A Piece From Alice Linsley: In Memory of Bishop H.B. Dehquani-Tafti

In Memory of Bishop H.B. Dehquani-Tafti

Alice C. Linsley

The first Iranian Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Iran, the Rt.Revd Dehquani-Tafti died on Tuesday, April 29 at his home in Oakham – England. He was consecrated in Jerusalem on St. Mark’s day, April 25, 1961. I remember him from my time at St. Luke Anglican Church in Isfahan, Iran. The Bishop’s residence was on the grounds of the same complex that housed the church, a hospital, and a school for blind children.

Some may remember the story of Bishop Dehqani-Tafti’s miraculous escape from death in October 1979 when he and his wife were shot at while still in bed. The Bishop had barely awaked to find the barrel of a revolver pointed at his head. Shots rang out and his wife, Margaret, was wounded as she threw herself across the bishop. Then she pursued the fleeing attackers, her wounded left hand dripping blood through their house. The Bishop looked at his pillow and saw four small bullet holes surrounding the place where his head had been.

Months later, Margaret was shot in the side and left to die on her bed, but she survived when her neighbor, Paul Hunt, the C of E priest who catechized me in 1976, was able to get her to the hospital.

The chief priest in Isfahan, Arastoo Syah, had been brutally murdered in the parish church in February 1979 and most of the missionaries who ran the hospital and schools had been forced to leave. Church properties and files were confiscated and false charges were brought against many Iranian Anglicans. Then in May 1980, the Bishop’s only son, Bahram, was carjacked and driven to the desert where he was executed.

Bishop Dehquani-Tafti was a good man who suffered much for the sake of the Gospel. In his book The Hard Awakening, he wrote: “The Cross of Jesus Christ . . . has often been misunderstood. Instead of being a symbol of suffering and sacrificial love, it has been regarded by some as the symbol of possessions and power. Christians must reverse this, and the only way of doing so is to be ready to suffer for love’s sake, in weakness not in power. The only remedy for a false view of the Cross is the Cross itself.”

Bishop Dehqani-Tafti’s funeral will be held at Winchester Cathedral on May 14th. May God grant him a place in his eternal Kingdom with all the saints. Amen.

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