Meriam Ibrahim, who faced death for ‘apostasy,’ to speak in Smithfield

Published 6:27 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2022

A Sudanese woman who gave birth in prison and narrowly escaped a death sentence after refusing to renounce her Christian faith will speak at Southside Vineyard Community Church in Smithfield on March 11.

According to Amnesty International, a Shariah court in Sudan’s capital city of Khartoum convicted Meriam Ibrahim — also spelled Mariam Ibraheem -— of “apostasy” for refusing to follow Islam and “adultery” in 2014 for having married Daniel Wadi, a Sudanese Christian with American citizenship. Though Ibrahim’s Muslim father had been absent during her childhood, and she’d been raised as a Christian by her mother, the court deemed her Muslim by birth and argued her marriage to Wadi was invalid under Sudan’s version of Islamic law.

Ibrahim, now 34, was eight months pregnant when the court sentenced her to death by hanging for having refused after three days to renounce Christianity. The court also ordered she be flogged with 100 lashes for having married Wadi.

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Twelve days later, Ibrahim gave birth to her daughter, Maya, in her prison cell, her legs reportedly still shackled by heavy chains while she was in labor. Her son, Martin, then only a year old, had been incarcerated with her.

Her case prompted international condemnation after it made the news. Both convictions were overturned on appeal a month later. Ibrahim, her husband and their children were eventually allowed to leave for the United States. She now resides in the Norfolk area.

“I have met Meriam once,” said Southside Vineyard Pastor Matt Havens. “You don’t get to meet many people who have really been persecuted for the Lord. It’s a real honor to have her with us.”

The two connected via Eugene Bach, the co-author of her autobiography, “Shackled.”

Bach, a pseudonym for a member of the Chinese underground church, leads a missionary organization called Back to Jerusalem.

Havens had sought to bring one of Back to Jerusalem’s most prominent speakers, known as Brother Yun, to Southside Vineyard. He was turned down, but the organization offered to send Bach instead.

“We had him speak a year ago when he was in the area to meet with Meriam,” Havens said.

Later on in 2021, Havens accompanied Bach to Iraq to do missionary work among the nation’s Kurdish population.

Ibrahim’s lecture, which will take place at Southside Vineyard from 6:30-9 p.m., is part of a book tour up the East Coast that will include stops at a number of places of worship. The church is now located at 13390 Great Springs Road, having recently moved from its former location on Benn’s Church Boulevard.