The Christian convert from Islam who was sentenced to death for apostasy in Sudan and gave birth to her second child in prison has described how she secretly read the Bible while she was behind bars.
Another inmate who was a Muslim helped to keep her secret, hiding her Bible from the guards. Meriam Ibraheem was freed by a Sudanese court in 2014 after she was jailed and sentenced to death for converting to Christianity and marrying a Christian man.
She had been told that she would not be freed unless she renounced her faith but she refused to do this. Her son Martin, just 20 months old at the time, was jailed with her and her daughter Maya was born while she was in prison. Speaking to the Christian Post during an annual prayer night for the Persecuted Church held in Washington on Saturday, Ibraheem said it had been difficult to sleep at nights in prison. She would try and use her blanket to create a “soft place” for her son to sleep, and also stay awake to protect him from harm.
During the night, while awake, she would read her Bible. She had to hide it in the day. “I have to hide it with someone else, with one of the women I know.”
She had been sentenced to 100 lashes and to death, but it was a Muslim who helped her in prison. The woman would also watch over her son for her when she went to the bathroom.
The Bible was smuggled into prison by a guard who she paid to bring it in. The woman had asked her why she looked so peaceful when she read the Bible. Ibraheem told her: “This is the Bible. This is why I am in prison, because I believe what is in this book.”
Ibraheem was told that she could have been released for reciting the Muslim statement of faith, but she refused.
“I didn’t want to say that,” she said. “I am not going to lie. My kids are not going to respect their mom if I did something like that.” A nurse helped her give birth while she was in chains. It was a challenging task because of the danger the baby would hit her head on the metal.
“God blessed me with a good woman, the nurse, who was with me when I was delivering her. She had to take the chance and stay closer to my body because there was a chance that the shackle could hit [Maya’s] head and she had to pull her up like that. It’s hard.” Her daughter is in good health today, despite initial fears she would not be.
Ibraheem said this was down to Pope Francis, who prayed over the little girl when she was just six weeks old.
“After we met with the Pope and he blessed and touched her leg, a lot of change happened with her. At the time, her head looked big and her legs were small and not growing, I had to cover them,” she recalled. Ibraheem is now a human rights and religious freedom advocate in the US and has and launched her own charity, the Mariam Ibraheem Charitable Foundation, which raises awareness of persecution and helps women.