Will Meriam Become the Next Contemporary Christian Martyr?

MeriamSilent No More

After spending the past four months shackled to the floor in a disease-ridden Sudanese jail with her 20-month-old son, Martin, Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian wife and mother, gave birth to daughter, Maya, five days early.

Meriam, 27, was sentenced to death by hanging after being found guilty of converting from Islam to Christianity and marrying a Christian man, U.S. citizen Daniel Wani, who lives in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Before the birth, Meriam made the defiant claim that she would rather die than give up her faith. According to the Daily Mail, “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 Daniel.

An Islamic Sharia judge said that Meriam could be spared the death penalty if she publicly renounced her faith and became a Muslim once more, but Meriam insists she has always been a Christian and told her husband she could not “pretend to be a Muslim” just to spare her life. “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.”

In 1998, Daniel escaped war-ravaged Sudan and traveled to America where he became a U.S. citizen. The biochemist, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, returned to Sudan to marry Meriam at a Christian service in 2011. Daniel traveled to Khartoum to arrange for Meriam and their 20-month-old son Martin to live with him in the U.S., but Meriam, who was pregnant with their second child, was arrested for adultery and apostasy and sentenced to be whipped and then hanged.

Meriam, a graduate of Sudan University’s school of medicine, told the court she was the daughter of a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Christian mother, but was raised as a Christian after her father left the family when she was six. Meriam produced a marriage certificate identifying her as a Christian, but the judge determined that because her father was a Muslim, she was a Muslim who had broken the law by leaving Islam. Meriam told the judge that her deceased Ethiopian mother had been born to Christian parents and had chosen to raise her in the same religion. Witnesses who were willing to give evidence on her behalf were barred from testifying because they were Christian.

The Sharia court has postponed her sentence to give her time to recover from childbirth and to wean the new baby. Her lawyer, Mohaned Mustafa Elnour, a Muslim, has received death threats for defending her, but he has already lodged an appeal. If he does not succeed at the Appeals Court, he will take the case to Sudan’s Supreme Court.

Governments, the UN and human rights groups have called on the Sudanese government to release Meriam and overturn both her death sentence and the sentence of 100 lashes. A petition calling for her release has reached more than 650,000.

“Religious freedom is worth fighting for!”

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The Supreme Court of the United States recently heard arguments on two cases regarding lawsuits against the HHS mandate: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius. Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, led prayers with other pro-life leaders and religious freedom advocates at a rally in front of the Supreme Court building in support of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods. At the same time, Planned Parenthood and others were rallying in favor of the HHS mandate.

According to Alveda C. King, the daughter of the late civil rights activist, the Reverend A.D. King, and niece of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the question of forcing employers with moral objections to the HHS mandate or pay penalties sounds like a socialist agenda: “This is an important question for human and civil rights advocates because much is at stake regarding the constitutional rights of religious freedom for every American.”

Alveda King joined Father Frank Pavone and Janet Morana from Priests for Life as parties to another HHS lawsuit—the third in a series filed against the mandate. This case involves infringement against the religious freedom of nonprofit companies. According to King, “The irony is that the HHS mandate seeks to force Priests for Life—an organization that teaches that contraception and abortions are dangerous, life-threatening and immoral—to pay for, directly or indirectly, the very injustice that we are fighting against.”

Those in favor of religious freedom pray that the U. S. Supreme Court will make the right decision and rule in favor of the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Woods case that the HHS mandate is unconstitutional. Those in favor of religious freedom pray also that the U.S. Supreme Court agrees that the Priests for Life case is of such “imperative public importance” that it will take up the case and give it a favorable ruling.

According to King, “These legal matters raise civil and human rights issues. It is an injustice to rule on the side of death-dealing agents such as carcinogenic fertility blockers. My uncle, Martin Luther King Jr., fought for civil rights over 50 years ago, and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act is coming up later this year. Yet in 2014, our government is working against our liberties. May God have mercy and help us, because constitutional rights, like civil rights, are worth fighting for!”

Alveda C. King is a civil rights and pro-life activist, as well as director of the African-American outreach for Priests for Life.

What’s Behind the UN Attack on the Church?

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“As faithful Catholics continue to contend with the United Nations report attacking the Church for her teachings on contraception, abortion, and homosexuality, it may be time to look closely at the real agenda at the United Nations. For more than two decades, the UN has dedicated itself to attempting to diminish the influence of the Church on life issues.

