We are grateful to Dolly Dastoor and Behram Pastakia for the opportunity to guest edit this fall edition of the FEZANA Journal. Over the past six months, we have worked hard to bring FEZANA Journal readers insightful features that shine a deserving spotlight on the next generation of Zarathushti leaders, entrepreneurs, professionals, parents, and students. Our features have been carefully selected, written and edited for your reading pleasure – and through this edition – we believe you will have a deeper appreciation for the shining stars of the next generation.
The evolution of Zarathushti leadership, infrastructure and organization is gradually turning to the next generation in virtually every capacity. Call it a transition or natural progression, the next generation is embedded in Zarathushti associations, in big cities, small towns, on the Internet, as well as in organizations like FEZANA, the World Zarathushti Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations/initiatives worldwide.
The questions we tackle: How will the next generation impact the future? How will the founding and next generation transition smoothly? How will leadership styles, culture and new thinking shape the direction we take? Will customs and ties to our homeland dissolve over time? Will the next generation create a renewed promise of continuity and growth through tolerance and inclusion, or work to preserve age-old edicts that have reduced an already-shrinking Zarathushti population worldwide? And will the next generation work in concert with the founding generation or seek its own path?
While complex, these questions can be answered easily because the future is now. The proverbial “torch” was passed in North America the moment Zarathushti youth congresses were organized by youth, when they could tackle the issues important to them. Today, many of those “youth” are young adults, parents, professionals inheriting many of the same challenges and concerns their parents faced when they emigrated from India, Iran and other parts of the world.
Perhaps never in our history has there been a greater need for dialogue between the generations to keep the transition of leadership smooth and steady. Whether the founding generation is ready to make way for a new generation of leaders is not clear. Some North American Zarathushti communities are paving a pathway for responsible and meaningful change, operating with sound constitutions that allow for term limits in leadership, equal representation on boards and a vision for the future.
Other organizations sadly struggle with leadership bottlenecks, nepotism, and a reliance on out-dated constitutions to power their organizations forward. Sadly, these organizations become jaded in their oversight and management of the community, failing to take into account the collective interest of all community members and losing sight of long-term priorities.
Some folks are predisposed to fearing change – and the mere existence of a next generation organization can rattle minds and create insecurity among a few who do not have control, interest, or influence in its future. Moreover, no single organization or person can lay claim to the next generation mantle because generational shifts take place over time, through action, conviction, and a natural evolution of mindset and thinking.
NextGenNow and other similar Zarathushti next generation initiatives worldwide will continue to succeed by taking a high-road approach, leading by example, and making a difference by always placing the organization’s mission and mandate ahead of self-interest, ego and politics.
We hope you enjoy the read!
Roots to Wings – Guest editors: Jim Engineer, Tamina Davar, Mantreh Atashband, and Lylah M. Alphonse