An unauthorised book about her ordeal in a Sudanese prison has led Meriam Ibrahim to tell Christian Today of her sadness at the way her story is being used by writers and filmmakers without her permission.
Meriam's story made international headlines last year because of her treatment by Sudan, which has been accused of systematic discrimination against Christians.
Brought up in her mother's faith as a Christian, her father was a Muslim and by Sudanese law children take their father's religion; as a practising Christian, she was found guilty of apostasy and sentenced to death a year ago this week, May 15, while pregnant with their second child. She was also accused of committing adultery by marrying a Christian, Daniel Wani, and sentenced to 100 lashes.
Meriam gave birth in prison to Maya while still shackled.
An international outcry followed the revelations about her case and she was finally freed on June 26, arriving in Rome a month later on an Italian government plane. Her refusal to deny her faith or to 'reconvert' to Islam has made her admired the world over for her strength of character and faithfulness to the Gospel.
While Meriam and her husband, who now live in New Hampshire in the US, have been in conversation with filmmakers and authors about telling their story, she is severely critical of those who have sought to capitalise on it without authorization because she wants to be sure that it is told accurately.
Now a new book by an Italian author, Antonella Napoli, has driven her to renew her call for her and her husband to be allowed to tell their own stories. Napoli, a journalist and activist who campaigned for Meriam's release and is president of the charity Italians for Darfur, has written Il mio nome è Meriam (My Name is Meriam) about Meriam's ordeal. Meriam told Christian Today that she had been sent a copy of a proposal to sign but had refused to do so because she was in communication with another publisher.
She said that being written about without permission felt like "new persecution from some weak people who do not know the meaning of faith, but are working to collect money from the tears of the oppressed". She said that writing unauthorised books was to "plunder my right to make my story to the world by the way that I choose it".
The publishers, she said, were "killing me and the whole of my family", saying that the book was "like the rope around my head".
However, Napoli, who had spearheaded the Italian campaign for Meriam's release, told Christian Today that when she had interviewed Meriam and Daniel at the US Embassy in Khartoum after their release it was significant moment in her own life. "I am a journalist, but also a human rights activist," she said.
She said that she had tried to contact them in the United States regarding a book proposal but was told that they had been offered a deal with an American publisher. Napoli says she told them that she would write about the campaign itself and about her own encounters with the family, pointing out that she was entitled to write about events she had witnessed and taken part in herself. She said that she was continuing to help other Christians persecuted in Sudan, including two pastors at risk of the death penalty.
Meriam and Daniel previously told Christian Today that a film to be entitled I Am A Christian, set to star Fox News contributor Stacey Dash and God's Not Dead star Kevin Sorbo, was unauthorised and that they objected to efforts by the production company, Christian Lives Matter, to make it. The title echoes her words of defiance to the judge in court. Meriam said that knowing the film was being made without their permission made her feel like she did when she was sentenced to death in Sudan. She said she thought that they would be on her side because they are Christians, but feels that the film-makers are "killing me and killing my dream".