The latest news says that Meriam Ibrahim is safe at the US Embassy in Kartoum.
If you haven’t heard the story of this 27 year-old woman, let me brief you. This woman was born in Sudan to an Ethiopian Christian mother and Sudanese Muslim father. Her father left her family when she was just six. Her mother raised her in the Christian faith. Meriam became a physician and was also a successful business-owner in Sudan.
She was so successful that people became jealous. They reported her to the new radical, Islamist government that has taken power in Sudan. Her crime was being married to a Christian man. Religious intermarriage is forbidden in Islam and, due to the fact that her father was Muslim and Islam is passed down through the father’s lineage, the government considered her Muslim. It is also not permitted to convert from Islam to another religion – doing so is punishable by death. However, prior to the rise to power of the present radical government, it was almost unheard for the punishment for “intermarriage” to actually be carried out.
Meriam was brought to court and refused to renounce her Christian faith. She was sentenced to 100 lashes (while pregnant) and was given the option of renouncing her faith again. She refused. She was jailed with her two-year old son who was not permitted to be around her husband because her son is considered by the government to be Muslim and a Christian man is not permitted to raise a Muslim son. She recently gave birth in prison in chains. She still refused to renounce her faith. Her death sentence was to be carried out when she weaned her newborn – by two-years of age.
Fortunately, her lawyer, (who is another brave soul – a Muslim who chose to represent her in court despite threats to his own life for doing so), fought hard for her. Governments around the world, including the US government and the Holy See, voiced their disapproval of this religious persecution to the Sudanese government. A few days ago, Meriam was finally acquitted and freed. Just hours later, she was taken into custody again on the grounds of “false documents” as she and her family were trying to leave on a plane to seek refuge in the US. These visas were, in fact, issued by the U.S. State Department. (Meriam and her children have been granted refugee status by the US government. Her husband, who came to the US as a refugee as a child, is already a US citizen).
Despite torture and threat of death, this woman refused to renounce her faith in Christ. She believes so much in His message and His promise of new life that she would have died for it.
As I followed this story, I have asked myself many times, “would I be brave enough to do this? Would I die for Christ – for my Christian faith?” I would like to say that I would, but if I were in her shoes, would I really be brave enough? Brave enough even to leave my children for my faith?
The other day, Pope Francis remarked on how there are more martyrs today than in the early Church. I believe it. I hear stories of persecution of Christians throughout the world every single day. Just yesterday, I was hearing about the small Christian community in Mosul, Iraq being near to extinction. These people are descendants of the very first Christians. They also refuse to renounce their faith despite the fact that they are marked for death due to it. It is not an easy time to be a Christian in many parts of the world.
Here in the “land of the free,” we sometimes forget just how valuable our freedoms are. I am so grateful to live in a country founded on religious freedom where I don’t have to choose between my faith and my life.
And, I am grateful to live in a country that was founded as “one nation under God.” Christian, Muslim, Jewish – we are all sons and daughters of one God. I am proud to live in a nation that gives refuge to, and welcomes, people of all lands and languages and faiths. I am so glad that we have a government with checks and balances and leaders that ensure that our rights are respected and that peace is preserved.
And, I am so grateful for all those who have died for God and country to maintain these freedoms and this peace.
We truly are so blessed. Let us not forget it.