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Zoroastrianism Bur Ridge Zoroastrians Construct Sculpture For Dalai Lama's Visit


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Preparations are under way for the Dalai Lama’s July visit to Chicago, and a Burr Ridge organization is part of the plans.

The Zoroastrian Center of Chicago, located at 8615 Meadowbrook Lane in Burr Ridge, is one of 12 places of worship chosen to prepare sculptures to be used during the Dalai Lama’s public talk July 17 at the UIC Pavilion.

The Theosophical Society in America and Jim Lasko of Redmoon Theater have chosen 12 Chicago area religious organizations to design and create an icon of another faith.

The Zoroastrians were busy Sunday creating a cross, not only to represent the Christian faith, but also the parallels between the two religions.

“It signifies our togetherness,” Rohinton Rivetna, spiritual leader of the Zoroastrian Center and Hinsdale resident said. “We want to understand each other.”

Each organization is assigned an artist to help with their sculpture’s design. Jillian Gryzlak of Chicago is helping the Zoroastrians decorate the Christian cross with flowers, splintered wood, wooden ovals painted in varying fleshtones and light.

“I didn’t make any of these decisions,” said Gryzlak. She said the design is a collaboration of ideas that came from talks she initiated with members of the Burr Ridge temple.

Gryzlak said she began work on the cross by meeting with members of the Zoroastrian community.

“We defined belief,” she said, and used those definitions to design the sculpture.

“This was really developed in our time together,” Rivetna said.

Stacked wooden ovals are painted in varying colors of brown, tan and cream — colors representing the many cultures that have used the cross as a symbol of their faith throughout history.

“That’s how we’re symbolizing faces,” Gryzlak said.

A light at the center of the cross, as well as the bright yellow hue of the cross, represent not only the light of Christ, but also the prominent role fire and light play in the Zoroastrian faith.

Splintered pieces of wood are mounted on the cross, which is surrounded by paper mache flowers made by volunteers at the Burr Ridge center.

While the Zoroastrians are creating the Christian cross, other religious organizations are creating symbols of Baha’ism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native American religion, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism and of course, Zoroastrianism.

Exelon Corporation donated $25,000 to pay for construction of the 5- to 7-foot structures, which will serve as a backdrop during the Dalai Lama’s talk.

Each of the 12 sculptures on the UIC stage will carry within it a sapling — a reference to a quote from the Dalai Lama’s book equating a young sapling watered by many sources to the human soul being nurtured by different spiritual traditions. Following the Dalai Lama’s visit, the saplings will be planted in a Chicago area park.

“The project was designed to foster and publicly present interfaith cooperation,” Lasko said in a release announcing the project. “We wanted to involve as many people as possible, from as many faiths as possible, in the active honoring of other faiths.”

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