The woman who was jailed in Sudan for being a Christian finally arrived in the US tonight after her 10 month nightmare amid joyous scenes of jubilation. Meriam Ibrahim smiled and hugged her supporters as she landed in Manchester, New Hampshire and told a friend: ‘Don’t cry, I’m here now’. Friend Maria Ajang said: ‘She was so happy. She said: ‘I’m so happy to see you guys here’. ‘I was crying and she told me don’t cry, I’m here’.
Her husband Daniel Wani sobbed uncontrollably and said: ‘It’s good to be home. ‘There’s a sense of relief. ‘I want to thank everyone who helped get us home’. Meriam and Daniel walked into the baggage area at 8pm with his brother Gabriel holding their son Martin, 21 months, and a friend holding baby Maya, who was born whilst Meriam was in prison. A crowd of 30 people including a nun and a number of Sudanese women in traditional African dress turned out at welcome them home holding signs which read: ‘Welcome home Ibrahim family – God bless you’. Meriam hugged and shook them as they broke into chanting, tears streaming from their eyes.
Gabriel said: ‘Today is a beautiful day. ‘Before I was so stressed. Right now everything has been released. I’m so happy. ‘We are going to let them relax and put their suffering behind them.’ Lual Deng, president of the Sudanese community in New Hampshire, said: ‘We are really happy and excited. ‘We have been waiting a long time for this’.
Meriam and her family were shepherded through the airport via a baggage claim area that had been cleared specially for her. Police and security officers stood by as they walked down a walkway that had been roped off so they could get to the waiting cars. Family spokesman Matt Cookson said: ‘They are exhausted, both mentally and physically’. Friends said they planned to throw the family a big party to give them a proper welcome home.
Earlier, Ibrahim, who was imprisoned for apostasy after refusing to renounce her Christian faith, left Rome on Thursday on a flight bound for Philadelphia, according to the campaigner who secured her release. The mother-of-two, accompanied by husband Daniel, a U.S. citizen, and children Martin and Maya will then change planes to fly to New Hampshire, according to Antonella Napoli, director of Italians for Darfur. The family of four will start afresh in America in Manchester, the hometown of Daniel’s brother, Gabriel Wani.
They spent the previous week in Rome after being spirited out of Sudan in the dead of night on an Italian state aircraft. Meriam and baby Maya, who was born while her mother as shackled in prison, were blessed by Pope Francis who thanked her for her courage and praised her ‘courageous witness to faith’. The brave mother said she was a little anxious about the new start. Daniel, a trained chemist, lost his job while in Sudan supporting his wife through her ordeal in prison so they will be reliant on their extended family, at least at first.
The entire four will be cramped into Daniel’s one person apartment in Manchester. She said: ‘ I’m a bit scared to leave Rome. We have been very happy here. We have felt like a real family. ‘She said that they had toured the city as they waited for the final arrangements to be made for their travel, including an emotional trip to the ancient Roman amphitheatre where thousands of Christians were martyred for their faith.
They also prayed in one of the cities most famous churches, St Paul outside the walls. She said: ‘We saw the whole city, we went to the Colosseum, we went to mass on Sunday, and we went shopping. We returned to life. And now I don’t know what to expect but at least we will all be together. ‘Daniel was more confident. He said: ‘My brother will help us I’m sure and the Christian community in New Hampshire will be with us. The future is always unknown but I am optimistic.’
The quotes were relayed by the campaigner Antonella Napoli who saw the couple off at the airport. She said the visit to the the Colosseum ‘touched’ the courageous Christian but the entire family had been ‘moved by the welcome they had received in Rome’. The nightmare began a year ago when Meriam was accused of converting to Christianity, by relatives who allegedly wanted to take over her business.
When they arrive at the airport in New Hampshire they are set to be welcomed by the Sudanese and entire Evangelical community, as well as Daniel’s brother and his family.
God is ever so faithful!