Miriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian mother of two who was sentenced to death for apostasy and was detained by the government after the sentence was overturned, has finally left the country and arrived in Rome today where she was blessed by Pope Francis.
NBC is reporting that the 27 year-old mother arrived at Rome’s Ciampino airport with her family and Italy’s vice minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli. There are no details on what led to her sudden departure from Khartoum, which was so secret not even her attorney, Mohamed Mostafa, knew about it.
“I don’t know anything about such news but so far the complaint that was filed against Mariam and which prevents her from travelling from Sudan has not been cancelled,” Mr Mostafa told the media after learning of her departure from the country.
The Sudanese government has not yet commented on the latest news.
Vatican Radio is reporting that Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was on hand to greet Miriam at the airport and announced a “day of celebration” in honor of her long-sought release.
From the airport, she was brought to Casa Santa Marta to meet with Pope Francis, along with her husband Daniel Wani, her two year-old son Martin and baby Maya who was born in prison two months ago.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J. said the meeting took place in a “very serene and affectionate” environment and that Pope Francis thanked the young mother for her “courageous witness to perseverance in the Faith.”
Miriam then thanked the Pope for his prayers, telling him that this spiritual support provided her with great encouragement during her long ordeal.
Meriam spent months in a Sudanese prison with her 21-month-old son where she gave birth to a daughter while shackled to the floor of her cell. She was convicted of apostasy from Islam because she had a Muslim father, even though the only faith she ever knew was the Christianity in which she was raised by her Ethiopian mother. Miriam was also charged with adultery for marrying a Christian man, a marriage not recognized by sharia law.
The charges were brought against her by family members seeking to claim her successful business holdings in Sudan and were furious when a Sudanese judge overturned her death sentence and she was set free. Just as the family was attempting to board a plane to the U.S., however, she was rearrested for having falsified papers and spent the last month sheltering in the U.S. Embassy while her family members sought to bring new charges.
They were unable to prevail and Ibrahim is now safely out of the country.
“We celebrate Meriam Ibrahim and her family’s escape to freedom,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an organization that led the fight for Miriam’s release from prison and safe exit from the country.
“It is our hope and prayer that Miriam and her family will now enjoy the liberty to practice their Christian faith without government interference or persecution. Miriam’s bold stand for Jesus Christ as she faced death is both an inspiration for Christians to be courageous, but also a reminder of the vigilance required to preserve and promote not just our First Freedom as Americans, but the basic human right of the freedom of religion.”
Miriam’s story is just one of many incidents of extreme Christian persecution taking place in the world today, particularly in areas of the Middle East such as Iraq where the Christian population is being driven from their homes and forced to leave countries where they have lived for thousands of years.
“The ordeal of Miriam and her family underscore the need for the Obama administration to make the promotion of religious freedom a priority at the State Department rather than an afterthought,” Perkins added.
“The reality is that there are thousands of Miriams looking toward America, hoping they are not forgotten and that someone will speak out on their behalf.”
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