"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong." 2 Corinthians 16:13
In The News- The World
Meriam Ibrahim has paid the price for being a secular symbol in Sudan
theguardian.com, Sunday 1 June 2014 05.25 EDT
When Meriam Ibrahim stepped forward in the dock of al-Haj Yousif court in north Khartoum on 15 May to declare "I am a Christian and I am not an apostate", she must have known that her determination to stand by her faith would cost her liberty and possibly her life.
But she could not have known that her convictions of adultery and apostasy, and subsequent sentences of 100 lashes and death by hanging, would ricochet around the world, drawing in political and religious leaders, celebrities and human rights organisations to demand her release.
Despite intense pressure Ibrahim, 27, the mother of an infant son and eight months pregnant – refused to renounce her Christianity. Less than two weeks later, she gave birth to a baby girl while shackled by her feet to the floor of Omdurman women's prison, having been told that she would face the noose around the time of her new daughter's second birthday.
Now, it seems, Ibrahim may after all see her newborn daughter, Maya, and her 20-month-old son, Martin, grow up after a Sudanese foreign ministry official was reported to have said she would be freed within days. The decision has yet to be formally confirmed and her lawyers have expressed skepticism.
The move came as a spotlight was thrown on the plight of women and girls in different countries over recent days. As well as Ibrahim's death sentence – described as barbaric by the British government – there was an outcry over the rape and suspected murder of two teenage girls in India, and the stoning to death of a pregnant woman in Pakistan. These cases followed the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by Islamist militants in northern Nigeria last month.
In Sudan last month, Ibrahim told the court that she was the daughter of a Sudanese Muslim man and an Ethiopian Christian woman. According to Sudanese law, that made her a Muslim. But Ibrahim said that after her father abandoned the family when she was six, her mother brought her up as a Christian. She regularly attended church in Khartoum; her husband, Daniel Wani, who is a US citizen, said she was absolutely committed to her faith.
After she attended Sudan University's school of medicine, Ibrahim was introduced to Wani, a biochemistry graduate who left Sudan in the late 90s and had settled in Manchester, New Hampshire. He returned to Sudan to look for a wife, and the pair were married in a Khartoum church in December 2011.
Their wedding pictures show a handsome couple: Ibrahim in white floor-length white gown with an embroidered bodice, veil, gloves, tiara and elaborate makeup; Wani clean-shaven in a fawn suit and geometric tie. He is seated: as a sufferer of muscular dystrophy, he uses a wheelchair. Within a year, they had become a family with the birth of Martin.
But in 2013, a man who claimed to be Ibrahim's brother alerted the Sudanese authorities to what he believed was an unlawful union. In Sudan, marriage between a Muslim and a Christian is forbidden. If Ibrahim and Wani's marriage was invalid, she would almost certainly be convicted of adultery. And indeed she was, with the charge of apostasy added later. Earlier this month, she was sentenced to 100 public lashes for adultery, and death by hanging for apostasy. Her death sentence would be deferred for two years to allow her to nurse, and then wean, her new baby, she was told.
Ibrahim was held in what human rights organisations described as atrocious conditions, with limited access to medical care and legal representation. Wani, whose access to his wife and child was highly restricted, appealed for help as an American citizen from the US embassy in Khartoum. He and his lawyer, Elshareef Mohammed, said in interviews last week that little interest was shown initially by embassy officials, with Wani describing one as "high-handed".
Lawyers for the couple lodged an appeal against Ibrahim's convictions, but said the legal process in Sudan was notoriously slow. Meanwhile, the case began to get attention on both social and mainstream media – which accelerated after the birth of Ibrahim's daughter on Tuesday.
The leaders of Britain's three main political parties backed a campaign to get Ibrahim released. The Foreign Office summoned the Sudanese charge d'affaires in London to hear of the UKs "deep concern".
In a statement, FCO minister Mark Simmonds said: "This barbaric sentence highlights the stark divide between the practices of the Sudanese courts and the country's international human rights obligations." The Sudanese government must respect the right to freedom of religion or belief, he added.
The US state department said on Wednesday it was "deeply disturbed" by the case and called on Khartoum to respect the right to freedom of religion. Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, Jesse Jackson and Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, were among high-profile international figures calling for the sentence to be dropped.
A Twitter campaign, #SaveMeriam, was launched, with the actress Mia Farrow urging her followers to contact the Sudanese embassies in London and Washington, providing the relevant phone numbers. Amnesty International launched a global petition, which hundreds of thousands of people signed.
Ibrahim's husband said he was overwhelmed by the support. "It's looking like it had an effect. Perhaps it will result in the judgment being overturned," he told CNN. In another interview , he said: "My wife is very strong. She is stronger than me."
While she waits to see if the Sudanese authorities make good on their reported statement that they will release her within days, Meriam Ibrahim will need that strength.
Read the original article here.
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