Sudan retracts freedom claim for imprisoned Christian

(Photo courtesy World Watch Monitor)

(Photo courtesy World Watch Monitor)

Sudan (MNN) — It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for those who’ve been following the emotionally-charged case of Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman who’s facing the death sentence for apostasy.

A study from the Pew Research Center revealed that Sudan is one of the world’s 1 in 10 countries that still outlaw apostasy, and one of the 1 in 5 countries that still outlaw blasphemy.

Open Doors USA spokesman Jerry Dykstra outlines the backstory in brief: “The government is saying that she was born into a Muslim family and that she was raised in the Islamic faith, so they’re saying that she was not always a Christian and that she did actually turn to Christianity later. That’s the reason that she’s been sentenced to death by hanging.”

Essentially, she was raised as a Christian by her mother, but Sudanese law states a child must follow their father’s religion. Meriam’s father was a Muslim. What’s more, she was convicted of apostasy and adultery for marrying a non-Muslim. Khartoum’s court then annulled her three-year-long marriage to a Christian man with U.S. citizenship and ordered that Ibrahim be given 100 lashes and hanged.

(Photo of Ibrahim's son, in custody with her, courtesy World Watch Monitor/Daniel Wani)

(Photo of Ibrahim’s son, in custody with her, courtesy World Watch Monitor/Daniel Wani)

Her case has brought international outcry for release, and on May 31, Dykstra says, “An official in the Foreign Ministry of Sudan made some statements to the international media that Meriam would be freed on Tuesday.” However, “Later on Sunday, the Foreign Ministry said the report from that official was not true. Many believe that official wanted to diffuse some of the flack that Sudan has been getting from all over the world.”

Lawyers representing Meriam added their doubt over the veracity of the report. Dykstra says their contacts in Sudan reported, “The Foreign Ministry is saying that those claims are not true and that she’s not being released on Tuesday. They’re following the traditional system on this case. The Defense team for Meriam is waiting for a verdict to their appeal process.”

The conviction was internationally condemned, when the then heavily-pregnant woman was sentenced to death for refusing to renounce Christianity, and she was reportedly imprisoned with her 20-month-old son. Pressure increased last week when she gave birth to her daughter, while restrained by shackles, according to Amnesty International.

Meriam has been under pressure to convert from Christianity to Islam with the promise to reduce or eliminate the charges, but there are no confirmed reports regarding her response.

Meanwhile, Dykstra urges you to help keep the pressure building. “We need to pray that there’s a positive resolution to this situation and the Christians out there from all over the world are praying. We also know there’s a Resolution in the Senate that asks for her release and gives her refugee status.”

(Khartoum photo courtesy World Watch Monitor)

(Khartoum photo courtesy World Watch Monitor)

Sudan is ranked #11 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List, a list of the most difficult countries in which to be a Christian. Dykstra says the restrictions on religious freedom make Gospel work tricky. “Christians fair very poorly in this country. There’s a great amount of pressure on Christians and it’s growing.”

The World Watch List is published annually by Open Doors International, a charity that supports Christians who live under pressure because of their faith.