On Monday 1st April 2014 the Zoroastrian All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) hosted a celebration of Jamsheedi Nowruz – Zoroastrian Iranian Spring New Year in the Houses of Parliament. The event was the second official event to be held by the Zoroastrian All Party Parliamentary Group, which was formed last October by Lord Bilimoria and Gareth Thomas MP to celebrate the work and history of the Zoroastrian community within the United Kingdom and abroad. Almost half of the audience present were representatives from interfaith communities in the United Kingdom.
Taking place in the Boothroyd Room, the largest meeting space in Portcullis House, members of both Houses of Parliament and representatives from the British and International Zoroastrian communities gathered together to speak about the history behind Nowruz.
Lord Bilimoria, founding Chair of the APPG, opened the meeting by thanking the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe (ZTFE) and the Parliamentarians for their attendance. He added that he was “delighted” that so many had been able to come to Parliament for the event and that it was “an honour” to see that interest had continued since the group’s inaugural meeting in October 2013. He went on to talk of developments of interest for the Zoroastrian community since the founding of the APPG – including the plans to commemorate the bicentenary of HMS Trincomalee – a Royal Naval vessel built by the Wadia shipyard in Bombay in 1817 and one of the oldest commissioned ships still afloat. In accordance with Zoroastrian tradition, an engraved silver nail was hammered into the keel to ensure the vessel’s well-being.
Gareth Thomas MP, the APPG’s Secretary and Treasurer, also welcomed those in attendance, noting that the ZTFE’s Zoroastrian Centre was located in his own Harrow West Constituency.
Of the Parliamentarians present, both Lord Noon and Lord Dholakia – Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords – spoke warmly and passionately of their own experiences of the Zoroastrian community
Malcolm Deboo, President of the ZTFE, then presented a lecture about the history of Nowruz. The ancient festival was first celebrated in ancient Persia. He explained that, in the Zoroastrian tradition, Nowruz is one of the most important dates in the religious calendar and is believed to have been founded by Zoroaster himself.
The APPG was proud to welcome the High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, His Excellency, Mr Ranjan Mathai, as the Guest of Honour. Mr Mathai spoke about the history of the Zoroastrian community in India, citing the ancient fable of the ‘Sugar in Milk’. This ancient tale states that the first Zoroastrian Parsis to flee Persia for India convinced a local monarch, Jadi Rana, to grant them refuge by adding sugar to a full bowl of milk without causing it to spill over. This, the High Commissioner noted, showed how a tiny community could enrich a population without causing strife or overcrowding and was still applicable to the Zoroastrian community to the present day.
The High Commissioner was then presented with a medallion, which was minted in 2011 to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the founding of ZTFE.
The event concluded with a final speech from Lord Bilimoria, who thanked all delegates for attending and announced that the APPGs next event would commemorate the contributions made by Zoroastrians during the First World War.