In November, The Handmade Petition: I See You was exhibited in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey. It’s a tapestry of prayer for persecuted Christian women.
Many of the women who have contributed to the handmade petition know first-hand what it is like to suffer for their faith. That includes Monira and Rojina’s: both women were among those on the Ananna discipleship course.
Women on the discipleship course in Bangladesh
The Ananna project
Since 2012, Open Doors has worked with local churches in Bangladesh to conduct this programme for women who have experienced opposition to their faith - mostly converts from Islam and tribal believers. Thanks to your support and prayers, women are offered the opportunity to grow in faith and resilience and heal from their experiences.
The Ananna course lasts three years, during which participants meet together for three days every two to three months. The impact of the course is wide-reaching, as the women are encouraged to duplicate the training in their respective churches. That way, many can develop and grow in discipleship.
When Rojina became a Christian, her neighbours tried to stop her continuing her job: teaching. They told her that her children couldn’t go to school, and that nobody would ever marry her daughter. In her Bangladeshi community, converting from Islam to Christianity is considered shameful.
She has been raising her children alone for over a decade, after her husband died in an accident. She decided to become a Christian when she learned about Jesus and found hope in Him. Rojina was particularly drawn to the verse “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“The villagers say I am a bad woman,” she says. “They threaten me and try to stop me going to church.” Rojina has been ostracised by her community, but has greatly valued the Ananna project. Open Doors workers were also able to give her an opportunity to teach adult literacy. Christians she knows have helped with tuition fees, clothes and books for her children: "It was amazing. I never ask but they understood my needs. I believe the Lord gave to me through His people."
Rojina has a clear vision for her future and the future of her neighbours: “Now my dream is to live out a life of Christlikeness and follow Him with steadfastness, whatever the situation and whatever suffering comes into my life,” she says. "I believe someday God will speak to the villagers and they will understand and know the truth."
Monira was widowed young too. Before their marriage, her Muslim husband had said he would convert to Christianity – afterwards he wanted her to convert to Islam. Tragically, he killed himself when she chose to be baptised.
Defenceless, Monira and her children were attacked by the villagers: "All the villagers attacked our house. They broke down our door and beat us up. I was pregnant at the time."
Her husband’s family started a court case against her, and she and her parents went into hiding. “We had no food. Nobody helped us. We just prayed and prayed. We completely depended on Jesus,” she says.
Even when this threat was over, persecution continued. It became a constant in her life in her Muslim-majority village.
"At school, my children were persecuted," Monira remembers. "Nobody played with them. They were beaten up for not having the correct school dress, and the teachers marked their work unfairly because they were Christians."
Villagers even accused Monira of prostitution. "It was a really hard life for a young widow. We were excommunicated from the society. People did not speak with us. We suffered a lot - many days we had no food."
Thankfully, and by God's grace, she persevered. “Now, people respect us,” she says proudly. “God gave me more than I had lost.”
Both women have contributed their own squares and signatures to the handmade petition. Thank you to those who visited and prayed for the exhibition.