In an October 2013 Crisis article entitled, “Kicking the Church out of the UN,” Austin Ruse, the president of Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), suggests that the reason for the hostility directed at the Church is because the Church has obstructed the goals of the population control zealots at the UN. “Starting at the Cairo Conference in 1994, the Church has been able to block an international right to abortion…the Holy See has consistently handed the Catholics for Choice, the Norwegians, the United Nations Population Fund and all the other uglies at the UN defeat after defeat.”

Despite its non-voting status at the United Nations, the Holy See has stood as the major barrier to the UN goal of universal access to abortion and contraception for young girls and women throughout the world. While the Church was unable to convince all countries—including the United States—of the evils of abortion, the Vatican, as a sovereign state, continues to play an important role at the negotiating table in areas in which the Church has a stake in helping to ensure the right to life and the dignity of the person.

The UN has attempted to end that influence. In 1999, decrying the Vatican’s role in encouraging the United Nations to block funding for abortion services, Frances Kissling, then-president of Catholics for Choice—a group that claims to speak for pro-abortion Catholics, yet has no actual membership—began a campaign to remove the Vatican from the UN. A strong media presence and a letterhead funded by the abortion industry and pro-abortion organizations like the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, Operation See Change, as Kissling called her campaign against the Vatican, attempted to persuade the United Nations to revoke the Vatican’s status as a permanent observer.

The efforts to expel the Vatican continue today. Austin Ruse’s C-FAM recently announced that Catholics for Choice has re-launched its See Change Campaign demanding that the Vatican’s observer status be reduced to that of a non-governmental organization—barring Church officials from negotiations. And, as Ruse, who has a front row seat for the UN negotiations, writes: “a nasty Norwegian diplomat at the UN” who “frequently badmouths the Holy See” has suggested that it is time that the Holy See be expelled.

Perhaps it is now time for the Church—including the laity—to stand up to the bullying by the various committees of the United Nations—including the Committee on the Rights of the Child. It is time to expose the real agenda of the United Nations—most notably the UNFPA—to expand the lucrative contraceptive and abortion industry throughout the world, and remind others that the true protector of children remains the Catholic Church” (Anne Hendershott, Crisis Magazine).

Today’s Christian Martyrs

Silent No MorePope Francis

The persecution of Christians in contemporary society was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily at his Mass on Mardi Gras, Tuesday, March 4, the day before Ash Wednesday, in the Santa Marta residence. The pope said that “the world does not tolerate the divinity of Christ. It doesn’t tolerate the announcement of the Gospel. It does not tolerate the Beatitudes. And we have persecutions: with words, with insults, the things that they said about Christians in the early centuries, the condemnations, imprisonment….But we easily forget. We think of the many Christians, 60 years ago, in the labor camps, in the camps of the Nazis, of the communists: So many of them! For being Christians! And even today…But (people say) ‘today we are better educated and these things no longer exist.’ Yes they do! They are condemned for having a Bible. They can’t wear a crucifix.” Militant Islamism and communism are responsible for murdering Christians and persecuting Christianity, but the insults, the condemnations, and the censoring of religious speech that the Holy Father addresses stem from another source: militant secularism. According to Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, “They are the ones who seek to ban the public expression of religion, make movies that insult Catholicism, paint priests as molesters, ban Bibles from hotels, display vile anti-Catholic billboards, attempt to crash the St. Patrick’s Day parade, sponsor Catholic-bashing artistic exhibitions, force Catholic non-profits to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, and the like.” After hearing the Holy Father’s homily, I thought of one example of militant Islamism and one example of militant secularism that have appeared in the news in the past month: the hundreds of innocent Nigerian Christians who are being murdered today because of their faith, and the 2014 Oscar-nominated song, “Alone Yet Not Alone,” whose nomination was rescinded two weeks later because of a “questionable ruling.” In the end, it is as Pope Francis said, “Christian life is not a commercial advantage, it’s not making a career: It’s simply following Jesus! But when we follow Jesus this happens. Let’s think about if we have within us the desire to be courageous in bearing witness to Jesus. And let’s spare a thought — it will do us good – for the many brothers and sisters who today – today! – cannot pray together because they are persecuted: they cannot have the book of the Gospel or a Bible because they are persecuted.”