The White House lauded the freedom of Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her faith, without mentioning Christianity.
Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli helped arrange Ibrahim’s departure from Sudan to Rome, according to Vatican Radio. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi welcomed her at the airport; she then met with Pope Francis at the Vatican for about half an hour along with her husband, American citizen Daniel Wani, her son Martin and baby Maya, born in prison two months ago.
Before her death sentence was overturned, Ibrahim faced capital punishment for marrying a Christian man. Her father was Muslim.
“The United States is delighted that Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag is now safe and free and will soon be traveling to the United States. For months, Americans of all faiths kept Ms. Ishag in their thoughts and prayers as Sudanese authorities sentenced her to death for the alleged crime of apostasy,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice said in a statement. “Today, she and her family have left Sudan on their journey to freedom. Her departure with her immediate family—including her infant daughter, born in custody—is a testament to her unyielding faith and the support she received from friends and allies, including our Embassy in Khartoum and the broader U.S. government.”
“On behalf of the American people, I am proud to celebrate the arrival of Ms. Ishag and her family in Rome. We look forward to the day when they arrive in America,” Rice added. “In addition to heralding the tireless efforts of my U.S. government colleagues to ensure her safety, I also want to extend my profound thanks to the Italian Government for its dedicated efforts on their behalf.” Ibrahim’s death sentence was overturned last month but Sudanese officials kept her from leaving the country by questioning her travel documents.
“Ms. Ishag’s freedom, while meaningful in its own right, also serves as a reminder that all countries, including Sudan, must uphold the universal right to freedom of religion. The United States has and will continue to support those denied this freedom, drawing strength from Ms. Ishag’s example.”
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said today that the family does have the proper documents to enter the U.S. “She and her family will make the determination on their travel to the United States. It’s really up to the family,” Harf said, adding that she didn’t know if the Vatican interceded in Ibrahim’s case.
Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, noted chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), “have been extensively engaged in efforts to secure her release,” including a hearing to draw publicity to her case the day before she was released to the Italians.
“She and her family deserve an opportunity for a new chapter,” Royce said. “…While Meriam and her family escaped Sudan’s religious persecution, apostasy is still on the books in Sudan, leaving the chances open for other reprehensible cases like hers.”