Ibrahim had been accused of having converted from Islam to Christianity and she was faulted for having married a Christian, for which she was charged with adultery, as the marriage to her husband, Daniel Wani, was considered invalid under the Islamic Sharia law of Sudan.
By Georgiana Constantin | August 7, 2014
Pope Francis blesses Ibrahim during Rome visit. Photo:Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.
Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith is finally safe.
Ibrahim had been accused of having converted from Islam to Christianity, a claim which she has steadily denied, bringing to everyone’s attention the fact that she was raised Christian. “Ibrahim’s father was a Sudanese Muslim who left her when she was just 6 years old. She was raised by her mother, an Ethiopian Orthodox,” the Christian Post reported. She had also been faulted for having married a Christian and had consequently been charged with adultery, as the marriage to her husband, Daniel Wani, was considered invalid under the Islamic Sharia law of Sudan. All of this led to her being sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and death by hanging for apostasy. She was imprisoned on February 17th with her one year old boy, as he was not allowed to be with his Christian father.
During this time, her husband Daniel, an American citizen since 2005, did everything in his power to help his wife, yet the situation seemed hopeless. Apparently it was even getting worse, as Christianity Today reported, “her daughter, Maya, who she gave birth to while shackled in prison, may have suffered a disability as a result.”
While incarcerated Ibrahim was also visited by an “Islamic scholar who read to her continuously from the Quran,” reportedly trying to bring her back to the Muslim faith. She declared, “I’ve always been Christian. I couldn’t have been Muslim and not go back, with all the things they said and the way they treat me.”
After the traumatic experiences she had undergone in prison, not knowing how much longer she would be able to stay alive or be with her children and constantly facing “go back to the faith” chants, this June, her death sentence was overturned and she was freed. When she and her family tried to exit the country, however, they were stopped and detained by Sudanese officials who allegedly had “doubts” about their travel documents. They charged her with forging the papers, but, since there was no legal basis for the accusations, she and her family were eventually released. Soon after this release, however, her half-brother, Al Samani Al Hadi, who is a committed Muslim, having stated that “he would execute Ibrahim given the chance,” tried unsuccessfully to use Sharia Law to obtain legal authority over his sister. Moreover, Ibrahim’s Muslim family reportedly tried to have her marriage annulled by filing another lawsuit against her so that she would not be able to leave Sudan.
After all of their ordeals, Ibrahim and her family took refuge at the United States Embassy in Khartoum and after a few days they all safely arrived in Rome, Italy, to meet with Pope Francis for what Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi called a meeting to symbolize “closeness to all those who suffer due to their faith and practice of their faith.” Christianity Today reported the pope “thanked her for her faith and courage, and she thanked him for his prayer and solidarity.”
The Pontiff and Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli, who participated in the diplomatic discussions undertaken with the government of Sudan and who also accompanied Ibrahim and her family on the plane to Rome, met with them on July 24th at Casa Santa Maria.
There was indeed a general atmosphere of joy as this once persecuted Christian woman, who didn’t think twice when faced with the prospect of martyrdom refused to deny her faith, finally arrived at a safe destination. Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister apparently called it “a day of celebration.” He had stated, before Ibrahim’s release, “If there is no European reaction, we cannot feel worthy to call ourselves Europe.”
The 27 year old Ibrahim and her family have since arrived in the United States settling in Manchester, New Hampshire known to be home to a Sudanese Evangelical Church and Christian community, where her arrival was eagerly awaited.
According to her brother-in-law, Gabriel Wani, her husband’s “plan all along was to bring his family to New Hampshire.” Wani told FOX News that “Ibrahim has been granted asylum by the United States and will soon meet with U.S. State Department officials.”
And so, Ibrahim has stood up to her oppressors and refused to renounce her faith. She did not answer the court when it addressed her by her supposed Muslim name of Afdal. She was imprisoned and embraced the possibility of dying for her faith. She spent the duration of her pregnancy in shackles and gave birth in the same manner, while all the while looking after her toddler son who was imprisoned with her because he was not allowed to be with his Christian father. Her Muslim family renounced her and her half- brother stated that he would kill her if given the opportunity.
Now Ibrahim has received a second chance at life and given the opportunity to be with those she loves. She is seen as a heroine of the faith, and rightly so. It is indeed a time of great joy and celebration when such a courageous soul is rewarded for her strength and honor.
And yet, the joy of knowing that one Christian has escaped execution because of her religious beliefs seems to have a lingering shadow over it. How many other Meriam Ibrahims are out there, suffering in silence for their faith? How much longer will world leaders turn a blind eye to such blatant religious persecution in general and Christian persecution in particular?
No matter one’s faith or background, how can we call ourselves human beings when we let the slaughter of innocents go not only unobstructed but also undisclosed?
Georgiana Constantin is a law school graduate who has studied European, International and Romanian law. Her thesis on the UN and global governance was completed at the Romanian-American University in Bucharest. She is currently a Masters candidate for International and European Law at the Nicolae Titulescu University in Bucharest. Ms. Constantin, who is based in Romania, is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.