WASHINGTON – “God is good.”
With those words, a beaming Meriam Ibrahim, a 27-year-old Sudanese woman who became an international symbol of religious persecution, delivered a speech to 500 people at the Values Voter Summit Saturday night. Her words were spoken in halting and broken English, but the audience at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in northwest D.C. heard them. The crowd clapped, whistled, and cheered its approval. To Ibrahim’s left was her wheelchair bound husband, Daniel.
Ibrahim described her captivity in a jail cell in the country’s capital of Khartoum. The daughter of a Christian mother and Muslim father, Ibrahim had been imprisoned and given a death sentence for allegedly apostasizing from Islam. She said the most difficult episodes were the visits of her husband to see her and the couple’s young son, Martin. Prison rules proscribed the visits to no more than 10 minutes. “Martin wanted to go with (Daniel) after the time limit was up, and I could do nothing to help him,” Ibrahim said. “I am not a criminal. The Lord is with us.”
Ibrahim gave birth to a daughter, Maya, while in shackles, according to media reports. Religious and political leaders, including Pope Francis, urged Sudanese officials to release her. In July, they got their wish after Ibrahim reunited with her husband, an American citizen. The couple lives in New Hampshire with their two children.
Ibrahim thanked many people who worked to secure her release, including Reps. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). She also praised God.
“We must believe in the Lord and follow him with all of your steps because he loves us,” she said before ending her 10-minute speech with one last spiritual exhortation. “Be strong and the Lord will be with you.”
Ibrahim’s speech after 10 p.m. EST was the next to last of the evening. It capped a two-day event that saw Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky vie for the support of conservative Christian activists and leaders for the 2016 presidential election.
Earlier in the program, speakers described the reasons that led to Ibrahim’s release.
Tina Ramirez, the president and founder of Hardwired, Inc., said her Virginia-based organization helped organize the five Muslim lawyers who secured Ibrahim’s release. Also, Ramirez gave credit to Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, the host of the three-day event. “Tony was at the forefront of getting media attention to her cause,” Ramirez said, adding that international journalists applied pressure on the Sudanese government to release Ibrahim.
Earlier this month, Ibrahim told Fox News that officials at the U.S. Embassy in Sudan “refused to deal with her,” but she said Ambassador Jerry Lanier, the U.S. Charge D’Affairs to Sudan, helped secure her release.
After Ibrahim’s speech, several officials appeared on stage with her, including Smith, Meadows, and Perkins. Smith, chairman of a human-rights subcommittee in House Foreign Affairs, in an interview before her speech called Ibrahim was a “model of courage and heroism.”
According to its website, the Values Voter Summit provides a forum "to help inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong."
Mark Stricherz covers Washington for Aleteia. He is author of Why the Democrats are Blue.