8:52 pm - Monday November 9, 2015

Meriam Ibrahim arrives in US

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A Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence arrived on Thursday in the United States, where she was welcomed first by the mayor of Philadelphia as a “world freedom fighter” and later by cheering supporters waving US flags in New Hampshire.

Meriam Ibrahim flew from Rome to Philadelphia with her husband and two children, en route to the New Hampshire city of Manchester where her husband has family and where they will make their new home. Her husband, Daniel Wani, his face streaked with tears, briefly thanked New Hampshire’s Sudanese community on his family’s behalf and said he appreciated the outpouring of support.

Earlier in Philadelphia the mayor, Michael Nutter, said people would remember Ibrahim along “with others who stood up so we could be free”. He compared her to Rosa Parks, who became a symbol of the US civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, touching off a bus boycott.

Ibrahim had been sentenced to death over charges of apostasy, the abandonment of a religion. Her father was Muslim and her mother was an Orthodox Christian. She married Wani, a Christian from southern Sudan, in 2011. Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims. By law children must follow their fathers’ religions.

Sudan initially blocked Ibrahim from leaving the country even after its highest court overturned her death sentence in June. The family took refuge at the US embassy in Khartoum and after eventually leaving the country she met Pope Benedict in the Vatican.

There are about 500 Sudanese already living in Manchester, which is just north of the Massachusetts state line.

Ibrahim’s husband, who previously lived in New Hampshire, had been granted US citizenship when he fled to the United States as a child to escape civil war. He later returned and was a citizen of South Sudan.

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