On the 12th September Lord Bilimoria delivered the Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI) Foundation Lecture in Patna. In the lecture, which has previously been delivered by Nobel Laureates Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz, Lord Bilimoria discussed the role of Jamshetji Tata and the contribution of Parsis in the Indian freedom struggle. Drawing on his personal experiences as a Zoroastrian Parsi, Lord Bilimoria talked passionately about the role that the Parsi minority has had in business both in India and the UK. He also highlighted how the struggle of Tata, both as a visionary businessman and as a freedom fighter, was representative of the struggle of the Parsi minority and closed with words by Mahatma Gandhi, stressing both their general importance, as well as the specific resonance they hold for the Zoroastrian community.
On Monday 27th October, 2014 – Lord Bilimoria appeared on Chris Evans’ Breakfast Show, talking about Zoroastrianism as part of Faith in The World Week.
Pause For Thought is BBC Radio 2’s flagship slot readling with religion and spirituality and includes contributors from a wide variety of faiths, religions and backgrounds.
Lord Bilimoria was the first Zoroastrian Parsi to enter the House of Lords in 2006 – however, the first three ethnic minority members of the House of Commons, Dadabhai Naoroji, Mancherjee Bhownagree and Shapurji Saklatvala.
Fittingly, Lord Bilimoria is a Crossbencher, whilst Naoroji was a Liberal, Bhownagree a Conservative and Saklatvala a Communist with Labour support. The four largest political groupings in Parliament have therefore all been represented by members of the small British Parsi community.
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.
Lord Bilimoria was one of a number of peers to criticise various aspects of the government’s Immigration Bill, which had its Second Reading in the House of Lords on Monday. Speaking in opposition to the additional charges that would be forced upon new migrants to the United Kingdom, Lord Bilimoria noted the damaging effects that the Bill would have for universities and higher education in general, which could also have long-term repercussions for the British economy.
Lord Bilimoria participated in a major debate on Scottish independence, which was moved by the former Scottish Secretary, Lord Lang of Monkton. In his speech – Lord Bilimoria noted the tremendous benefits and potential that comes from the historic Union between England and Scotland, as well as the fiscal risks associated with the proposals for an independent Scotland to become part of the Stirling Zone;
My Lords, Sir Bob Worcester, the chairman of the Magna Carta 800th anniversary commemoration committee, in a recent speech, summed it up really well—foundation of human rights, father of all constitutions, basis of our civil liberties, rights of free men and now women and of legal tradition, the bedrock of our systems of democracy. Then he says, “Who are its guardians?” He says it is our system of rule of law, jurisprudence, of justice. I say the guardian of this nation is this wonderful, unelected House, which is the cornerstone of our democracy.
Lord Bilimoria was a keynote speaker at the School of Oriental and African Studies on the 12th October, 2013, where he presented a speech at the School of Oriental and African Studies entitled The Everlasting Flame of Zoroastrian Identity: An Unbroken Thread of Achievement from Cyrus the Great to Today as part of the “Looking Back: Zoroastrian Identity Formation Through Recourse to the Past” conference, held to mark the launch of a ground-breaking exhibition in the Brunei Gallery at SOAS.
It is a privilege to speak here today at SOAS at the conference, “Looking Back: Zoroastrian Identity Formation Through Recourse to the Past” and also on the occasion of the launch of the outstanding “The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination” exhibition and catalogue, led by Dr Sarah Stewart of SOAS. I congratulate Dr Stewart and her editorial team, Pheroza Godrej, Ursula Sims-Williams, Firoza Mistree and Professor Almut Hintze, who I have always respected as one of the world’s leading living Zoroastrian scholars.
Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea, CBL, DL and Gareth Thomas MP are pleased to announce the establishment of the Zoroastrian All Party Parliamentary Group.
The event, hosted in the Members’ Dining Room of the House of Commons on Monday 14th October with the assistance of the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe (ZTFE), was attended by over a hundred MPs, Peers and members of the international Zoroastrian community, including the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and Dr Virander Paul, the Acting High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom.
On Saturday 28th September, Lord Bilimoria unveiled the Parsi Faith Hill and Farohar at the Balaji Temple in Tividale, near Birmingham.
The Farohar is an ancient symbol of Zoroastrianism that was also widely used to represent the old Persian Empire, where Zoroastrianism served as the state religion. Today, the image is associated with that of a fravashi - somewhat approximating to a guardian angel in western etymology, although the origin of the symbol remains one of some scholarly debate.
Made out of Tata Steel – the founders of which are a prominent Parsi family – the Farohar will become a valuable resource for many generations to come.
My Lords, when I came to this country from India in the early 1980s, entrepreneurship had the image of Del Boy and second-hand car salesmen. There was a glass ceiling. Today, everything has changed. Entrepreneurship is cool, and I believe that we have a society where anyone can get anywhere, regardless of race, religion or background. Yet business still has such a bad image. We have executive pay. The noble Lord, Lord Sacks, spoke about the noble Lord, Lord Sugar. We have the “Apprentice” image of “You’re fired”. We also have the financial crisis and bankers. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, for initiating this debate.