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We are fortunate that we have knowledgeable writers in our community who continue to guide us from hidden dangers.
In last week's Jame of 11-2-2007, in a paid advertisement, ARZ - Association of 'Revival' of Zoroastrianism, had asked to be shown one instance where religious conversion has harmed a religion.
It seems the over-enthusiastic people at ARZ have not done their homework.
In another well-researched posting, Mrs. Pervin J Mistry, has given several instances, which show clearly how much damage any religious movement can cause in the world, if they believe that their religion is superlative and it should herald a campaign of spreading it to believers of other religion.
This spreading of a religion to people who are already born in another great religion is mischief at the least, and down-right arrogance at its worst. "Come and see how great my religion is", "Your religion is nothing compared to mine", "Our Prophet has more depth than yours", "Leave your old religion, come and join us" "Our Prophet has himself said in our books that our religion is to be spread across the seven seas", etc etc - these are the common allurements offered to a confused person by people who wish to convert others belonging to another religion.
As we have highlighted, the sad part is that ARZ have not only have made the above mistake, but they are doing it to try and gain a backdoor entry into our community for Parsis who have married outside the fold, and for children of such intermarriages. The Vada Dasturjis and many scholars have clearly told us that what ARZ are doing is wrong, but still ARZ, take "moral" support from individuals like Dina Mcintyre, who is herself married to a non-Zoroastrian.
Let us read what Mrs. Mistry has to say on the false messages propounded by ARZ.
Fellow Zararthustis, do not be mislead by such tempting and over-simplified advertisements by ARZ and their partners AIMZ - which not surprisingly, stands for Association of Intermarried Zoroastrians.
We enclose the latest report by Mrs. Pervin Mistry.
Do read it and share it with other Zoroastrians in India and overseas too, especially in North America, where many Zoroastrians have fallen in the "Gatha Only" trap promoted by non-Zoroastrians like Ali Jafarey.
(encl report from Mrs. Pervin J Mistry)
In last Sunday's issue of the Jam-e (11-2-2007), the weekly advertisement for the A"R"Z appears. Under the heading, "Zoroastrianism is for all mankind", it is stated: "Show us one instance in history where the spread of a religion has harmed that religion."
It is surprising that the Association for "Revival" (read "Ruination") of Zoroastrianism has departed from the usual scriptural misinterpretation. Perhaps, wishfully thinking, they have learnt something of the Sacred Scriptures and now they wish to learn the lessons of history!
1) First of all, bigger is not better! We do not look to quantity, rather quality. This is especially true when it relates to a human being. We do not appreciate a person for his wealth or looks. We appreciate a person for his qualities! A wealthy person can be immoral, a din-dushman, but a poor person can have a heart of gold and even be a saint (all saints are poor)! Our Religious community has preserved certain traits through preserving our "tokham". We do not wish to dilute these traits by accepting non-Zarthushtis in our fold. We believe in quality, obedience and faith that a Zarthushti is made of!
2) Secondly, look at what happened when Islam spread. Their numbers increased but they divided into factions. Today, although they follow the teachings of the same prophet, they are killing Muslims of rival factions and destroying even the mosques! This is just one instance in history where the spread of a religion has harmed that religion.
3) Prophet Mohammed asked his disciples not to convert those who already followed a revealed religion; but the zealots looked to expansion, more numbers and disregarded not only the spiritual revelation of their Prophet but plunged all of Europe into religious wars, the Crusades! These religious wars still go on. In the Balkans, many lives were and still are being destroyed due to conversion.
4) In India, most of the population was Hindu. When the Moghuls came, they converted some Hindus to Islam. Does India experience peace? On the contrary, hatred among the different religions is a matter of concern to all.
5) In Iran itself, the Arabs converted the Zarthushtis to Islam. The Iranian Muslims soon separated from mainstream Islam and started the Shi'i sect. Converts from various religions also started the Bahi religion which is a mixture of many religions. There was bloodshed in Iran during the Islamic Revolution in 1979 when thousnads of Bahi were killed due to convertion activities.
6) Christianity expanded through the conversion first propagated by Paul. The Jews and the Christians were religious enemies. Today they share some common concerns due to common political agenda and not due to religious issues.
7) When Christianity spread to India, some Hindus were converted. This created ill feelings among the two religions. Additionally, in India, the Christianity followed by the Indian Christians in villages is far removed from the Christianity followed by the Catholic or other Christian groups. It is a newer version, Indo-Christianity. The same applies to Afro-Christianity. The old customs and traditions of the proselytes still survive.
8) When Christianity spread and multiplied, did it also grow spiritually? No! There are as many factions and rival groups within Christianity as there are religions. These groups fight among themselves and kill their own Christian brothers! Ireland is but one example. The Message of the Prophet is lost due to quantity. The quality suffers!
9) If you increase milk by adding water what will you achieve? More milk? No! It will neither be pure milk nor simply water. It will be a diluted concoction.
10) Who converts? The disenchanted, the heretics, the unwanted in their own individual religions! Remember, the other side is never greener. It is not the name of a religion that makes an individual a better person. As Asho Zarathushtra has emphasized, it is the conversion of the Angre Mainyu within that makes a person spiritually enlightened. Conversion is not an answer but it is a problem that has led to religious wars and hatred among mankind!
11) We have practiced boonak pasbani or the preservation of our tokham, seed or spiritual gene since millennia. Certain moral virtues and spiritual disciplines are ingrained in us since generations. Even Tansen, after Dasturan-e Dastur Meherjirana visited Emperor Akbar's court, has written (sung) that a Parsi's face can never be hidden or mistaken in a crowd! After the Arab conquest, during the worst days the Zarthushtis faced in Iran, the Din-Dasturs of the time have described us as "tokhmak-paspan". If we want to learn from history we should learn how our great Achaemenian Kings ruled over their vast Empire by giving religious freedom to all their subjects in stead of converting them! The Mazdayasni Zarthushti Religion is not a universal religion but its teachings are! Truth is eternal and it does not belong to one particular religion. All religions teach Truth and moral virtues. It is a matter of obedience to follow His Will by respecting the commands of the Religion in which He has placed us by virtue of birth or become rebellious and choose a different religion as one chooses shoes and apparel.
12) I repeat, when religions increased their numbers through conversion, they split! Have they benefited spiritually or are they experiencing hatred and fights among their own groups and also among different religions? Today, Zarthushtis are safe and respected in India, Iran and throughout the world because we do not proselyte and do not increase our numbers through intermarriage either. Religiously, according to our scriptural tenets, we abstain from conversion and interfaith marriage. Historically, this is the way to find peace and brotherhood among nations, communities, religions and mankind!
Hope these explanations will suffice! What is more, the A "R" Z ends their advertisements with "Khshnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao"! By going against the religious mandates, do they believe Ahura Mazda is pleased? They are going against His Din and then have the expectation that HE will be pleased? It is only their myopic vision that cheats them into believing all kinds of things.
The answer to A"R"Z's question is: Look at history. The lessons of history will prove how the spread of religions has led to wars and spiritual dilution!
Pervin J Mistry