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Archbishop makes first official visit to a Zoroastrian place of worship

The Archbishop at the Zoroastrian Centre, Harrow

Friday 1st October 2010

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has visited the Zoroastrian Centre in Harrow, the first time in the history of Christianity and Zoroastrianism that an Archbishop of Canterbury has made an official visit to a Zoroastrian place of worship.

On arrival, Dr Williams was greeted by Lord Karan Bilimoria of Chelsea, the first Zoroastrian in the House of Lords, and was welcomed to the Zoroastrian Centre by Malcolm M Deboo, President Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe (ZTFE).

The Archbishop was then introduced to Senior Zoroastrian Priests, ZTFE Trustees and Managing Committee and was given a tour of the building and facilities by ZTFE President Malcolm Deboo. He was garlanded with flowers and showered with rice upon arrival by Zoroastrian women and observed Zoroastrian traditions including Atash Nyaish, where prayers are said while consecrating a fire as part of a ceremony. As a mark of respect, the Archbishop was wrapped with a shawl around his shoulders at departure and presented with gifts including a Persian carpet and a 6kg book titled, A Zoroastrian Tapestry.

The ZTFE was founded in London in 1861 with the intention of, amongst other things, advancing the study and dissemination of information and knowledge of the Zoroastrian Faith and protecting and enhancing the interest of Zoroastrians in Europe. It is the oldest religious organisation in the UK of South Asian origin.

Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions. It was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathushtra) in ancient Iran approximately 3500 years ago. For 1000 years Zoroastrianism was one of the most extensive religions in the world. It was the official religion of Persia (Iran) from 600 BCE to 650 CE. It is now one of the world's smallest religions with around 150,000 followers worldwide.

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