A Sudanese woman who is Christian has been convicted of aposty by a Sudanese court and is due to be both beaten with one hundred lashes and hanged for the crime of marrying a Christian man. She is pregnant and will receive the lashing after she recovers from childbirth, which will occur in jail. Her hanging will occur two years from sentencing.
This is a person persecuted for her faith who needs the voices and attention of the world community to save her life. America must demonstrate outrage because this is outrageous, and we must continue to sound the call for freedom, wherever in the world it is lacking. Freedom is our most precious asset as human beings, and the freedom to practice a peaceful faith without mockery, interference or penalty should be endorsed by every other faith and by every country, government, and institution.
The convicted woman, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, was raised as a Christian and married a Christian. She is not a traveler who wandered into the Sudan in disrespect to its borders, or a person who actively sought to condemn Islam. She is Sudanese,and is only following the religion she was raised in. Her mother is a Christian, her father a Muslim, but was absent for most of her life.
The Sudan is a very conservative Muslim state and the sentence was imposed using the rationale that the Prophet Mohammad stated in the Koran: “It is not permissible to spill the blood of a Muslim except in three [instances]: A life for a life; a married person who commits adultery; and one who forsakes his religion and separates from the community.” Meriam’s marriage to a Christian is considered invalid by Islamic law, and she has been convicted of adultery.
Meriam will not renounce her faith. “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy,” she said calmly. At the time she spoke these words, she was being held in a caged dock and was addressed by her Muslim name in court. She had been given three days to recant her Christianity, but refused to do so.
Western embassies and rights groups have urged Sudan to respect the right of the pregnant woman to choose her religion. The incident has brought condemnation from Amnesty International who denounced the sentence as “appalling and abhorrent.” Liberal Islamic scholars point to the Koranic verse: “There shall be no compulsion in religion” to try to end this type of charge against non-Muslims.
Imagine being Miriam’s husband. Your wife is jailed for practicing your shared faith and will give birth to your baby in jail. Your wife will be given 100 lashes after childbirth, and then you must face that she will be hanged for the faith you both love and practice.
We need to share Miriam’s story. If Miriam, who is upholding her faith in her time of trial, could speak to us, she would probably ask for our prayers, no matter what faith we follow. And we should never lose the ability to be outraged over instances of personal freedom lost — after all, what and who are we, without the freedom to be who we were destined to be?
Deirdre Reilly has written one humor book, and authored a syndicated family life column for Gatehouse Media for 13 years. She has won a Massachusetts Press Award for humor, her op-eds have been published in the Boston Herald and The Hartford Courant, and she has had short fiction published in literary journals. Deirdre was raised in Columbia, Md., and now lives outside Boston, Ma. She enjoys outdoor pursuits, and is obsessed with the care and happiness of a retired carriage horse named Nello that she bought for a few hundred dollars on a menopausal whim.