Rep. Chris Smith, Chairman of the congressional panel on Africa and global human rights, today celebrated the release and freedom of the Sudanese woman imprisoned and sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.
Yesterday, Smith held a hearing as part of a series of ongoing efforts to highlight the plight of Mariam Ibrahim and give new impetus to her stalled departure from Sudan. Meriam Ibrahim, her husband Daniel Wani, and their two children were detained in Sudan on June 23rd, after originally being told they could leave the country following her release from prison.
Smith expressed relief and thanks upon hearing of the family's arrival in Rome and praised Meriam Ibrahim who he called "a remarkable and extraordinarily courageous woman."
"Meriam Ibrahim's faith in God and willingness to endure torture -- even martyrdom -- rather than recant her faith, is extraordinarily courageous and inspiring. What a remarkable woman," Smith has said. Meriam Ibrahim's convictions on apostasy and adultery for having married a Christian were overturned by a Sudanese appeals court in June but the family was then stopped from leaving the country. Today with the assistance of the governments of Italy and the Holy See, along with an international community that honors religious freedom, Meriam and her family are in Italy and on their way to the United States. Meriam's husband Daniel and their two children are American citizens.
"We are all deeply appreciative to the government of Italy, as well as Pope Francis, for the role they played in helping to bring this nightmare to a successful conclusion." Smith said. "We are delighted Meriam and family will be making their home in the United States and look forward to working with them to advance religious rights and freedoms worldwide."
At Smith's Capitol Hill hearing yesterday, witnesses expressed frustration and concern that, while finally together, the family was still unable to leave the Sudan and the U.S. Embassy where they were staying for fear of their safety.
Smith originally scheduled his hearing on the case for June 24th, but postponed it based on assurances that the family would soon be free. When the family was detained and not allowed to leave Sudan, Smith rescheduled the hearing for this week and announced plans for more in the future.