Bishop Guli’s prayer pledge to detainee Layan Nasir’s mother


The Bishop of Chelmsford has pledged to pray for Layan Nasir, the young Palestinian Christian woman being held without charge, every day until her release after meeting her mother at her home in the West Bank.
Bishop Guli with Layan Nasir’s mother, Lulu, her brother Kamal, their priest Fr Fadi Diab joined Bishop Guli and Richard Sewell, Dean of St George’s College Jerusalem

Bishop Guli spent time with 23-year-old Layan’s mother, Lulu, and older brother Kamal, who are members of St Peter’s Anglican Church in the town of Birzeit, during her recent visit to the Holy Land.

They told her how Layan was seized in a dawn raid and taken into “administrative detention” - a system in which people can be taken into custody without evidence being presented against them – in April and have not been able to see her since.

After returning to the UK, Bishop Guli has placed a candle in her chapel and has pledged to pray for her every day until her release, remembering also all those held in detention in places of conflict, including the Israeli hostages in Gaza.

Bishop Guli, who was born in Iran and came to Britain as a refugee following the murder of her brother, Bahram, in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, felt a personal connection with Layan’s family.

A candle in Bishop Guli's chapel to pray for Layan Nasir

“The fundamental thing was the human connection - you can’t help having sympathy and empathy for someone going through that kind of experience,” she explained.

“There was also the reminder of my own story – I found myself thinking of my own mother and what she had gone through at the time of the revolution, and the loss of her own son.

“And I’ve got children that age myself, including twins: Layan has a twin brother and she and her siblings are the same age as my own three children.

“As her mother and brother told me, Layan is one person among thousands who are held in administrative detention.

“And of course there are many, many, more who are being held unjustly, and that includes the Israeli hostages. Yet sometimes that personal connection gives you a window through which you become aware of the bigger picture.

“So when I pray for Layan every morning in the chapel, I am praying for her and all those who are held unjustly in times of conflict.”

Bishop Guli with Layan's family at their home in the West Bank

Bishop Guli recounted the family’s experience.

“As Layan’s mother described it, 15 armed guards banged on the door at 4 o’clock in the morning, handcuffed Layan, blindfolded her and took her away.

“They are not allowed to see her,” she said.

“There are many, many more like her. The prisons are overcrowded and conditions are very poor with not enough food and overcrowded cells.

This is not to say that it’s worse than what the hostages in Gaza are going through. The whole thing is horrific.

“I’m left with a sense of the personal cost of the conflict. I saw just one family and the way they are impacted and how that community is affected.

“But this is multiplied again and again on both sides …there are thousands of stories and the ripple effect and the human cost is very great indeed.”