Thanks to a friend of mine who resides in the Middle East, I recently learned about an amazing prayer written by the late Right Reverend Hassan Barnaba Dehqani-Tafti, the exiled Anglican Bishop of Iran, to be read at his own son’s funeral, a funeral which he was unable to attend. (He himself had survived an assassination attempt.) In 1980, his only son, Bahram, had been murdered by regime thugs in Iran in the turbulent days following the 1976 Islamic Revolution. (It’s reminiscent of a prayer for one’s enemies to which Andy Crouch referred in his interview with Missio last year.)
In these days of fear, groaning, suffering, and bewilderment in many parts of the Middle East, this profoundly Christian prayer is utterly astonishing:
“O God, we remember not only Bahram but his murderers.
Not because they killed him in the prime of his youth and made our hearts bleed and our tears flow;
Not because with this savage act they have brought further disgrace on the name of our country among the civilized nations of the world;
But because through their crime we now follow more closely thy footsteps in the way of sacrifice.
The terrible fire of this calamity burns up all selfishness and possessiveness in us.
Its flame reveals the depth of depravity, meanness and suspicion, the dimension of hatred and the measure of sinfulness in human nature;
It makes obvious as never before our need to trust in thy love as shown in the cross of Jesus and his resurrection,
Love that makes us free from all hatred towards our persecutors;
Love which brings patience, forbearance, courage, loyalty, humility, generosity and greatness of heart;
Love which more than ever deepens our trust in God’s final victory and his eternal designs for the Church and for the world;
Love which teaches us how to prepare ourselves to face our own day of death.
Bahram’s blood has multiplied the fruit of the Spirit in the soil of our souls: so when his murderers stand before Thee on the Day of Judgment, remember the fruit of the Spirit by which they have enriched our lives, and forgive.“
(If you are a digital subscriber to Time, you can read this 1980 article from the time of the persecution of Iran’s Christians under Ayatollah Khomeini. For more reading on the Bishop’s life, you can read his obituary in the Telegraph and in the Independent, which was written by Kenneth Cragg.)
Photo: Mehdi Nasr