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2nd Sudanese woman jailed for her faith

JUBA, South Sudan (BP) — A 27-year-old Christian mother on death row for alleged apostasy has given birth to a daughter while another Christian woman is jailed in Sudan on a similar charge, Morning Star News reported.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim gave birth early Tuesday morning (May 27) to daughter Maya in the Health Center Clinic of Omdurman Federal Prison for Women, according to her husband Daniel Wani, a South Sudanese-born U.S. citizen with ties to New Hampshire.

Ibrahim is in prison awaiting a sentence of 100 lashes and death by hanging for marrying a Christian and denying the Muslim faith. Born to a Muslim father and Ethiopian Orthodox mother, Ibrahim contends she was raised Christian after her Muslim father deserted the family when she was 6.

Ibrahim also is caring for her 20-month-old son in prison and is expected to be allowed to nurse her daughter until age 2 before the death sentence is carried out, according to news reports. Her husband has not been allowed to see his newborn daughter.

In a similar case, Sudanese immigration/citizenship police arrested Faiza Abdalla, 37, as she tried to obtain her national identification number April 2 at an official building in El Gadarif on Sudan’s eastern border, Morning Star News reported May 27.

Abdalla, whose parents converted to evangelical Christianity before her birth and raised her in the same faith, was arrested because she has a Muslim name and professed Christianity. Her Catholic husband fled Sudan two years ago because of persecution, Morning Star News reported. As in the case of Ibrahim, Sudanese officials terminated Abdalla’s marriage and accused her of apostasy when she refused to deny Christianity.

Ibrahim’s case has been widely reported and condemned by a broad spectrum of Christians and human rights activists.

Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has written a letter urging Secretary of State John Kerry to denounce Ibrahim’s sentence as “cruel and inhumane, to demand her release, and to use the diplomatic influence of the State Department to advocate for this most fundamental human right, the freedom of religion and belief.”

In the U.S. House of Representatives, 21 Republicans and one Democrat have signed a letter urging Kerry to “condemn the ruling handed down by Sudan’s court and call upon the Sudanese government to respect human rights and free Mariam Yahya Ibrahim [sic] and her young son immediately,” according to news reports. Senators Roy Blunt, R.-Mo., and Kelly Ayotte, R.-N.H., have signed a similar letter and also asked Kerry and President Obama to reappoint an ambassador at large for international religious freedom to monitor, prevent and respond to such injustices.

The United Nations human rights office also has voiced concern over Ibrahim’s sentence, and online petitions calling for her freedom have gained momentum, including one by Amnesty International signed by more than 660,000 people. The World Council of Churches has urged Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir to drop Ibrahim’s sentence.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s chief executive, Mervyn Thomas, said May 27 that the charges against Ibrahim violate religious rights guaranteed under Sudan’s interim constitution as well as covenants that Sudan has signed.

“We are pleased to hear that Mrs. Ibrahim and her baby are reportedly in good health; however, we urge the authorities to ensure that Mrs. Ibrahim’s husband and lawyers are granted access to see them, and that they are guaranteed medical attention,” Thomas said in a statement on CSW’s website. “CSW continues to call upon the Sudanese authorities to annul the inhumane and unwarranted sentence given to Meriam Ibrahim, and to release her and her young children immediately.”

Ibrahim was sentenced May 15 for leaving Islam, a religion she never practiced, after someone claiming to be her relative reported her to authorities in 2013. Witnesses in Ibrahim’s defense were not allowed to testify. The court ruled that Ibrahim was born to Muslim parents, has the Muslim name of Abrar Elhadi Muhammad Abdallah Abugadeen and is guilty of adultery because of her marriage to a Christian. Ibrahim has identified herself as a medical doctor and University of Khartoum graduate, but the court ruled it had no proof of such an education.

Instead, the court said Ibrahim is a lab technician who graduated from Sudan University for Science and Technology.
Compiled by Diana Chandler, general assignment writer/ editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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