The name Meriam Ibrahim became infamous throughout the world when refusing to denounce her Christian faith in 2014, leading to her being imprisoned and shackled – a brutal condition under which she brought her second child into the world. I count myself blessed in growing up in the example of two resilient parents, resolute in their decision to stand ground in their Christian faith despite the daily oppression and intimidation. I am very accustomed to the testimony of a Christian convert, both in person and online and over a lifetime I have at times become numb to such stories of pain and suffering, to my own personal shame.
Meriam Ibrahim’s ordeal struck a nerve, in a way I haven’t experienced for some time now. I respect this courageous sister, whose refusal to recant her faith and whose determination to revere solely her God, led to her being chained as a caged animal; as she mercilessly was forced to undergo what must have been an extremely traumatic and restrained pregnancy. It suddenly struck me why this young Sudanese mother affected me: her faith made me see God. God in her. Her faith could only come from the God she lacks no conviction in and that emboldens, encourages and uplifts me if nobody else. Her commitment to her Christianity is an example to the world and reading about her suffering should alert us to reconsider our complacency, our taken-for-granted freedom of conscience if not in practicality. Minorities in countries such as Sudan do not even have this freedom in theory and do not have to be bound physically to be prisoners. Repression of Christians of which Meriam is but an example is endemic.
I feel I owe it to our Meriam Ibrahim figures who are forced to experience trials we could never imagine, to continue in this work this blog was set out to do. To honour such unbreakable spirits. To recognise that faith, faith in God alone can ensure their enduring of unthinkable agony while swamped in a cesspit of human evil. To encourage and show solidarity towards people of similar situations or those who have loved ones in such. A simple blog to create awareness at the very least. Meriam Ibrahim’s story has been known internationally from 2014 onwards and due to my university work schedule I always find myself pushing issues I wish to write about on the back-burner. Upon reflection I decided to change this and try to aim to post a blog every day, even if my posts are mere sound bites. The least I can do is dedicate this humble platform into educating people daily on the perils persecuted minorities are facing. The least I can do especially with the freedom I have to write.
Meriam’s marriage to her Christian husband Daniel Wani prompted members of her family to open a case with Halat Kuku court of Khartoum, by alleging her marriage to Wani constituted adultery. Wani was accused of converting Meriam, deemed a Muslim by family members and Sudanese authorities. According to Sudanese law Muslim women are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims as is stated in the Koran and therefore the Wani-Ibrahim ‘inter-faith’ marriage was not recognized by Sudanese courts. However, Meriam has always maintained before her trial and during her imprisonment that she had always been raised a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother since her father left them as a young child. Upon failing to successfully establish Meriam’s Islamic identity, her family sought to annul her marriage to Wani, who had emerged from Sudan to the United States in 1998, become a citizen in 2005 and had met Meriam at church during a visit back to Sudan. On February 17, 2014 Meriam was separated from her husband and transferred to the Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison with her 20 month old son. March 4 saw Sudan’s Public Order Court in El Haj, Khartoum North charge her with apostasy and adultery.
When interviewed by Fox News some time after her release, Meriam told how she was given 3 days to renounce her faith by Sudanese authorities. When she refused she was convicted of her charges and sentenced to 100 lashes and hanging whilst heavily pregnant, making her the first to have been possibly executed on the grounds of apostasy since the 1991 Criminal Code. Ibrahim’s ordeal did not end when languishing in a prison cell, instead she received daily visitations by Imams, who would recite Koranic passages in an effort to pressure her into renouncing her Christianity.
‘While I was in prison, some people came to visit me from the Muslim Scholars Association, these were Imams that created an intervention by reciting parts of the Koran for me. I faced tremendous amount of pressure, I had my faith in God. My faith was my only weapon that I had in these confrontations with Imams because that’s what I believe in.’
Meriam’s weapon of faith was put to test when she forced to give birth to her daughter Maya on 27th May in fetters. I can clearly picture what must already be an excruciating experience, multiplied by this soldier of Christ, bound and fettered, heavily oppressed and restrained as she gave birth to her baby girl on the floor of a cold prison cell. Chained for Christ as she ushered Maya into a country and wider extreme Islamic world of hostility and hatred toward the mother that gave her life. That for me was especially poignant.
‘I was supposed to give birth at a hospital outside of prison but they denied that request as well… when it was time to give birth they refused to remove the chains from my ankles’.
While it was euphoric for countless across the globe to witness Meriam finally emerge from a plane that saw her and her children touch down safely in the United States to be reunited with her husband, attention needs to be drawn towards the continued repression of Christians throughout North Africa, of which Sudan is just one country. Olivia Warham, director of Waging Peace, a UK Non-Governmental Organisation that campaigns against genocide and systemic human rights violations in Sudan reported that millions of Sudanese Christians faced daily brutality and ethnic cleansing by the Sudanese regime.
‘3 years ago President Bashir made it plain, there would be no room for non-Muslims in his Islamist Sudan. He has been good to his word, crushing dissent and systematically killing ethnic and religious minorities. Regular aerial bombardment by the Sudanese armed forces destroys communities and Christian hospital, forcing people to flee from their fields to hide in the Muba mountains… it is shocking that Bashir’s ideology of elimination provokes nothing more than the occasional words of regret from the international community, when we should be applying smart sanctions on the architect of these atrocities.’
Meriam’s stand against the brutal attempt to lure her away from her faith and marriage, in order to lead her to Islam is inspirational. Her strength shames those who choose to remain silent in the face of such cases of persecution and I truly admire this bold, fellow believer who even when chained and hounded like a lowly animal could display a level of courage, resilience and perseverance to the world in a manner that cannot be articulated. There are very few people in this world who wouldn’t renounce their faith, when locked away with a 20 month old baby while time ticks out on the due date of another.
‘I put myself at risk for the women of Sudan and for Christians living under difficult circumstances, persecuted and treated harshly. There are many Meriams in Sudan throughout the world.’
Meriam Ibrahim has been blessed enough to have endured her persecution and be relieved slightly of her suffering in her move to New Hampshire. That doesn’t mean we should ignore nor forget her testimony, if not for her then for all the Meriam Ibrahims out there, all chained for Christ.