Zoroastrian Association of Kansas

This profile was last updated in 2006

History

Dr. Daryoush Jahanian, president of the ZoroastrianOriginating with the teachings of the Prophet Zarathushtra in the second millennium BCE, the ancient faith of Zoroastrianism is referred to as “the Good Religion” in the sacred texts. Zoroastrians are encouraged to live out their faith through the pra... Association of Kansas (ZAKA), came to the United States to escape religious oppression in his homeland of Iran. Iran has historically been the country with the largest population of ZoroastriansOriginating with the teachings of the Prophet Zarathushtra in the second millennium BCE, the ancient faith of Zoroastrianism is referred to as “the Good Religion” in the sacred texts. Zoroastrians are encouraged to live out their faith through the pra.... Its government and citizens had, through discriminatory laws and racist attitudes, become inhospitable to the relatively few remaining Zoroastrians. As a result, many Zoroastrians fled Iran and other Middle Eastern countries for the comparatively neutral ground of Europe and North America. Few Kansas City Zoroastrians report experiencing hostility or bias in America. However, ZoroastrianismOriginating with the teachings of the Prophet Zarathushtra in the second millennium BCE, the ancient faith of Zoroastrianism is referred to as “the Good Religion” in the sacred texts. Zoroastrians are encouraged to live out their faith through the pra... is far removed from its former status as one of the main world religions, with approximately 270,000 members worldwide and only some 25,000 members in North America, according to writer Roshan Rivetna. Due to the scarcity of Zoroastrians in the Midwest, the Kansas City area group does not congregate at a traditional fire templeA Zoroastrian house of worship is often known as a “fire temple” because Zoroastrians pray in the presence of fire. Fire temples in India and Iran are named according to the grade of fire; the highest grade temple is known as an Atash Bahram. In the U... similar to those found in India or Iran during Zoroastrianism’sOriginating with the teachings of the Prophet Zarathushtra in the second millennium BCE, the ancient faith of Zoroastrianism is referred to as “the Good Religion” in the sacred texts. Zoroastrians are encouraged to live out their faith through the pra... heyday. Although there are several ornate templesA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, a traditional templeA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... in the Kansas City area is neither cost-efficient nor really necessary. Instead, local Zoroastrians meet at varying times at members’ houses and at the home of Dr. Farahnaz Aery-Kalanari on the first Sunday of every month. According to Dr. Kalanari, the small number of Zoroastrians in Kansas City and the world does not mean that Zoroastrianism is dying. She hopes that the oppression in the Middle East will end. Dr. Jahanian told an interviewer, “Gradually Zoroastrians are coming out of their shells–for a long time they were either oppressed or didn’t believe in conversion.” Dr. Kalanari explained that Zoroastrians, perhaps because of their history of persecution, are naturally unimposing people. Ahura MazdaAhura Mazda in the Avestan language is the “Lord of Life and Wisdom,” the one supreme and infinite God, as taught by the Prophet Zarathushtra. Ahura Mazda’s divine attributes, which humans are taught to emulate, include: the good mind; the divine la... teaches that people are born into the religion they were meant to be born into, making some followers hesitant about recruiting converts. However, some Zoroastrians are open to the idea of conversion, especially in the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan, where residents claim ancestral Zoroastrian roots and have converted to Zoroastrianism en masse. A challenge to modern believers is the belief that intermarriage with other religions is against the will of Ahura Mazda, the divine ruler and creator who commands the side of good in the cosmic struggle. The teaching about intermarriage is one of the founding tenets of ancient Zoroastrianism. Since the only way to be a true Zoroastrian is to be born into a Zoroastrian family, this religious precept, if taken literally, has some problematic implications for the future of this tradition. Conservative Zoroastrian leaders now stop short of forbidding intermarriage but strongly urge against it, warning that it will lead to assimilationAssimilation refers to the process of “making similar,” a process by which people lose their national, cultural, or even religious identity through absorption in the wider society. In the history of American immigration, it has usually meant the absor... and eventual disintegration of the faith. There are online databases of single Zoroastrians of marriageable age to facilitate the difficult process of marrying within a widely scattered religion.

Demographics

The members of ZAKA span several generations, from infants to their septuagenarian predecessors. The oldest member is 74 years old; the youngest is 12 months. Overall there are roughly 100 members of the churchThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ..., with 27 members under the age of 18 and the majority of members between the ages of 18 and 50. Most of the members of the church are of direct Iranian descent and speak at least some Persian, with many of the members fluent in Farsi, the more common dialect of Persian. Avestan, the Persian dialect of Zoroastrianism’s sacred book, the AvestaThe Avesta comprises the oldest extant sacred texts of Zoroastrianism. The scripture collection includes the Yasna; the Vispered, which covers festival observances; the Yashts, hymns of praise; the Vendidad, a book of ancient purity laws; and the Khordeh ..., is also spoken to some degree by all of the members of the church. Children memorize sacred chants and prayersPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. in Avestan.

Physical Description of the Center and its Facilities

There is no specific “center”; the group’s activities are held at members’ houses, with the exception of the children’s study group, which meets monthly at the Kalanari home. Consequently, the meeting places are not equipped with the traditional of a fire temple, such as a perpetually burning fire altarAn altar is a raised platform or stand which bears the central symbols of a religious tradition—whether in a temple, church, shrine, or home—and at which offerings are made, worship is offered, or prayers are said. and images of Zarathustra. Homes of ardent Zoroastrians occasionally have some Zoroastrian art or religious artifacts. However, these personal items are part of the home’s décor and are not intended to be the focus of worship. Despite the lack of a traditional temple, the Kansas City Zoroastrians feel well served by the Kalanaris’ offer of their home every month and the generosity of other families who invite the group into their homes for frequent informal gatherings.

Center Activities

There is no fixed worship schedule. Individual members may pray at any time; members feel their faith is not affected by the informality of their worship. On the first Sunday of every month at 11:00 a.m. there is a children’s study group where priestA priest is the leader of a religious community or congregation, specially trained and often ordained to service, who leads members of the community in the rituals and practice of shared and individual life. Many traditions have forms of priesthood.In the... Sirous Felfeli teaches the children prayers and other excerpts from the Avesta. The adults usually socialize at the gatherings. The Zoroastrian faith celebrates the new year or the birth of prophetA prophet is one who communicates a divine message or vision, sometimes calling people to repentance or awakening, sometimes predicting future events. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all look to Hebrew prophets, including Abraham and Moses. Muslims believe ... Zarathustra on March 26th. On or near this date Zoroastrians in the region gather at a central location and have a celebration that includes a prayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. conducted by priest Felfeli, recitations by the youngest members of the group of prayer and song excerpts from the Avesta, dinner, and dancing. Other activities include the initiation of early teen-aged members of the group into Zoroastrian adulthood. Visitors are welcome.

Research Notes

For more information on the Zoroastrian faith, refer to the World Zoroastrian Organization’s website at www.w-z-o.org, or the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North AmericaFEZANA, the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America, was founded in 1986 to serve as an umbrella organization for Zoroastrian associations in the U.S. and Canada. This organization publishes the quarterly FEZANA Journal and sponsors numero... (FEZANAFEZANA, the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America, was founded in 1986 to serve as an umbrella organization for Zoroastrian associations in the U.S. and Canada. This organization publishes the quarterly FEZANA Journal and sponsors numero...)’s website at www.fezana.org