A Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence arrived Thursday in the United States, where she was welcomed first by the mayor of Philadelphia as a "world freedom fighter" and later by cheering supporters waving American flags in New Hampshire.
Meriam Ibrahim flew from Rome to Philadelphia with her husband and two children, en route to Manchester, where her husband has family and where they will make their new home. Her husband, Daniel Wani, his face streaked with tears, briefly thanked New Hampshire's Sudanese community on his family's behalf and said he appreciated the outpouring of support.
She arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire, where she has relatives and where she was greeted by a crowd of people from the local Sudanese immigrant community who sang and handed her bunches of flowers.
“I can’t describe the feeling,” said her husband, Daniel Wani, who had traveled with Ibrahim and their two children from Rome, where the couple had been recovering after Ibrahim’s release by the Sudanese government.
“We are so tired,” Wani told reporters at Manchester airport. “The ordeal is over.”
Ibrahim smiled and waved to the crowd of about three dozen supporters, but she did not speak publicly.
Since leaving Sudan after her sentence and detention triggered international outrage, Ibrahim had been in Rome, where she met with Pope Francis along with her husband and two children.
She first touched down in the United States at Philadelphia International Airport, where she briefly met with that city’s mayor, Michael Nutter.
“It’s very clear she is a tremendously strong woman,” Nutter told reporters after greeting Ibrahim and giving her family a toy version of the Liberty Bell, one of the city’s historic artifacts. “Ibrahim is a world freedom fighter.”
Ibrahim, 27, was sentenced to death in May on charges of converting from Islam to Christianity and marrying a Christian South Sudanese-American.
Her conviction was quashed in June, but Sudan’s government accused her of trying to leave the country with falsified papers, preventing her departure for the United States.
Renouncing the Islamic faith is punishable by death under many countries’ interpretation of Islamic law.