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July 25. 2014 9:15PM

Sudanese woman who refused to renounce her Christian faith on way to NH

MANCHESTER — Meriam Ibrahim, who left Sudan earlier this week after a months-long struggle against her death sentence for refusing to renounce her Christian faith, should be in New Hampshire soon, said her brother-in-law, Gabriel Wani.

“Relief,” Wani, who lives in Manchester, said Friday evening of his emotions. “Believe me, a lot of relief and excitement.”

Ibrahim flew to Italy on Thursday, where she met Pope Francis along with her husband, Daniel Wani, and two children. She was sentenced to death by hanging by a Sudanese court on a charge of apostasy, or abandoning the Muslim faith and refusing to renounce her Christian faith, in May, while she was eight months pregnant. She was also sentenced to 100 lashes on a charge of adultery for marrying Wani, a Christian.

She said her Muslim father abandoned the family when she was 6, and she was raised a Christian by her mother.

“I’ve always had my faith — and my love for my husband, a gift from God,” Ibrahim told La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper. “When I was asked to renounce my Christian faith, I knew what I was risking (in refusing to do so). But I didn’t want to renounce it.”

Her sentence drew international condemnation and media attention. The offices of New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte intervened on the family’s behalf.

In June, a Sudanese high court overturned her conviction, but the family was left in limbo in Khartoum when, just as they were about to board a plane, Sudanese government officials detained them on accusations they had forged documents.

“I kept hearing, ‘We’re in negotiations. We’re in negotiations,’” Gabriel Wani said of his daily phone calls to government officials. “They kept me hanging. It was very frustrating.”

The family was able to seek refuge in the U.S. embassy in Khartoum before they were allowed to leave.

“With my family, I will start a new life,” Ibrahim told La Repubblica. “We are going to move to New Hampshire, where my brother-in-law Gabriel lives. He will help us. We’ll all be together, like a proper family.”

Gabriel Wani said the family isn’t sure when Ibrahim and Daniel Wani and their children will be in New Hampshire. He said they are scheduled to go to Washington “for a couple of days” before coming home.

And when they arrive, he said, “the Sudanese community, we’re going to throw a party for them.”

Gabriel Wani said he is happy that the long ordeal, which involved several sleepless nights for him, appears to be over. He said he wanted to thank Shaheen and Ayotte for their assistance.

“God bless everyone, and God bless America,” he said.

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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