Meriam Ibrahim: 'I knew God would stand by my side'

AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca

Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman who was sentenced to death for her faith, has spoken in depth about her ordeal for the first time since her release.

First imprisoned in January 2014, Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to the death in May, with a two-year suspension as she was pregnant.

Following an international campaign for her release, she was at last freed in June, only to be stopped at Khartoum airport. She finally managed to leave Sudan in July, and after meeting Pope Francis in Rome, she arrived in New Hampshire with her family on August 1.

"The situation was difficult but I was sure that God would stand by my side. I relied only on my faith and I knew that God would stand by me at any time, in any situation," Ibrahim told Fox News yesterday.

She was accused of apostasy as the Sudanese authorities claimed she had converted to Christianity, rejecting the Muslim faith of her estranged father. Ibrahim is adamant that she was always a Christian, having chosen to follow her mother's faith.

The Sudanese courts also found her guilty of adultery as they refused to recognise her marriage to Daniel Wani, a South-Sudanese Christian with US citizenship.

She said she was given three days in prison to renounce her faith, while imams visisted her in an "intervention" to help her recant by reciting the Qur'an to her.

"My faith was the only weapon that I had in these confrontations with imams and Muslim scholars," she said.

Interviewer Megyn Kelly asked: "Did you believe they would kill you?"

To which Ibrahim responded: "Faith means life, if you don't have faith, you're not alive."

She highlighted that there are many Christians suffering the same persecution. "I am not the only one suffering from this problem," she said. "There are many Meriams in Sudan and throughout the world. It's not just me. I'm not the only one."

She added: "With regard to the Christians [in Sudan] it is a well-known fact that they live under difficult circumstances. They are persecuted and treated harshly."

Ibrahim was three weeks pregnant when she was first imprisoned, and had to give birth to her daughter Maya in her cell, with chains on her ankles.

Even so, she said she knew that God was with her. "I knew that God would help me, that God knew that I was a victim of injustice. It is my right to be able to practise the religion I choose."

Ibrahim, Wani and their two children have been granted asylum in the US. But she said that before her imprisonment she had gone to the US embassy for help, but the consul refused to listen.

However, she added that she was grateful for the help of the US Ambassador Jerry Lanier.

Commenting on her life in New Hampshire, she said: "Right now I still don't have a stable life, but it's better than prison!"

Nonetheless, Ibrahim said she still feels endangered because of the memory of the situation in Sudan.

Speaking of the future, she said: "I would like to help the people in Sudan and Africa, especially women and children, and to promote freedom of religion."

She thanked Christians worldwide for their support, but said she still needed their prayers.