Guli’s jour­ney from refugee to bishop

Peter­bor­ough canon to be­come first Bishop of Lough­bor­ough

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - YOURTELEGRAPH - By Stephen Briggs stephen.briggs@pe­ter­bor­oughto­ Twit­ter: @PTstephenB

A Peter­bor­ough Cathe­dral canon from Iran who be­came a refugee af­ter her brother was mur­dered will be­come the first ever Bishop of Lough­bor­ough.

Rev­erend Canon Guli Fran­cis-De­hqani will take up the post later this sum­mer af­ter 13 years serv­ing in Peter­bor­ough.

Born in Is­fa­han, Iran, Guli’s fam­ily was forced to leave the coun­try in the wake of the Ira­nian Revo­lu­tion in 1980.

She said: “My fa­ther was a Mus­lim con­vert and we were part of the tiny Angli­can Com­mu­nity there. I was the only Chris­tian in an other­wise en­tirely Mus­lim school and feel that my iden­tity was formed by a mix­ture of Chris­tian­ity and Is­lam, East and West, Per­sian and English. As the Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion took hold, the church and my fam­ily be­came a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus.

“My fa­ther was by then Bishop of the Church in Iran. Events cul­mi­nated for us with the mur­der of my 24-yearold brother. No one was ever brought to jus­tice but we have al­ways un­der­stood that he was a tar­get only be­cause he was his fa­ther’s son and be­cause of his as­so­ci­a­tion with the church. I found my­self in Eng­land as a 14 year old and ini­tially a refugee and asy­lum seeker. 37 years later I’m still fas­ci­nated by iden­tity and how peo­ple can find a sense of be­long­ing when they are far from their roots. I feel Bri­tish, but also Per­sian and find­ing a way of com­bin­ing dif­fer­ent el­e­ments in a healthy and holis­tic way is very im­por­tant to me, though it is not al­ways straight­for­ward or easy.”

For the last seven years, Rev Canon Fran­cis-De­hqani has been Cu­rate Train­ing Of­fi­cer, re­spon­si­ble for over­see­ing the train­ing of new clergy.

She will be­come the 11th fe­male Bishop in the coun­try in her new role. She said: “The in­vi­ta­tion to be­come the first Bishop of Lough­bor­ough has come as a great sur­prise to me. I have not trav­elled the con­ven­tional path­way to­wards be­com­ing a bishop, es­pe­cially as I’ve had a num­ber of years out of min­istry to raise my chil­dren and also worked part time for a num­ber of years. The new role is ex­cit­ing on a num­ber of lev­els. It’s a new post so there is scope for ex­per­i­ment­ing and shap­ing it.”

In her new role she will work to en­gage eth­nic mi­nori­ties with the church. She said: “Fun­da­men­tally, I will be a bishop like any other and will need to con­cen­trate on learn­ing how to do that. One of the briefs, how­ever, is to work with the var­i­ous black and eth­nic mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties in the city and dio­cese of Le­ices­ter, and this is some­thing I’m look­ing for­ward to. That will in­volve work­ing with other faith com­mu­ni­ties as well as en­cour­ag­ing Chris­tians from dif­fer­ent back­grounds to find a more prom­i­nent voice within our churches. We need to learn from the va­ri­ety of back­grounds and ex­pe­ri­ences, to en­gage with peo­ple with whom we have much in com­mon but also new things to learn.”

I have not trav­elled the con­ven­tional path­way Canon Fran­cis-De­hqani

The new Bishop of Lough­bor­ough Rev Canon Gul­nar

The ser­vice when Guli was in­stalled as a priest

Guli with her dad, top, and as a child.

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