WASHINGTON, D.C. – The death sentence issued to a woman who refused to renounce Christianity for Islam in Sudan is an “egregious violation of basic human rights,” Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees U.S. policy in Africa, said today.
“This is an affront to religious freedom everywhere,” Smith said. “The refusal of the government of Sudan to allow religious freedom was one of the reasons for Sudan’s long civil war. The U.S. and the rest of the international community must demand Sudan reverse this sentence immediately.”
The woman, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, is reported to be eight months pregnant. She was convicted under the Islamist-run government of apostasy (the crime of renouncing or insulting Islam) punishable by death in some Muslim-majority countries. According to news reports, lawyers representing her told Amnesty International that religious clerics in court had asked the 27-year-old Thursday if she would recant her faith, but she told them: "I am a Christian."
“Mrs. Ibrahim’s willingness to stand-up for her faith—even in the face of death—is a true mark of uncommon courage and bravery,” Smith said. “This case in Sudan mirrors a similar incident 18 months ago in Nigeria in which Boko Haram shot Habila Adamu, who refused to renounce Christianity just like Mrs. Ibrahim.”
Adamu, shot in the head and left for dead, was the only adult male Christian in his village to survive that November 2012 attack. He lived to travel to Washington to give riveting testimony before a congressional hearing Smith held in November 2013: “They asked me, ‘Are you ready to die as a Christian?’ he testified, “and I told them, ‘I am ready,’ but before I closed my mouth, they have fired.”
Smith has held a number of hearings on the Sudanese conflict, including a Feb. 26 hearing, “U.S. Policy Toward Sudan and South Sudan,” by the House Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee. It featured lead witness Donald Booth, Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan from the U.S. State Department, as well as the human rights organizations the Enough Project, Transatlantic Legislative Group on Counter Terrorism and Amnesty International USA.