NH relative welcomes woman’s release from Sudan
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire brother-in-law of a Sudanese woman once sentenced to death for refusing to recant her Christian faith said Thursday he is happy she is now in Italy, en route to the United States.
Gabriel Wani said he is waiting to hear from his brother about the family’s travel plans but expects them to come to his home in Manchester. He says he’s thankful for those who helped secure the release of Meriam Ibrahim, who faced execution because she married a Christian. Her death sentence was overturned in June, and she arrived Thursday in Rome, where she met privately with Pope Francis.
“It’s really happy news,” Wani said. “I want to thank everyone involved in this case, all the officials who helped. I really appreciate it. God bless everyone.”
Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but who was raised by her Orthodox Christian mother, was accompanied by her husband, Daniel Wani, and two children, including an infant born in prison. She had been convicted of apostasy, a crime punishable by death under Sudan’s strict enforcement of Islamic law.
Members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation have worked closely with the Department of Homeland Security and State Department on behalf of Daniel Wani to secure his wife’s safe release, sponsoring resolutions condemning the charges against her. An Italian diplomat helped negotiate her release.
“No one should be persecuted for exercising their right of religious freedom, and Meriam’s unwavering faith and determination in the face of danger are an inspiration to us all,” Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte said in a statement.
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter thanked the State Department for keeping the pressure on Sudan to release Meriam Ibrahim. “I am proud the United States remains a bastion of religious freedom in the face of such terrible oppression,” she said.
The Vatican characterized Pope Francis’ visit with the family as “very affectionate.”
“I heard the great news, I am so happy,” said Monyroor Teng, pastor of the Sudanese Evangelical Covenant Church in Manchester. When he heard the family met with the pope, he said, “That’s a good blessing! She’s really blessed!”
Teng said he and Gabriel Wani were talking about a holding a welcome-home celebration.