Thursday, July 24, 2014

Christian Woman on Death Row Leaves Sudan, Meets Pope

In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, from Sudan, with her daughter Maya in her arms, at the Vatican, July 24, 2014.

Sudanese Woman Sentenced to Death for Apostasy Gives BirthSudan Denies Re-arresting Released Christian WomanSudan Frees Woman Sentenced to Death for Refusing to Give Up Christian Faith

VOA News

Last updated on: July 24, 2014 10:00 AM

A woman who received a death sentence in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith flew into Rome on an Italian government plane on Thursday and hours later met the Pope.

Meriam Yahya Ibrahim walked off the aircraft cradling her baby and was greeted by Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, saying it was a "day of celebration".

Italy’s vice minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli, left, greets Mariam Yahya Ibrahim and her family arriving from Sudan in Rome July 24, 2014.

Soon afterwards, Ibrahim, her husband and two children had a private meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican.

"The Pope thanked her for her witness to faith,'' Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

The meeting, which lasted around half an hour, was intended as a "sign of closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith,'' he added.

What led to departure

There were no details on what led up to the 27-year-old's departure after a month in limbo in Khartoum, but a senior Sudanese official said it had been cleared by the government.

Italy joined with the United States in helping to free Ibrahim, and the country's vice minister of foreign affairs accompanied her on the flight from Khartoum.

In May, she received the death sentence on a conviction of apostasy. The conviction stemmed from a Sudanese law stating children of Muslim fathers are considered Muslim.

Ibrahim was born to a Christian mother and a Muslim father. She was brought up as a Christian after her father left the family.

Adultery charges

A court also sentenced Ibrahim to 100 lashes on charges of adultery for marrying Daniel Wani, who is a Christian. Under Sudanese law, marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims is not permitted.

In June, a Sudanese court overturned Ibrahim's conviction. She was released from prison but was detained by Sudanese authorities when her family tried to board a flight leaving the country. Officials questioned the authenticity of her travel documents.

The family then took refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Sudan. Ibrahim's husband, Wani, is a U.S. citizen.

Italian officials say the family plans to travel to the U.S. within a few days.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters


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