By Debbie Smith
“We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death,” the judge told the woman, according to Al Jazeera.
In addition to the death penalty, she was sentenced, last year, to 100 lashes for “adultery”.
By any standards, these are harsh sentences for the crimes of apostasy and adultery. But the woman being sentenced is eight months pregnant, and is imprisoned along with her 20 month old son, in a filthy Sudanese prison.
Thus is the current predicament of 27 year old Mariam Yahia Ibrahaim Ishag, of Sudan, sentenced to lashing and hanging for refusing to renounce her Christian faith and for marrying a Christian man.
Ishag became a Christian after her father, a Muslim, abandoned her family, when she was six years old. She was raised by her Ethiopian mother, a Christian, and later adopted her mother’s faith as her own.
Eventually, she married a Christian man, Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen, and the couple has one son and a child on the way.
Under Shariah law, children are required to follow their father’s faith. Therefore, her “conversion” to Christianity is considered to be “apostasy” or renunciation of the Islamic faith, a crime punishable by death under Islamic law.
Because she is considered a Muslim by Shariah Law, her marriage to a Christian man is considered null, and she an adulteress, sentenced to receive 100 lashes, to be inflicted following the birth of her second child.
Following the Judge’s pronouncement of the death sentence, Mariam was given three days to recant her Christian faith and save her life. She refused, boldly stating “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy!”
Her husband, unable to affect hers and their child’s release from prison, states that he feels helpless but he “continues to pray for his wife and child’s release.”
During last Thursday’s sentencing hearing, a Sheikh warned the court “how dangerous a crime like this is to Islam and the Islamic community,” reported Ibrahim’s attorney Mohamed Jar Elnabi.
Her legal team plans to appeal the verdict and expressed confidence that the sentence will be overturned upon petition.
In the meantime, Ibrahim, who is eight months’ pregnant, remains imprisoned with her 20-month-old son.
It seems that Ibrahim’s own family filed the complaint against her stating that she had been missing for several years and that they were shocked by her marriage to a Christian.
Outrage was expressed by human rights groups and governments, as the news broke of the death sentence.
Amnesty International describes Ibrahim as a prisoner of conscience.”The fact that a woman could be sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion, is abhorrent and should never be even considered,” Manar Idriss, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher stated.
Katherine Perks of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies said the verdict goes against Sudan’s “own Constitution and commitments made under regional and international law.”
A statement issued by the embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands, called upon the Sudanese government to “respect the right of freedom of religion, including one’s right to change one’s faith, a right enshrined in the 2005 Interim Constitution of Sudan.”
The government of Sudan, under the rule of President Omar al-Bashir, engages in a system of “egregious violations of freedom of religion and belief,” according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in its 2014 report.
In fact, Sudan is listed among the eight worst offenders of religious rights, along with: Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, according to the US State Department.
Conversion from Islam is punishable by death, suspected converts to Christianity face societal pressures, and government security personnel intimidate and sometimes torture those suspected of conversion.
Sudanese Christians face arrest for evangelizing, confiscation of their property, and Christian churches have been destroyed, the commission said.
A 2014 Pew Research Study identifies Christians as the most persecuted group worldwide, among religious groups.
So what is the outlook for Mariam and her future?
According to Sudanese law, a death sentence must be ratified by the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, prior to execution. Additionally, under Sharia law, as practiced in Sudan, an execution of a pregnant woman cannot occur until two years after lactation ceases.
And what of the rising tide of persecution directed toward Christians around the world?
Jesus Christ, in His Olivet discourse, instructed His disciples to expect persecution.
”Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my names sake.”(Matthew 24:9 ESV)
This is yet another of His prophecies currently being fulfilled