Iranian Refugee’s Paintings Displayed in British Columbia Church

Song of Salvation is a series of paintings that reflect the journey of faith and freedom of Banafsheh (Violet) Behzadian. Behzadian, an art and architecture professor, fled her native Iran rather than renounce her faith after converting to Christianity in 2006.

She arrived in Canada three years ago with her husband and their son. They were sponsored and befriended by members of the Ladner Christian Reformed Church community.

Behzadian began painting again soon after their arrival in Canada. Bev Bandstra, a member of Ladner CRC, curated an exhibit of her works at Regent College’s Lookout Gallery on the campus of the University of British Columbia.

Now the artworks will hang in the foyer at Willoughby CRC in Langley, B.C., for a number of weeks. The show opened there a week after Easter to help raise awareness of refugee needs.

The Song of Salvation paintings are a reflection of Behzadian’s own story. Painted over a period of nine months, they all depict women and are accompanied by the Scripture that initially inspired the images.

In a conversation with the artist hosted after the service, Behazadian told her story of a slow but sure conversion to the Christian faith after having been given a copy of the gospel by a cab driver in her home city of Tehran. She began to attend a Christian church, and her husband soon joined her. She spoke of encountering and being drawn to God through Jesus Christ, with whom she now has a living, loving, and personal relationship. Her conversion led to her being fired from her position as a professor at the University of Tehran.

Shortly after that, she went with her family to Turkey before they arrived in Canada. The family has since been joined by Behzadian’s parents through the Canadian government’s family reunification program. The birth of a daughter into their family two years ago has rooted them to Canada in yet another way.  

On the opening Sunday, the message was preached by Dena Nicolai, a chaplain and refugee support mobilizer for the CRCs in the area. She helps provide a bridge between a Vancouver refugee welcome center and the church.

About the Author

Jenny deGroot is a teacher/librarian in Langley, British Columbia.

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