Ancient Religion may Face Extinction

January 6, 2007

Author: Rich Barlow

Source: The Boston Globe

As screaming children raced around the hall in joyous play, adult workers readied food in the kitchen, while others set up chairs and tables. The holiday dinner of the Zoroastrian Association of the Greater Boston Area, held in a borrowed church basement in Arlington last month, mingled fellowship and family.

A new year naturally turns the mind to the future, especially for those looking back on a long and storied past, and Zoroastrians are peering at a horizon that they may never reach. A p ractice of not accepting converts has helped whittle the ranks of this ancient religion to fewer than 200,000 worldwide.

Assimilation further robs the community of its distinctiveness, a fact in plain view at the dinner, where partygoers whose faith predated Jesus by a millennium nonetheless decorated an artificial Christmas tree.

"Both my boys are married outside [to] non-Zoroastrians," said Sarosh Sukhia , a Pakistan-born Virginian who attended the party during a family visit to Boston. "They'll keep an adherence to the name, and I'll try to teach them the prayers."

But they're following the faith "in a very casual way -- you might say the very American sort of way," he said.