Meriam Ibrahim and the persecution of christians

BN-DL196_howall_D_20140626143917A 27-year-old Sudanese woman named Meriam Ibrahim seemed likely to become a 21st-century Christian martyr in May when she was sentenced to death by hanging because of her faith. Then this week Ms. Ibrahim was saved when a court overturned her conviction for apostasy from Islam—her father was a Muslim, and under Islamic law she is automatically a Muslim too. (She had also been sentenced to public flogging for adultery because her husband, Daniel Wani, is also a Christian, and Islamic law doesn’t recognize marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men.) But the day after her release on Monday, Ms. Ibrahim was arrested again. While the Associated Press reported Thursday that she had again been released Thursday, her future remained uncertain.

Her story is harrowing. Ms. Ibrahim was eight months pregnant with her second child when she was convicted in a Khartoum court on April 30 under the Islamic Shariah law that has governed Sudan since 1989. On May 27, while in prison awaiting execution, Ms. Ibrahim gave birth to her daughter, Maya. Mr. Wani reported that his wife was shackled to the floor during labor. Their year-and-a-half-old son, Martin, had been jailed along with her.

Ms. Ibrahim was re-arrested on Tuesday by a government security force as she, Mr. Wani and their two young children tried to leave Sudan for the U.S. The Sudanese-born Mr. Wani has been an American citizen since 2005. The new charges against Ms. Ibrahim—which are reported to carry penalties of up to seven years in prison—consist of falsifying the family’s travel documents, which were issued by the embassy of South Sudan, the largely Christian territory that seceded from overwhelmingly Muslim Sudan in 2011 after a decades-long civil war. Mr. Wani hails from what is now South Sudan.

Ms. Ibrahim’s story bears uncanny parallels to another Christian story involving young African mothers who did become Christian martyrs, during the early third century: the story of Felicitas and Perpetua, executed for their faith in the Roman port city of Carthage in today’s Tunisia. Vibia Perpetua was a well-educated young woman, not unlike Ms. Ibrahim, who is trained as a doctor. Felicitas was a slave in an advanced state of pregnancy when she was thrown into prison along with Perpetua and other Christians to await their deaths by wild animals in the Carthage arena. Perpetua, like Ms. Ibrahim, went to prison along with a baby son. Felicitas, like Ms. Ibrahim, bore a baby daughter before her execution date.

The most dramatic parallel is the simple affirmation that Ms. Ibrahim gave in court that led to her death sentence: “I am a Christian.” Those also were Perpetua’s words, as they were of many martyrs in Roman times. Like Perpetua, Ms. Ibrahim, who was brought up in the Ethiopian Orthodox faith of her mother, also refused to recant. Read more HERE

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