Kerry on Release of Sudanese Christian: 'Their Concerns Were Our Cause'

Secretary of State John Kerry lauded the U.S. role in promoting religious freedom worldwide after the release of Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim.

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.

"Around the world, supporters of religious freedom celebrate the arrival of Meriam Ishag and her family in Rome. I am grateful to the Government of Italy for its role in working with the Government of Sudan to enable Ms. Ishag and her family to depart Sudan," Kerry said in a statement today.

"I want to acknowledge the many individuals in the United States and the international community who expressed their concern at Ms. Ishag’s plight. Their concerns were our cause," he continued. "I am especially proud that our diplomatic efforts through the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum helped secure Ms. Ishag’s and her family’s release. The United States will continue to be an unwavering advocate for the right to freedom of religion worldwide."

"I extend my personal best wishes to Ms. Ishag and her family as they rebuild their lives and restore hope for a future where all people can live their faiths fully and freely."

The House today sent to President Obama's desk a bill, originally introduced in the Senate by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and passed July 10, to encourage the appointment a special envoy to promote religious freedom among religious minorities in the Middle East.

“As we continue to witness disturbing violence against religious minorities in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, I’m pleased both chambers of Congress have passed this bipartisan bill to demonstrate that the U.S. takes religious freedom very seriously,” said Blunt. “I urge the President to sign this bill into law quickly and appoint a special envoy to promote religious freedom among all persecuted religious communities in these critical regions.”

“It is a tragic fact that in much of this region, the freedom to worship in keeping with one’s conscience is in doubt,” Levin said. “Passage of this legislation strengthens America’s role in protecting religious minorities from violence, persecution and fear.”