After what has seemed to be an unending stream of depressing news coming out of the Middle East and North Africa comes the encouraging report that Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her belief in Jesus Christ, may be free.
On Monday, Reuters reported, based on statements emanating from Sudan’s official SUNA news agency, that an appeals court had order her release and “the cancellation of the (previous) court ruling.” The wire service also said, citing her attorney, Mohaned Mostafa as the source, that she had already been freed and sent “to an unknown house to stay at for her protection and security.”
Ibrahim, who is married to an American, was first brought to the attention of the Sudanese authorities by members of her family who, the government claimed, said she had been raised as a Muslim and then converted to Christianity. In late May, the Sudanese embassy put out a statement that appeared to confirm this – “There was no Government agency behind the case; rather her immediate family had reported their daughter as missing, later and after she was found and claimed that she is Christian, the family filed a case of apostasy against her” – while adding that she had in fact been born and raised a Muslim and that the assertion made by those working on her behalf that her mother was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian was untrue.
“The ruling of the judge was made at the primary court after hearing all parties involved since February 2014, and it is subject to be implemented in at least two years if confirmed by three levels of courts which are: Appeal Court, Supreme Court and finally the Constitutional Court. The Judiciary System in Sudan is independent, and the Sudanese Judges are qualified and dignified,” the embassy said.
It’s easy to believe the government is wrong about the facts and is attempting to shield itself from the international black eye the case has given the Sudanese system. “This case remains a legal issue and not a religious or a political one. It is unwise and dangerous to politicize the issue at hand to spur religious tension between the two peaceful faiths with similar foundations. Notably, it is important to emphasize that freedom of choice is the cornerstone of both Islam and Christianity,” the embassy observed in the same May 21 statement in which it officially denied Ibrahim’s contention that she had been raised in a faith other than Islam.
While Ibrahim’s imprisonment, assigned lashing and death sentence created a controversy around the world, here in the United States it was given little notice outside the Christian press, conservative media outlets and this publication, which seems strange since so much attention generally is given by the mainstream media to the “war on women.” Of course that’s only when it’s being waged by the Republicans on debatable policy matters and liberals need a convenient thumb to put on the scale. When it comes to the real war on woman – which includes sentencing those who opt to becomes Christians to death and shooting little girls in the head who want nothing more than to go school to become educated in math, science, languages and the humanities, then we don’t hear so much. So shame on all the liberals – including the ones who are my bloleagues here on Thomas Jefferson Street – who rail quite eloquently against the disproven idea that the disparity between what women in the workforce make compared to men is only because the system is patriarchal and sexist, but who had nothing to say about a lone woman, a mother of two, languishing in a Sudanese prison solely because of who and how she chose to worship.
If Ibrahim is indeed free – and I’m waiting to see pictures and want her to be holding up a copy of today’s newspaper to prove it – then we can all sleep a little easier tonight. A tragedy born of intolerance has been averted, at least for the moment. It is just sad that a nation such as this, which was founded as a haven for those seeking religious liberty and is currently the most powerful nation on earth, could do so little to win her release, or that her cause seemed so unimportant to those who decide in today’s America which causes should have our attention.
Updated on June 24, 2014: The BBC is reporting that Ibrahim, along with her husband, who is a U.S. citizen, and their two small children, were arrested in the Khartoum airport as they attempted to leave Sudan.