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-year-old 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.”