By TERENCE P. JEFFREY
(Editor’s Note: Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of CNSnews.com. To find out more about him, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com. All rights reserved.)
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As of this writing, Meriam Ibrahim sits shackled in the cell in the Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison in Sudan that she shares with her two babies, Martin and Maya.
This is the family of an American citizen — being persecuted for their Christian faith by a foreign government.
How did they end up in a Sudanese prison? Meriam’s husband is Daniel Wani, a naturalized U.S. citizen, who, according to the Manchester Union Leader, moved from Sudan to New Hampshire in 1998. He was naturalized in 2005. In December 2011, according to the Daily Mail, he and Meriam were married in a Christian church in Sudan.
Their son, Martin, was born 20 months ago in Sudan. Their daughter, Maya, was born last week in the Omdurman prison.
Meriam, who is 27, was raised as a Christian in Sudan by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Her father, a Muslim, reportedly abandoned the family when Meriam was six.
In Sudan, the children of Muslim fathers are not allowed to be Christians — no matter what their hearts, minds, and souls tell them. Freedom of conscience does not exist.
On May 15, a Sudanese court convicted Meriam of “apostasy” because she refused to renounce her Christianity and become a Muslim. For this “crime,” the Sudanese court sentenced her to death.
The court also convicted Meriam of “adultery” — for her relationship with her own husband — because Sudan refuses to recognize the marriage of a Christian man to a Muslim woman. For this “crime,” the court sentenced her to be flogged before she is hanged.
Martin is in jail with his mother because Sudan considers him to be a Muslim, too, and will not release him to his Christian father.
Sudan will allow Meriam to nurse the infant Maya in prison for two years — then it will hang Meriam.
Meriam has demonstrated a saintly courage. Daniel recounted for the Mail a conversation she had with him when he was allowed to visit her in prison.
“If they want to execute me then they should go ahead and do it because I’m not going to change my faith,” she told her husband. “I refuse to change. I am not giving up Christianity just so that I can live. I know I could stay alive by becoming a Muslim and I would be able to look after our family, but I need to be true to myself.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron has personally spoken out in defense of this wife of a U.S. citizen.
“The way she is being treated is barbaric and has no place in today’s world,” Cameroon told the Times of London. “Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right. I urge the government of Sudan to overturn the sentence and immediately provide appropriate support and medical care for her and her children. The UK will continue to press the government of Sudan to act.”
What has President Barack Obama personally said about the plight of U.S. citizen’s family? So far, nothing. What has Secretary of State John Kerry personally said? So far, nothing.
Spokespersons at the White House and the State Department have made statements, but not the president or the secretary of state.
Daniel Wani told the Mail that the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum has not been helpful to him.
“They said, ‘Well, your wife isn’t American, so we can’t help’,” Wani said. “I felt disgusted. My home is in America, and still they won’t help. It’s getting uglier, and it’s not going in the right direction.”
“I have provided wedding documents and the baby’s birth certificate, but this is clearly not enough,” he said. “It’s very upsetting that they don’t believe me.”
Wani said the embassy wanted DNA evidence to prove his son was his son.
“They want me to take a DNA sample in Khartoum, then send it to the U.S. for testing,” Wani told the Mail. “It’s as if they don’t believe a word I say.”
Citing the Privacy Act, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki initially declined to concede that Daniel Wani was a U.S. citizen. Then Wani signed a Privacy Act waiver and Psaki stated that he was a citizen, but would not concede that his children Martin and Maya are also citizens.
“We don’t have all the information we would need in this case,” she said.
The administration appears to be playing hardball with Daniel Wani when it comes to establishing the citizenship of his children, but softball with the Sudanese government when it comes to protecting those children and their mother.
Perhaps the administration has been working intensely behind the scenes to free this family and is wary of saying something publicly that would hurt rather than help the cause. That would be understandable.
Or perhaps working out the deal to free five Taliban prisoners was more important to this administration than working to free the family of an American citizen imprisoned because they are Christians.