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Church of England
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Church of England
World News

Bishop says brother's murder gave family 'chance of a new life'

by Donna Birrell

The Bishop of Chelmsford has been speaking of how her brother's murder following the Iranian revolution led her family to flee to the UK when she was 14 years old.

Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani's 24-year-old brother Bahram was murdered in Tehran in 1980. She said she regards his death as "a sacrifice" that led to her and her family having "the gift of a chance of a new life in this country."

Speaking to the BBC programme Desert Island Discs, Bishop Guli said she had found out about the news of his death purely by accident while at school:

"My mother was in Tehran at the time, and my brother was in Tehran as well, he was teaching at the university there.

"He had been killed on May 6. My eldest sister who was looking after me found out very late at night, after I had gone to bed. Because there was so much uncertainty around, she decided, and I completely understand it... to not say anything to me, and I don't know quite how she did it."

However, she found out about it from a classmate who had read the news.

"Two young men ambushed his car, got in," she said.

"An eyewitness later told us that they had a brief conversation, and then one of them pulled a gun and killed him.

"We've spent a lifetime coming to terms with it. In a sense, it was his sacrifice that brought us here. I don't think my mum and my sister and I would have left if we hadn't had a very good reason to.

"So he gave us the gift of a chance of a new life in this country."

Bishop Guli moved to the UK, where her father, the Anglican Bishop of Iran, was staying on a visit.

The 57 year old worked at the BBC before being ordained as a priest, becoming the first minority ethnic woman in the UK to be ordained as a bishop in 2017. She served as Bishop of Loughborough before being installed as Bishop of Chelmsford in 2021.

"It came from left field really," she said.

"And yet, in a very strange way, it made sense. I had the feeling that it was clearly not about what I had done, in terms of experience in the Church, it was about my life experiences, and what that might have to contribute now within the context of the Church of England.

"I feel like I represent something way beyond myself."

Among the songs she chose for the programme was Sinead O'Connor's Take Me To Church, which she said reminded her of her Irish husband, Lee who is a priest.

She added that she would take the 10th century Persian poem The Book of Kings with her onto the desert island, as well as her photograph albums.

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