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Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani

Saturday 21 August 2021

Cardinal Vincent Nichols.jpg

I’m not sure what a ‘normal’ childhood looks like for someone who becomes a Bishop in the Church of England, but it’s certainly true that most people’s stories aren’t like the Rt Revd Guli Francis-Dehqani’s, the new Bishop of Chelmsford.

Her father was a Muslim convert who became the first indigenous Persian Bishop in Iran - where Guli was born, and lived until the age of 14, when the terrifying and chaotic upheaval of the Islamic Revolution led to an assassination attempt on her father. Gunmen broke into the house at night and shot him in his bed. Her brother was kidnapped and murdered soon after which meant the rest of the family could no longer stay in the country. They arrived in the UK as refugees in 1980.

These traumatic early experiences mean she has a particular understanding of what it means to feel the deep pull of home - across continents, and across many years. It’s clear her experience as an immigrant deeply impacts her ministry, giving her a real sense of understanding what it is to be on the margins, to be persecuted, and the work it takes to find a sense of belonging.

In her new book, she reflects on Christ’s last words from the cross, drawing on the riches of Persian culture and her own dramatic story. Its title, ’Cries for a Lost Homeland’, sums up how it must feel for her and so many others in our world, living with the sadness that they might never be able to return to the place they call home.

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