Imagine you’re a woman in Sudan. Your Muslim father abandoned the family home when you were young. Your Christian mother raised you. Eventually you married a Christian man and gave birth to a boy. Then, two years later, while you were pregnant with your second child, you get thrown into prison. A Muslim judge convicts you of apostasy—or, leaving Islam, which carries a death sentence—and adultery—for marrying a Christian. You also face a punishment of 100 lashes on the adultery conviction.
This is the nightmare of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag.
According to Open Doors, on May 15 the judge told her, “We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death.” Amazingly, Meriam boldly replied, “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.”
Meriam was eight-and-a-half months pregnant at the time, caring a 20-month-old son, Martin, inside the prison. Since then, Meriam has given birth to a girl in the prison’s hospital wing—so she is now caring for two children under age 2. Her husband, Daniel Wani, has been able to visit his family but has been unable to get Meriam and their children freed. Because Meriam is a new mother, Sudan’s “justice system,” has granted her a two-year reprieve.
You’ll be encouraged to know that Rich Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good is part of an interfaith group urging the ambassador from Sudan to use all legal avenues to overturn Meriam’s death sentence. Rich says, “This will take time, legal effort, and prayer, yet [it] is surely not beyond the scope of either Sudanese justice or God’s intervention.”
Though Meriam’s case hasn’t garnered the international attention of the missing girls in Nigeria, people are beginning to take notice.
Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher says, “The fact that a woman has been sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is appalling and abhorrent.” Yet, according to the Pew Research Center, Sudan is one of ten countries in the world that outlaws apostasy, and one of five countries that criminalizes blasphemy.
Sudan has more problems than just its Islamic legal code. The nation of 45 million people—mostly Arab Muslims in the north and black Christians in the south—has lurched from one crisis to another. On-again, off-again civil war has killed more than 1.5 million people in the last three decades.
Most of this injustice, damningly, has gone unnoticed by the rest of the world. So let’s do more than launch a Twitter campaign. Let’s urge our government to demand Meriam’s release. More importantly, let us pray that the Lord will redeem Meriam’s nightmare for good.
We can ask not only that Meriam and her children would be reunited with Daniel, but that the light of Christ would penetrate the darkness of militant Islam—in Sudan, northern Nigeria, and all across the world.
That means praying for Christians living under extremely difficult, unjust circumstances, as well as the missionaries called to share the good news of Jesus. And we should take heart in the growing number of reports that say more and more Muslims are embracing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
So let’s stand with Meriam in prayer. Perhaps take her on as a special prayer concern in your church or small group. And please come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary, where we’ll link you to organizations that advocate for persecuted Christians.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: June 12, 2014