- Trying to square the circle
The opening days of the Synod on the Family have revealed distinct differences of opinion between the participants. How can their commitment to church teaching be matched with compassion for those who struggle with it?
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A 27-year-old Sudanese Catholic who gave birth in prison after being sentenced to hang for apostasy in May was freed from Omdurman women’s prison on Monday, but prevented from leaving the country the following day with her husband and two young children.
Meriam Yahya Ibrahim left custody after an appeal court cancelled the death sentence, following global outrage and condemnation, but she was stopped from flying from Khartoum airport on Tuesday. Demands for her release accelerated after Ibrahim gave birth three weeks ago while shackled to the floor of her prison cell. Her newborn daughter, Maya, and her toddler son, Martin, were incarcerated with her.
“Despite Mariam’s detention today, I can assure you we are nearing the end of this story”, the chargé d'affaires at the apostolic nunciature in Khartoum told The Tablet on Tuesday. Fr Simon Kassas said that according to Sudanese law, she cannot leave the country immediately. He reported that she and the two children have been issued with South Sudan passports and he expected that this will be their first country of destination when they do eventually go. Ibrahim's husband is a Christian from South Sudan and a US citizen, and the family may eventually settle in the US. US officials in Khartoum have been working on sorting out travel documents acceptable to Sudan and obtaining assurances from Sudan that the family is safe.
Just a week earlier the Archdiocese of Khartoum pleaded with the authorities to review the situation and “honour Mariam's steadfast position to maintain her Christian faith”. Its statement, issued by Fr Mussa Kacho, Episcopal vicar of the Khartoum Archdiocese, said, "never in her life did she embrace the Islamic religion nor renounce it" and "the Catholic Church expresses deep regret over the way the case is being handled in the court in disregard of Ibrahim's moral and religious belief". Ibrahim was condemned for abandoning Islam, but although her father was Muslim, she was raised according to her mother's Christian faith, said the statement.