St. Matthew's Catholic Cathedral near the Sudanese capital Khartoum. A Christian woman was sentenced to death for apostasy in the country this week. (Photo: ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim was sentenced to death today by a court in Sudan. Her crime? Apostasy. That is, the 26-year-old woman married a Christian man and allegedly renounced Islam.
Ibrahim's father is Muslim, but he left the family when Ibrahim was young, and she was raised Orthodox Christian by her mother. In the eyes of this Sudanese court, Ibrahim is therefore still considered Muslim — which makes marrying a Christian man against the law. She was sentenced on Sunday, but given until today to convert to Islam rather than face the penalty. Instead, she refused, telling the judge: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy."
Ibrahim was also convicted of adultery, since Islamic law prohibits women from marrying outside their religion, for which she was sentenced 100 lashes.
Ibrahim is pregnant with the couple's second child. They were married in 2011 and have a 20-month-old son. The sentence will reportedly not be carried out until two years after the child is born.
The sentencing has drawn much condemnation from the international community.
"The fact that a woman could be sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion, is abhorrent and should never be even considered,” said Amnesty International's Sudan researcher Mana Idriss in a statement. "It is flagrant breach of international human rights law."
About 50 people protested outside the courthouse in Khartoum in which she was sentenced, calling for her right to choose her religion. Those protestors were confronted by another group who supported the decision.
On Tuesday, the Sudan embassies of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands released a joint statement, saying: "We call upon the government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one's right to change one's faith or beliefs."