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I See You

by Michael Ford last modified 12 Nov, 2019 11:03 AM

An art installation made up of nearly entitled 6,000 handmade squares of fabric has been created to highlight the plight of women persecuted for their faith and gender.

The handmade petition 'I See You' has been created by more than 16,000 Open Doors supporters, as well as more than 250 women from across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America who have themselves been persecuted.

Each square has the words ‘I see you’ and the signature of its creator sewn or written onto it, as a unified recognition of doubly vulnerable persecuted women whose plight is, according to Open Doors’ research, largely unseen and unnoticed.

The 18 volunteers spent more than 465 hours in total sewing the squares into a series of 2-metre banners which will hang in the Chapter House in Westminster Abbey. The installation will then give people a visual opportunity to see these women’s stories and understand the characteristics of gender-specific persecution.

One volunteer sewer, Rachael Loescher, who has been an Open Doors supporter for several decades, said:

“This is an amazing opportunity to raise awareness about our sisters around the world and all that they suffer and to support them and their families in a small way. I would be truly grateful for any help and recognition that the installation might bring to them at this point.”

Another volunteer, Pam Bottomley, who is a trained nurse and has worked with the vulnerable and abused for many years, said her own work made her want to help vulnerable women and that this installation was a good opportunity to do that:

“I am hoping that it will raise awareness about not just the plight of the persecuted church but sexual violence against women in particular.

“The petition is such a massive visual way of showing our sisterhood across the world and I hope it will have enormous significance for all those who see it.”

Open Doors aims to encourage the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) to recognise faith as a specific vulnerability in tackling gender-based violence. In many countries, the persecution of faith and sexual violence against women are inextricably linked.

In addition, the installation will display portraits of Nigerian women who have experienced persecution for both their faith and gender. The portraits are by Hannah Rose Thomas, a British artist who, facilitated by Open Doors, visited northern Nigeria to run art therapy sessions with Nigerian women who have been victims of sexual violence by Boko Haram or Fulani militants.

Each portrait will be accompanied by the woman’s story, which highlights the double vulnerability created by faith and gender.

The Handmade Petition will hang in Chapter House, Westminster Abbey, from 17 November to 24 November 2019. It is a free exhibition and open to the public and can be accessed via the Cloister Entrance.

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