My name is Ervad Yazad Tehmuras Bhadha and I am the Resident Priest for the Zoroastrian
Trust Funds of Europe (ZTFE), London and am taking on the role as Secretary for the 8th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress (8WZYC). I graduated in 2012 in the field of commerce from the Byramjee Jeejeebhoy College of Commerce (BJCC) and then completed my Masters in Commerce 2 years later from Mumbai University. I was then appointed the position of Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe’s (ZTFE) Resident Priest in 2014 and came to the UK in November of that year.
From the very beginning, I have been welcomed by the ZTFE and the Zoroastrian community in the UK with open arms and have been shown a tremendous amount of love and support by all. It has been my privilege to serve the community in both joyous and sad times, and I feel blessed to be able to repay the love and kindness shown to me.
My daily religious duties include performing various ceremonies such as After Death, Jashans, Navjotes, Weddings, Boi, etc. I also advise community members on religious matters as well as run Navjote Prayer Classes for the Zoroastrian youth, and volunteering as a teacher for our XYZ Children’s Education Fun Club.
Growing up and studying in India, I have observed both similarities and differences in the way our religion is practiced in the UK, and although many of the fundamentals of our religion remain the same worldwide, there are some noticeable distinctions between life in India and the UK. Zoroastrianism is recognised as one of the 9 World Religions in the UK, however due to our low numbers and limited places of worship, it is less known than in India. I am honoured to represent the Zoroastrian Community in the UK and do so by participating in various interfaith meetings and activities, in order to help spread awareness of our beautiful religion as well as network and learn with those from other faiths.
In 2015, as part of my development in my role at ZTFE, I was fortunate to receive the ZTFE Faridoon and Mehraban Zartoshty Scholarship in Zoroastrian Studies, thus giving me the opportunity to study for a Masters in Religions of Asia and Africa at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. The course focused on Zoroastrianism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, as well as an introduction to both the Avestan and Pahlavi languages. I am extremely proud to say that I gained my Masters and graduated in 2018.
My role as the ZTFE Resident Priest and my position on the ZTFE Young Zoroastrian (YZ) Committee as a Social Event Organizer means that I participate in numerous community events and activities, which I thoroughly enjoy attending and mixing with my Zoroastrian peers. It is this same enthusiasm that has brought me to volunteer for the next 8WZYC, being hosted by the ZTFE in 2023 in the UK. Here, I am undertaking the role as the Congress Secretary and also central liaison lead of the Speaker Committee.
I am extremely excited to be involved with the 8WZYC, as this will be my first Zoroastrian Youth Congress in both the capacity as an organizer and attendee. Being a member of such a dynamic team that is as passionate as I am is very motivational and encouraging. We all share the vision in wanting to make the 8WZYC a great success and this makes me even more proud to see the involvement and dedication of our Zoroastrian youth.
The last time the ZTFE Young Zoroastrians of the UK hosted a World Zoroastrian youth congress was the Second World Zoroastrian Youth Congress (2WZYC) in 1997, chaired by Kerman Yazdi Jasavala. One of the main reasons why the 2WZYC was so successful was that it had a good mix of UK and international delegates, invited numerous UK and international speakers, including two Vada Dasturjis and scholar priests, who spoke on a variety of topics on our Zoroastrian religion, history, heritage, culture and contemporary matters, and we will endeavour to do similar.
As the Secretary for the 8WZYC, there are many policies and protocols that we need to be aware of such as ensuring General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is abided by and everyone including committee members, volunteers and attendees has given their written consent to be contacted. This is especially tricky, as we are very keen to include young members of the community as volunteers on different committees. As the congress is due to take place in the summer of 2023, many of these potential volunteers, may not currently be over the age of eighteen, but will be eligible to attend at the time of the congress and as such, it is vital for us to communicate and gain their consent and buy in, of both them and their parents.
Both the main committee and all of the sub committees continue to meet during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic virtually, in order to monitor the progress and ensure all milestones are achieved on time. Our monthly speaker committee meetings cover creating speaker schedules/ timetables for group and individual sessions, devising and adhering to a budget, brainstorming about how and in what field the potential speakers will contribute etc. At this early stage we are short listing potential speakers which will be finalized in due course. This in itself is a balancing act to ensure that we are being inclusive for all whether that be religious views, perspectives on the future of today’s youth within their communities, etc. as we want to ensure these are represented in a fair and respectful manner.
In addition to inviting inspirational speakers from around the world, we in the UK are enriched with world renowned institutions that link heavily to Zoroastrian studies and its history, including the world renowned British Museum and the British Library, which currently holds a lot of material on Zoroastrianism and Ancient Iran. We also are fortunate to have the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the only university in the world that has a Chair / Professorship in Zoroastrian Studies - Zartoshty Brothers Professorship funded by our beloved ZTFE patrons and benefactors Faridoon and Mehraban Zartoshty, together with Professor (Emeritus) Mary Boyce. SOAS is also home of the SOAS Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies (SSPIZS), funded by Mr Shapoor Mistry in the name of his pioneering grandfather Mr. Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry. He was inspired to fund the institute following the success of the Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination exhibition at SOAS in 2013 core funded by the ZTFE.
It is exciting to see the 8WZYC start to take shape as we progress. It is an incredible opportunity to be a part of this once in a lifetime event and to work alongside so many passionate and creative young Zoroastrians.
We look forward to seeing all of you in London in 2023!