The wife of the first Persian-born Anglican Bishop of Iran was revered by Christians who honored her after her death.
Margaret Dehqani-Tafti was 85 years old when she died on Oct. 22. Born in the U.K., she met her husband Hassan between 1943 and 1945 when he was working for her father, Bishop William Thompson, who was then Bishop of Iran and whom Hassan eventually succeeded.
Hassan was born of a Muslim father and a Christian convert mother. He left the Islam faith and embraced Christianity at the age of 17. After training for ordination for two years at Ridley Hall, Cambridge in the U.K., Hassan married Margaret in 1952. He was appointed as Bishop of Iran when Margaret’s father retired.
From the beginning, their marriage met many challenges. Margaret’s husband being an Iranian made them the target of persecution in predominantly Muslim Iran, especially during the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
At that time, Iran’s monarchy rule was overthrown by a Shia Islamic regime led by Ayatollah Khomeini, and persecution against Christians was great. Missionaries were sent away from Iran. Mission works in the country were halted.
That year, two men entered the Dehqani-Tafti residence and opened fire at Margaret and her husband, who were resting in the bedroom. Miraculously, all the bullets missed them. However, Margaret, in her attempt to protect her husband, threw herself across his body. Although she got hit by a bullet in the hand, her act of bravery would be remembered through the years until today.
The following year, tragedy struck the Dehqani-Tafti family when Bahram, the only son of Hassan and Margaret, was ambushed and killed while he was on his way to Tehran University. It was a difficult moment for Margaret, but she forgave her son’s attackers not once but every single day.
“It is just by the grace of God that you can forgive; I have not forgiven them once – forgiveness does not happen once and for ever. I have been forgiving them every day for more than 20 years, as God has forgiven me,” she said once when someone asked her how she forgave her son’s attackers.
Bahram’s murderers were never found.
Following her son’s death, Margaret and her daughters fled to England, where they were met by Hassan who had been at a conference in Cyprus when the tragedy happened. There the family stayed and continued to lead the Iran diocese while in exile.
Hassan was appointed assistant bishop at Winchester. The couple became a source of strength and inspiration for Iranian Christians in Britain and continue to do so until today.
“Throughout their life together, Margaret was a constant support to Hassan and as the mother of a martyr, an uncompromising witness to truth,” an Iranian Christian told World Watch Monitor. “The events of our time remind Christians that the history of their faith is inseparable from the sacrifices and examples that people like the Dehqani-Tafti family set, representing the eternal challenge that believers witness in this fallen world.”
Hassan passed away in 2008 at the age of 87 after serving as the Anglican Bishop of Iran from 1961 to 1990. He was buried in Winchester Cathedral. Margaret was buried beside him last week.
The life that the Dehqani-Tafti couple lived has influenced and strengthened many persecuted Christians.
“Their lives have influenced the way we think about faith in God, justice, social engagement and what it means to be the follower of Christ, and stand as testimony to the vast violence that we experience in the present age,” the Iranian Christian said.