The handmade petition is a tapestry of prayer that has already had a powerful impact on thousands of people. Tourists, worshippers and Open Doors supporters visited it in the Chapter House, Westminster Abbey, hearing and seeing the stories of your persecuted sisters.
'The Handmade Petition: I See You' in the Chapter House, Westminster Abbey
Thank you so much to the 16,000 people who created petition squares, and everybody who visited the exhibition and prayed for its impact. The handmade petition is part of Open Doors’ ongoing See. Change. campaign in support of persecuted Christian women, and has already been a wonderful way to amplify their voices. It declares that Christians in the UK and Ireland won’t let the suffering of our sisters go unseen.
“What happens to our sisters in many countries is hidden,” said Henrietta Blyth, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, at the reception for The Handmade Petition: I See You. “Sadly, even if they manage to escape from – for example – Boko Haram in Nigeria, when they get back to their communities and churches, the stigma and shame associated with what’s happened to them follows them.
“It sticks to them, and their communities brush the persecution under the carpet – it remains hidden. This petition is about our saying to these women we do see you, you are seen, we hear your story, we want justice for you, we are praying for you.”
Part of a global family
Many people who visited the petition were incredibly moved by it, and by the stories of our sisters.
“The handmade petition has been a really powerful thing to experience,” said Tom, an Open Doors supporter. “It reminded me that we’re part of a global family. I pray for my sisters around the world who are suffering for their faith.”
“It’s been really sobering to see what’s going on in the world. It’s inspired me to pray more for the persecuted church,” added Bethan, visiting from Holy Trinity, Brompton.
As Open Doors supporters are well aware, it is really vital that we continue to pray for our vulnerable sisters around the world. The petition is also designed to have a lasting impact on UK government policy. Open Doors believes that faith should be recognised as a specific vulnerability in relation to persecution, in the way that factors such as age and gender are.
At the reception, the theologian and philosopher Dr Elaine Storkey explained why it’s so crucial to raise the issue: “When you don’t include the whole issue of faith, then it just becomes hidden. We can’t deal with it properly if we aren’t looking at the real thing that’s the cause of the violence. Even in those countries where women are being violated sexually, […] you’ll find that Christians are being violated even more, over and over again, in many different forms.”
Tirham visiting the handmade petition
“A crowd of witnesses”
Tirham* also spoke. She works as a trauma counsellor at an Open Doors trauma care centre in Nigeria, and has seen the psychological damage that persecution does to the women who attend, many of whom have been the victims of sexual violence: “The first step in trauma healing is for them to open up. They come with bitterness and anger but leave in peace and joy.
“This handmade petition will allow every woman to see that everyone is seeing them. Every handmade petition, it’s like a crowd of witnesses. It is opening a forum for them to be able to speak out, so that their voice would be heard. We are pleading and soliciting that church leaders and politicians will take this petition seriously and stand seriously against segregation and marginalisation of religious minorities.”
- That God will use the petition to have impact, moving those in power to act
- That our persecuted Christian sisters would know God’s presence and peace
- For Open Doors workers like Tirham to persevere in their difficult work and be blessed with strength and encouragement.
*Name changed for security reasons