Emerging in Central Asia around three millennia ago, Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest religions. Worshippers revere the Supreme Being Ahura Mazda and center their beliefs around the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Zoroastrianism influenced the Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—with concepts of heaven and hell, resurrection, and a single, all-powerful deity. In the New Testament, the three wise men who travel to Bethlehem to honor the infant Jesus were Zoroastrian priests. Today, priests tend to sacred fires inside Zoroastrian temples and to the faithful, who reside mostly in India, Pakistan, Iran, and North America.

As the official religion of the Persian Empire about 1,800 years ago, Zoroastrianism claimed millions of followers at its height. Today there are fewer than 100,000. So, what’s the fate of this ancient religion and its followers in the 21st century?

Artist Bios

  • Matthieu Paley

    Born in France, Matthieu Paley has traveled the world for National Geographic magazine. Focusing on regions that are underrepresented, he is especially committed to issues relating to cultures and the environment. Matthieu has published several books and exhibited his fine art images in galleries and museums worldwide. A recipient of numerous awards and an expert on photography, he is regularly hired for commercial campaigns, photo workshops, and speaking engagements. Over the course of his career, Matthieu has learned six languages, which feeds his passion to connect with the people he meets and help instill a sense of intimacy into his images.


  • National Geographic

    National Geographic

    Established in 1888, National Geographic is a trusted print and digital publication offering stories that illuminate, inspire, and reveal. Our mission is to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultures, the sciences, and the natural world. We advance that mission by creating visually stunning, richly reported photojournalism and distinguished, impartial coverage of the globe’s most pressing issues. National Geographic (@natgeo) has more than 284 million followers.

  • NYC Parks

    NYC Parks

    NYC Parks is the steward of more than 30,000 acres of land — 14 percent of New York City — including more than 5,000 individual properties ranging from Coney Island Beach and Central Park to community gardens  and Greenstreets. We operate more than 800 athletic fields and nearly 1,000 playgrounds, 1,800 basketball courts, 550 tennis courts, 65 public pools, 51 recreational facilities, 15 nature centers, 14 golf courses, and 14 miles of beaches. We care for 1,200 monuments and 23 historic house museums. We look after 600,000 street trees, and two million more in parks. We are New York City’s principal providers of recreational and athletic facilities and programs. We are home to free concerts, world-class sports events, and cultural festivals.

Keepers of the Flame

 coming soon

Featuring: Matthieu Paley

Presented by: National Geographic
  • National Geographic
  • NYC Parks


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