27 May 2014, The Tablet

Churches condemn death sentence for Christian mother

Church leaders have strongly condemned the death sentence handed to a young Sudanese Christian woman who gave birth to a baby girl in prison this week.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, who was sentenced last month to be hanged after refusing to renounce her faith, gave birth to her second child, a baby girl named Maya, on Tuesday in the clinic of Omdurman Women’s Prison. Her feet were kept chained, her husband said. She is thought to be a practising Catholic.

In a joint statement, the Sudanese Churches, including the Sudan Bishops’ Conference, said the charges against Mrs Ibrahim were false. They called on to the Sudanese Government to free her from prison, according to the Nairobi-based social communications department of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

The World Council of Churches also condemned the ruling. In a letter to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, they called it "egregiously unjust".

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has also called for the death sentence to be dropped. The Christian Muslim Forum, of which he is a Patron, said in a statement that it was vital that people should enjoy freedom of religion and called for “compassion in this situation”.

Archbishop Welby said he “wholeheartedly endorse[d]” the call from the Christian Muslim Forum.

Mrs Ibrahim was raised an Orthodox Christian by her mother but her absent father was Muslim. She was arrested in February and the Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif, Khartoum ruled that therefore she was a Muslim, and under Sharia law her marriage to a Christian, Daniel Wani, was invalid, therefore she could be accused of apostasy and adultery.

She has been returned to her cell with their two-year-old son Martin and their daughter. Her feet are shackled to the floor.

Mrs Ibrahim will receive 100 lashes before she is executed, which is due to take place within the next two years.

Mr Wani, who has US citizenship, told the MailOnline: “My wife is very, very strong. She is stronger than me.”

He added: “When they sentenced her to death I broke down and tears were streaming down my eyes … She did not flinch when she was sentenced.”

Lawyers have lodged an appeal against the conviction.

The US-based religious freedom charity International Christian Concern said: “This is an egregious case in which an American citizen has now been born in a Sudanese prison because of her mother's faith.”

The Muslim Council of Britain did not respond to a request for a comment.

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