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Following his election as Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron was grilled by the media about his beliefs as an evangelical Christian. Has the focus on faith, which began with Tony Blair, reached the point where it is harder than ever to hold religious beliefs and play an active role in political life?
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A Sudanese court today confirmed its death sentence it handed a pregnant Christian mother for apostasy after she refused to recant her faith.
The Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif, Khartoum, on Sunday gave Meriam Yahia Ibrahim until today to convert to Islam, implying that her sentence could be annulled or reduced if she did so, or face the death sentence for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery.
The ecumenical religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) described Mrs Ibrahim’s sentence as “inhumane, unwarranted and unacceptable”.
After the court confirmed the death sentence today, Mrs Ibrahim’s lawyers asserted their intention to launch an appeal, a process which could take several months.
Mrs Ibrahim, 27, was born in Western Sudan to a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Her father left the family when she was six and she was subsequently brought up Christian by her mother.
Under Shari’a law in Sudan, Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslim men. Since Mrs Ibrahim’s father was a Muslim, she is considered to be a Muslim, rendering her marriage to Daniel Wani invalid.
Since South Sudan seceded in 2011, Christians living in the north have either travelled to the south or faced increasing restrictions and threats. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said he wants a 100 per cent Islamic constitution. CSW said Mrs Ibrahim’s sentence marked “the latest and most significant in a series of repressive acts by the Sudanese Government against religious minorities”.
Mrs Ibrahim was arrested on 17 February, after Sudanese authorities were made aware of her marriage to a Christian man. The agency said she is being held in Omdurman Federal Women's Prison along with her 20-month-old son. She is charged with adultery under article 146 and apostasy under article 126 of the Penal Code, CSW said.
Mrs Ibrahim told the court on 4 March that she is a Christian, showing her marriage certificate, on which she is registered as Christian, as proof of her religion. CSW said that three potential witnesses from western Sudan who went to the hearing to testify of Mrs Ibrahim’s lifelong adherence to Christianity were prevented from giving evidence.
According to another agency, International Christian Concern, Mrs Ibrahim is a doctor who graduated from Khartoum University. ICC said that because she has been convicted of adultery, Mr Wani is now legally ineligible to assume custody of his and his wife’s children.
If the sentence is carried out Mrs Ibrahim will become the first person to be executed for apostasy under the 1991 penal code. According to Sudan’s interim constitution, Shari’a is a source of law and not as the basis of the constitution.