In Memory of Bishop H.B. Dehqani-Tafti

by Alice C. Linsley

The first Iranian Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Iran, the Rt.Revd Dehqani-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, his secretary,  Jean Waddell 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 Shiraz, Arastoo Sayyah, had been brutally murdered in the parish church in February 1979 and most of the missionaries who ran the hospitals 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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5 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. Alice C. Linsley Says:

    As an aside, readers might be interested to know that Bishop Dehqani-Tafti was a gifted watercolorist.

    Please pray for his family. He will be greatly missed.

  2. John Clark Says:

    ‘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.’

    This para is incorrect - the person who was shot was Jean Waddell, the Bishop’s Secretary. It took place on 1 May 1980. Paul Hunt who was priest in Tehran did indeed get her to hospital for treatment - but she should not be confused with Margaret.

    Arastoo Sayyah by the way was priest in Shiraz when he was killed

    It would be good if the article could be corrected to reflect these changes. John

  3. John Clark Says:

    Further to the above - I should have said that Alice is absolutely right to highlight Bishop Hassan’s remarkable witness. I would want to add his reaction to the murder of his son (on May 6 1980 - just after Jean Waddell was shot) His remarkably moving prayer ended:

    O God,
    Bahram’s blood multiplies the fruit of the Spirit in the soil of our souls:
    So when his murderers stand before thee on the Day of Judgement
    Remember the fruit of the Spirit by which they have enriched our lives,
    And forgive.

    His life’s work was to relate the Christian faith to Iranian culture and religion and to do so from within a Church with strong English connections. His leagacy to the Church in Iran will be his very wide range of writings particularly his masterly three volume of ‘Christ and Christianity in the Persian Poets’.

    So thank you Alice for bringing his passing to the attention of this website.

  4. Alice C. Linsley Says:

    Thank you, John. You are quite right. It was Jean who was shot and left to die, not Margaret. I wasn’t thinking straight.

    Bishop Dehqani-Tafti’s prayer is very moving. I doubt that I would have the grace to pray such a prayer had my only son been murdered.

    I too hope that the Editor of GSA would be so kind as to make the correction concerning Jean Waddell and to clarify that Father Arastoo Sayyah was the Priest-in-charge of the Anglican complex in Shiraz.

  5. Alice C. Linsley Says:

    Mr. Clark, Could you tell me what became of Paul Hunt? I’d enjoy communicating with him after all these years. He would have know us as Matthew and Alice Baldwin.