For now, at least, Meriam Ibrahim’s long journey is over. She has gone from a jail cell in her native Sudan, where she was sentenced to death for refusing to recant her Christian faith, to an audience with Pope Francis in Rome — and finally to a new life with family in the United States.
With her newborn daughter, her toddler son and her husband Daniel Wani, Ibrahim landed in the Manchester, N.H., airport on Thursday night to a hero’s welcome. With balloons, flowers and American flags in hand, family, friends and supporters cheered as the family emerged from the terminal.
Like much of the world, the supporters had watched Ibrahim’s ordeal unfold in grim detail over the course of several months.
She was jailed when she was eight months pregnant with her second child. Eventually, she gave birth with chains on her ankles, she told CNN.
Her crime? Marrying a Christian man.
Ibrahim was raised as a Christian, she said, but because her father was Muslim, a Sudanese judge ruled that she should be considered a Muslim. The Sudanese government annulled her marriage to Wani, who is Christian, and demanded that she renounce her Christian faith.
Ibrahim refused and in May was sentenced to 100 lashes and death by hanging for apostasy.
After international outcry, Ibrahim was finally freed and sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Sudan.
Today, the family is resting in the care of extended family and Manchester’s Sudanese community.
According to the Associated Press, about 500 Sudanese people live in Manchester, including Ibrahim’s brother-in-law Gabriel Wani. Ibrahim’s husband was granted U.S. citizenship as a child escaping Sudan’s civil war, and he also lived in New Hampshire before returning to Sudan.
“I can’t describe the feeling,” Wani said, according to Reuters.
“We are so tired,” he added. “The ordeal is over.”
En route to Manchester, the family stopped in Philadelphia, where Ibrahim met with Mayor Michael Nutter, who called her a “freedom fighter,” according to the Associated Press.
“It’s very clear she is a tremendously strong woman,” Nutter told reporters. “Ibrahim is a world freedom fighter.”