Persian refugee consecrated as new Bishop of Loughborough

An Iranian refugee was consecrated as Bishop of Loughborough in a landmark service at Canterbury Cathedral on Thursday.

Guli Francis-Dehqani is the first woman from an ethnic minority to become a bishop in the Church of England and took on the role after a ceremony taken by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Diocese of LeicesterGuli Francis-Dehqani was previously Curate Training Officer and Adviser for Women's Ministry in the diocese of Peterborough.

As the daughter of the former Bishop of Iran, Hassan Dehqani-Tafti, who was also the first President Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, she fled after a failed assassination attempt on her father when armed men burst into their home, shooting and wounding her mother Margeret.

Her brother, who stayed on in Iran, was murdered in 1980 and is commemorated in Canterbury Cathedral's Chapel of Saints and Martyrs.

Bishop Francis-Dehqani will work across Leicester and Leicestershire, focusing on supporting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) clergy, lay workers and congregations in the county.

At the highly symbolic service on Thursday, attended by bishops across southern England, Francis-Dehqani left holding the crozier first used by her father in Iran.

Previously a canon the Diocese of Peterborough, she praised the vision and leadership of her new boss, the Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, in highlighting the Church's lack of diversity, but said that the CofE as a whole had acted too slowly.

'In a sense, the Church has been talking about it for 20 to 30 years, and we haven't really seen the changes that we should have done,' she said. 'We are still living with the legacy of the 1950s and '60s when we got it badly wrong and we did not offer a welcome to immigrants.'

She added: 'We need to continue to focus on the grass-roots level of encouraging more vocations from our congregations and communities where there are more people from the BME [black and minority ethnic] community. In the end, you cannot just make a few changes in the Bishops and hope that will do it.'