Sudanese woman condemned for apostasy arrives in Italy
Very quietly, and with no fanfare, the Sudanese government has allowed Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman condemned to death for not renouncing her Chirstian faith, to leave the US embassy in Khartoum and fly out of the country. Ibrahim had been sheltered at the embassy following her release from prison and subsequent re-arrest for possessing "fake" travel documents.
Upon her arrival in Italy, Ibrahiim was given an immediate audience with Pope Francis.
Meriam Ibrahim was flown out of the country with her American husband and two young children. She was blessed by the pontiff during a private audience and is expected to fly onto the United States in the next few days.
After an almost year-long ordeal that triggered outrage around the world, the State Department had been negotiating with Sudanese officials for weeks to secure the family's safe passage out of the country. Ibrahim, 27, has been sheltered at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum for almost a month.
Ibrahim was sentenced to death and 100 lashes after she refused to renounce Christianity when given the opportunity in court. She was forced to take her 20-month-old son into her cell and gave birth to her second child, Maya, while her legs were in shackles.
She was sentenced to death under the country’s strict Islamic laws, known as Shariah, which were imposed in the 1980s. These have been used sporadically, however, and no one has been put to death for apostasy in the country since 1985.
Ibrahim's sentence drew outrage from the international community and she was freed last month. However, Sudan’s secret police thwarted the family’s attempts to fly to the United States by re-arresting her at the airport.
The State Department has been negotiating with Sudanese officials to secure the family’s safe passage out of the country. It was not immediately clear how or why her flight to Italy was secured.
Wani was born in what is now South Sudan -- but later moved to the U.S. He and Ibrahim met after he traveled to Khartoum in 2011. After her release, Wani said he wanted to build a new life for his family in America.
DId the Pope and other religious leaders do enough to secure Ibrahim's release? Have they done enough for the millions of Christians at risk in the Middle East and elsewhere? Pope Francis has recently been more outspoken about the oppression of Christians by Mulslims in the Middle East. He highlighted the plight of Christians during his trip to the Middle East in May:
"Religious freedom is in fact a fundamental human right and I cannot fail to express my hope that it will be upheld throughout the Middle East and the entire world. The right to religious freedom 'includes on the individual and collective levels the freedom to follow one's conscience in religious matters and, at the same time, freedom of worship... [it also includes] the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one's beliefs in public' (Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 26 -- Pope Benedict's Apostolic Exhortation on the 2010 Synod on the Middle East). Christians consider themselves, and indeed are, full citizens, and as such they seek, together with their Muslim fellow citizens, to make their own particular contribution to the society in which they live."
Contrast the Pope's strong words with the Archbishop of Canterbury - who constantly harps about Muslims being persecuted - saying that the cross was just a "decoration." And western political leaders have largely been MIA in trying to protect Christian minorities in Muslim countries.
The fact is, the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries is only being covered in religious media. That persecution will continue as long as those who can do something about it remain relatively silent.