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Parsis Begin Work on New Temple Near D.C.
By MICHAEL BUETTNER
The Associated Press, Vienna, Virginia, Apr. 9, 2003
"One of the world's oldest religions is establishing a new American temple for the faith outside the nation's capital, the Zoroastrian Center and Darb-e-Mehr. 'You will see a magnificent building that reminds you of old Persian architecture,' said Farhad Shahryary, assistant secretary of the Temple Committee. 'This is a really a joyful day. There's been a lot of hard work. This has been a dream for about 20 years.' Once the state religion of an empire that stretched throughout much of the ancient world, Zoroastrianism now has only about 200,000 adherents worldwide (some estimates say the number is fewer). Up to 15,000 believers are in the United States. The Darb-e-Mehr, or fire temple, will be home to members of the 24-year-old Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Washington, said Jamshid Goshtasbi, the group's president. Ground was broken on the fire temple last week - fire having importance in the faith as a symbol of eternal truth and law."
" 'It was decided to have something really big, being in the capital of the United States, which is basically the capital of the world,' Goshtasbi said. 'This will be a national center, a world center.' Zoroastrianism is considered among the oldest monotheistic religions and is named for its prophet Zarathushtra - in Greek, Zoroaster. Tradition holds that the faith was founded around 8000 B.C., though there is wide disagreement among scholars about the faith's true historical origins; many say it perhaps emerged around 1200 B.C. or even centuries later. The faith reached its zenith as the state religion of the Persian empire, in present-day Iran, until the seventh century A.D., when it was supplanted by Islam. While Zoroastrianism is tolerated by the Quran, adherents were periodically persecuted and Zoroastrian groups migrated into India and Pakistan in the 10th century, here they are known today as Parsis."
"In Iran under its pre-revolutionary ruler, Shah Reza Pahlavi, nationalism encouraged citizens to take pride in Zoroastrianism as the country's historical religion. Zoroastrians were able to attain positions of considerable prestige in society and government. . . . With their relatively small numbers, two hot topics in the denomination are traditionalist Zoroastrians' condemnation of marriage outside the faith and their refusal to recognize converts. Still, Zoroastrian numbers are growing in the United States and other Western countries, so it appears less likely today than just a few decades ago that this long-established faith will become extinct."
Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Washington