing, and visionary thinking within the Zoroastrian community. The lifelong bonds formed and the insights gained will surely go a long way in guiding the youth towards our community’s growth and betterment, and nurturing the next gen of Zoroastrian leaders so they may leave a sustainable legacy for future generations.

[Courtesy: Pashmin Dee]

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