Sudanese Christian woman finally free…flown to Italy

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sudanese woman releasedROME – A Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith arrived Thursday in Italy en route to the United States along with her family, including an infant born in prison.

Ibrahim and her family are expected to spend a few days in Rome before heading to the United States, where her Sudan-born husband has citizenship. The Vatican confirmed that Ibrahim will meet with the pope, but declined to offer further details.

“We are incredibly relieved to hear that Meriam and her family are safely out of Sudan where, for nearly a year, they have faced immense hardship for the expression of their Christian faith. … While today, a testament to the victory of human rights over the clutches of tyranny, is a day for celebration, tomorrow has to bring with it a renewed effort to fight for those still suffering for their faith in and beyond Sudan. God bless all of you who spoke out, signed petitions, called on state, national and international leaders, and offered up prayers for Meriam’s freedom.”

“This is truly wonderful news. … We look forward to having them on American soil and welcoming them and celebrating [their] freedom. As Americans we should really identify with the issue of religious freedom as a country that was founded on those principles.”

Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but whose mother was an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, was sentenced to death over charges of apostasy. She married her husband, a Christian, in a church ceremony in 2011. As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith.

The sentence was condemned by the United States, the United Nations and Amnesty International, among others, and both the United States and Italy — a strong death penalty opponent with long ties to the Horn of Africa region — worked to win her release.

Sudan’s high court threw out her death sentence in June, but she was then blocked from leaving the country by authorities who questioned the validity of her travel documents.

Ibrahim arrived in Italy with her husband Daniel Wani, who is a citizen of the United States and South Sudan, her 18-month-old son and an infant born May 27.

Lapo Pistelli, an Italian diplomat who accompanied the family from Sudan, said Italy was able to leverage its ties within the region, and “we had the patience to speak to everyone in a friendly way. This paid off in the end.”