Thank you to everyone who joined Open Doors in Liverpool Cathedral on Saturday 11 June. As well as the Tears of Gold exhibition, we gathered to pray and we heard from Fiona Bruce MP, the Prime Ministers’ Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) - see a message from her to you below, and find out how you can take further action for your persecuted church family ahead of the FoRB Ministerial in July.
Find out how you can be at the Ministerial in July and meet your MP below
Did you join us in Liverpool Cathedral? Thank you so much to supporters in the north west of England and beyond who joined us to pray, engage with and raise awareness of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) as we gear up for the 2022 FoRB Ministerial in July. Here are some highlights from Saturday 11 June, as well as further encouragement for how and why to take action ahead of the Ministerial (5-6 July).
We gathered in the afternoon at Liverpool Cathedral to pray for our persecuted church family.
Lee, a member of the Open Doors Church Relations team, led us as we took time to hear and pray about some of the worst affected countries around the world where Christians suffer severe persecution. One memorable moment was when everyone was led to pray the Lord’s Prayer in their own language. You could hear many different voices around the room which reinforced a sense of unity with our global Christian family.
Many supporters joined in, including a young man who came from a country on the World Watch List. He described how, after coming to Christ, he lost everything – including his family.
The prayer meeting was closed by people walking around a large map of the world and placing candles on the countries that they were praying for. Lee explained that they were not limited to World Watch List countries, and one lady described to our team the power of seeing a solitary candle in the middle of the vast outline of Russia.
During the two weeks prior to 11 June, the Handmade Petition and Tears of Gold portraits were up on display for visitors to the Cathedral to view and read about the gender-specific religious persecution of Christian women and girls in Nigeria.
Painted by artist Hannah Rose Thomas, the portraits were done in September 2018 when Hannah spent a week in Northern Nigeria for an art project facilitated by Open Doors. The project was part of a trauma healing programme with Christian women who were survivors of sexual violence either at the hands of Fulani militants or Boko Haram. The hope was that the art project would help to create a safe space for the women to share their stories and begin to process their pain.
Some of the Nigerian women also chose to paint their self-portraits with glistening tears of gold. The process of painting self-portraits enabled each of the women to find their voice, know their worth and, in some cases, learn to write their name for the very first time. One of the participants, Esther, spoke of the impact the project had, saying: “We came with heavy hearts and now we are leaving with joy.” You can read more about these amazing women’s stories and even order the Tears of Gold pack for yourself.
It was also wonderful to once again display the Handmade Petition that thousands of you contributed to in 2019. The Handmade Petition was created in 2019 as part of Open Doors’ ongoing See. Change. campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the millions of Christian women around the world who are persecuted both because of their gender and because of their faith.
More than 16,000 Open Doors supporters took part by writing, painting, drawing or embroidering their names in this unique petition, along with over 250 Christian women from across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America who have been persecuted for both their faith and gender. Open Doors’ vision is that every woman who is persecuted for her faith and gender is seen, valued and empowered to reach her God-given potential.
The 16 portraits and sections of the Handmade Petition were displayed in Liverpool Cathedral for two weeks and captured many visitors’ attention. Cathedral staff told us that ‘people were spending long periods of time with the pieces; frequently you could see people leave the alcove with visible shock on their faces or tears beginning to well up in their eyes’. Amazingly, the exhibition was displayed in one of the destinations of a local tour, meaning that many international visitors stopped to see and read about these courageous women’s stories. Many people found the exhibition incredibly moving.
There was then a special evening talk from Fiona Bruce MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for FoRB. She shared about her work to defend religious freedom, and the exciting opportunity we have this summer as the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) host the 2022 FoRB Ministerial.
In her talk, Fiona focused on the desperate situation of Christians and other religious minorities around the world. She spoke of the importance of standing up for the right of all to express their faith. She explained in harrowing detail about tactics of religious persecution, including forced marriage in the Gulf region and surveillance in China. She also spoke about the developing threat of digital persecution.
Fiona spoke in depth about the importance of supporters like you, and the reliability of Open Doors resources like the World Watch List, to the work of Parliamentarians. Fiona said, “I find it beautiful that while I was at the launch of the World Watch List in the UK, my deputy was in the Dutch parliament at the launch of the same World Watch List.” She spoke of the fact that across Parliament, Open Doors is seen as reliable and respectable, and she thanked all the volunteers for the work they do.
Of the 50 or so attendees, many asked questions and even inquired as to how they could pray for Fiona personally. Fiona spoke, in response to one of the questions, about the importance of Christians in politics and described how her faith had shaped her political career. She spoke of a core contingent of MPs who meet weekly to pray and read the Bible together.
Fiona also took the time to record a message for you where she encourages us all to use our voices and tell MPs about the opportunity they have to use their influence at the Ministerial in July.
It was an amazing opportunity to be in Liverpool Cathedral, to pray together and raise awareness of Christian persecution ahead of the opportunity we have this summer to speak out for our persecuted brothers and sisters.
Once again, thank you to all those that joined us in Liverpool Cathedral, and for all you are doing to speak out for persecuted Christians around the world.
Email your MP using this template and invite them to hear more about Christian persecution and what they can do to tackle it at the FoRB Ministerial in July.
Meet your MP at the Ministerial in July and be a voice for the persecuted church!
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.