Meriam Ibrahim of Sudan carries one of her children as she arrives with Lapo Pistelli, Italy's vice minister for foreign affairs, holding her other child, Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, left, and his wife Agnese, second from left in green, after landing at a Rome airport July 24. The Sudanese woman, who was spared a death sentence for converting from Islam to Christianity and then was barred from leaving Sudan, left Italy on July 31 on a flight for the United States where she plans to build a new life. CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters

Meriam Ibrahim leaves Italy for new life in New Hampshire

By  Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service
  • July 31, 2014

ROME - Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith and then spared after an international campaign, left Italy on July 31 on a flight for the United States, where she plans to build a new life.

Ibrahim, who met Pope Francis on the first day of her week-long stay in Rome, boarded an American Airlines flight bound for Philadelphia with her husband, Daniel Wani, and their two young children.

The 26-year-old and her family are expected to join Wani’s brother, Gabriel, and his wife and three children in Manchester, N.H., where they run the non-profit organization South Sudan Community of New Hampshire.

Ibrahim arrived in Rome last week after a nearly year-long ordeal that spawned intense diplomatic efforts by the Italian government, U.S. lawmakers and the Vatican. She was forced to give birth to her two-month-old baby girl, Maya, while shackled in a prison cell in Khartoum in May.

Antonella Napoli, president of Italians for Darfur, said Ibrahim hopes to write a book about her life.

“I am a little afraid to be leaving Rome,” Napoli said Ibrahim told her. “I have learned how to live again and now I do not know what to expect, but we are all together.”

After being welcomed by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi last week, Ibrahim and her family were hosted by the interior ministry and given police protection while they awaited passage to the United States, Napoli said.

Napoli said the family had visited Rome tourist attractions, including the Colosseum and the Pantheon, and attended Mass last Sunday at St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, a famous Rome basilica.

Sudanese authorities accused Ibrahim of apostasy and sentenced her to the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity. She insisted she never converted but was brought up a Christian, although her father, who left the family when she was very young, is a Muslim.

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