The Right Rev Hassan Dehqani-Tafti: Exiled Anglican Bishop in Iran

Hassan Dehqani-Tafti was Bishop in Iran from 1961, in exile from 1979 until 1985. His life, it is fair to say, was an epic Anglican Christian story. His 1959 autobiography (published in both Persian and English) borrowed its title from the central Maidan (the great royal square) in the city of Isfahan; Naqsh-i-jahan. Like the square, his life was a unity with four sides or dimensions.

The first was his early life in what was then Persia, in the rural town of Taft, where Hassan Barnaba Dehqani-Tafti had been born in 1920. There his Muslim nurture came to embrace a Christian discipleship. He was always at pains to believe and express the two as compatible, so long as the significance of either was ardently understood.

His story took on, secondly, a vigorous education, through Stuart Memorial College in Isfahan and the rigours of obligatory service in the Armed Forces where his resources of character were sharply tested. What emerged was a sense of his being meant for Christian ministry – a conviction which was sternly tried and tested by the diocese of Iran, then led by his father-in-law-to-be, the Right Rev William Thompson.

The tale passed, thirdly, into a cherished period of study at Ridley Hall theological college in Cambridge, where the poetry in him quickly responded to the aura of the ancient stones of the university and its scholarly traditions. On his return to Isfahan, he grew deeper into the claims of Christian ministry to become, in 1961, the first Bishop in Iran of Persian vintage.

Initially, there was little to appal in the fourth side of this biographical Maidan, only a ripening leadership to participate, around 1974, in the reorganisation of the Archbishopric in Jerusalem (of which Iran was a part) into the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. In 1976 Dehqani-Tafti became the first Presiding Bishop of this new entity, overseeing the initiation of a Palestinian leadership in Jerusalem and an Egyptian episcopate in Cairo.

Four years later, however, a desperate chapter ensued. The anti-Christian intolerance rooted in Ayatollah Khomeini's version of Islam was full of malice against a Persian Christian making good a Christian leadership in the hallowed precincts to which, from long exile, Khomeini had triumphantly returned in 1979. Hassan Dehqani-Tafti, his family and those close to him, became subject to harassment and duress.

One of his senior clergy, Arastoo Sayyeh, was murdered in Shiraz by men who came to visit on the pretext of friendship. Hassan and his wife Margaret narrowly escaped the same fate while sleeping in their home in Isfahan; their pillows were riddled with bullet-holes. Hassan found himself in exile, not as a fugitive, but in the course of his duty as presiding bishop of the province. Then, while he was finding a place to pitch an exile's tent, came the news of the murder in May 1980 of his only son, Bahram, by thugs in Tehran.

Finally came the invitation of Bishop John V. Taylor of Winchester by which in 1982 Hassan Dehqani-Tafti became Assistant Bishop in the diocese, where he served some score of years, latterly as Honorary Assistant Bishop.

Biographies of Dehquani-Tafti's order exemplify not the mere limitation (as in Judaism and Islam) of the lex talionis but the total abrogation of "right of vengeance". In hymn-writing and his books, he underlined both the potential unison of cultures and the ecumenical reach of his Christianity. Throughout his travels he was ably sustained by his wife Margaret.

Kenneth Cragg

Hassan Barnaba Dehqani-Tafti, priest: born Taft, Persia 14 May 1920; ordained deacon 1949, priest 1950; Pastor, St Luke's Church, Isfahan 1950-60; Pastor, St Paul's Church, Tehran 1960-61; Bishop in Iran 1961-90, Vicar-General 1990-91; President-Bishop, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East 1976-86; Episcopal Canon, St George's Cathedral, Jerusalem 1976-90; Commissary to Bishop in Iran 1991-2000; Assistant Bishop of Winchester 1982-90, Honorary Assistant Bishop 1990-2006; married 1952 Margaret Thompson (three daughters, and one son deceased); died Oakham, Rutland 28 April 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Life and Style
love + sex
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Engineer - Managed Services Provider

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Eng...

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot