In The News
Khartoum, Sudan—After refusing to renounce her Christian faith this week, a Sudanese woman was sentenced to death by hanging. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a 27-year-old doctor, was convicted of apostasy, or renouncing the Muslim faith, even though she was raised as a Christian.
Ibrahim’s father was a Muslim but left the family when she was 6. Her mother raised her as a Christian, but she’s considered a Muslim in the eyes of Sharia law, which Sudan imposes on Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Because Ibrahim married a Christian man, she was also convicted of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes. Now eight months pregnant, she’s being detained in prison with her 20-month-old son. Her execution will reportedly be carried out when her younger child turns 2.
The court gave Ibrahim three days to renounce Christianity, even providing a Muslim scholar to try to convince her to do so. But she said, “I am a Christian, and I have never been a Muslim.”
Daniel Wani, the woman’s husband, hasn’t been allowed to visit his wife and son. “I’m so frustrated,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. I’m just praying.”
Organizations that monitor religious freedom say Sudan is one of the most difficult countries in which to be a Christian. Christians have been arrested for sharing their faith, have had their property seized, and have had their churches destroyed. Sharia law punishes acts of “indecency” and “immorality” by floggings and amputations.
Amnesty International called Ibrahim a prisoner of conscience and demanded her release. Manar Idriss, the organization’s Sudan researcher, called the case “a flagrant breach of international human rights law.”
Idriss said other people in Sudan have been sentenced to death for apostasy, but until now, they’ve all opted to renounce their faith. Ibrahim is the first to hold her ground.
Sources: cnn.com, nbcnews.com, christianitytoday.com, amnesty.org
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Discussion Starters for Student Small Groups
How do you feel about what’s happening to Ibrahim—and about the stand she’s taking? Why do you suppose she’s willing to face death when she was given a chance to live?
If you were a fellow Christian in Sudan, what would you want Ibrahim to do, and why? How about if you were her husband or another family member? Would you rather have a loved one stand true to his or her faith even if that means being killed? Explain.
If Ibrahim had renounced her faith under duress to avoid a death sentence, would she have been any “less” of a Christian in God’s eyes? in people’s eyes? in her own eyes? Explain.
Why do you suppose there’s such hostility toward the Christian faith in some countries? Do you think Christianity is a threatening belief system? Why or why not?
Why do you think Muslim law takes such a strong stand against immorality? Do you think American society takes too lenient of a stand against immorality? Why or why not? How might our society be different if people faced physical punishment for their moral failings?
In what ways do you consider it challenging to be a Christian in America? How have you been “persecuted” for your faith? What do you think it would be like to be a Christian in a country such as Sudan?
What can American Christians do to help their fellow believers who are facing persecution in other nations? Is there anything you can do for them besides pray? If so, explain.
How much do you value your right to believe what you want? What do you think you’d do if freedom of religion were taken away from you?
Have you ever been in a position where you were pressured to renounce any of your beliefs? If so, how did you decide what to do?
Scripture links: Daniel 3:13-30; Luke 12:4-5; John 15:18-21; Philippians 1:12-14, 20-24; 2 Timothy 3:10-15; and 1 Peter 4:12-16.