Sudanese Christians arrive in US

By David Millward in Manchester

Meriam Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani arrive in Manchester, New Hampshire. Photo / AP
Meriam Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani arrive in Manchester, New Hampshire. Photo / AP

Exhausted but overjoyed Meriam Ibrahim had an emotional reunion with family and friends in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Supporters waved balloons and sang joyously as Ibrahim arrived at the small northern New England airport accompanied by her wheelchair-bound husband, Dani Wani and her two children, Martin and Maya.

It ended an 18-month ordeal which began when she was denounced to the authorities by her family for having abandoned Islam.

She had faced the death sentence and was forced to give birth while shackled in a Sudanese prison.

Wearing a white cardigan, black and white flowing dress and clutching a bouquet of flowers and an American flag, she spoke briefly to supporters who had gathered on a wet and grey evening to herald her arrival.

Maria Ajamg, one of Ibrahim's supporters, struggled to control her emotions as she described the reunion.

"She was smiling, talking to everybody. She said, 'I am so happy to see you guys. It is so nice here'.

"I was crying, but she said, 'don't cry, I am here now'."

Ibrahim was first thrown into jail and then on May 15, while heavily pregnant, sentenced to hang for apostasy under Sharia law which has been in force in Sudan since 1983. Ibrahim insisted she had been a Christian all her life and had never been a Muslim.

She was also accused of adultery for marrying Dani, a Christian Sudanese man with US citizenship who lives in Manchester.

Her treatment by the Sudanese authorities in Khartoum triggered global outrage. Within a fortnight of being sentenced to death, she gave birth to Maya. Even then the authorities refused to remove the shackles from her legs.

Ibrahim believes Maya has been left disabled by the traumatic birth, although the extent has yet to be assessed.

It took prolonged negotiations to secure Ibrahim's release, initially involving South Sudan, where she was born.

The cause was then taken up by Italy and backed by the Pope.

Ibrahim was finally released on June 23, but detained when she tried to leave Sudan three days later.

Last week she was told she would be allowed to go, even though she was unsure of her destination.

She was taken to Rome where, after being greeted by Pope Francis in the Vatican, she was allowed a few days to recuperate.

In New Hampshire, Manchester's 500-strong southern Sudan community was overjoyed at her arrival.

Dani, along with his brother Gabriel and sister Mary, were among the first Sudanese arrivals in 1998 when they settled in the town, which has a population of 110,000.

"It is an exciting day, we are really happy," said Lual Deng, president of the Sudanese Community in Manchester.

"It is exciting for all of us in the Sudanese community to see her here."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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