One of the marvelous beauties of God’s providence is that he brings good out of evil, and in his mysterious workings in history he very often chooses for the task his “little ones” — people whom the world may regard as of little importance but who loom large in his eyes.
Consider the young Sudanese mother of two small children, Meriam Ibrahim. A 26-year-old Catholic woman who was imprisoned and given a death sentence on a charge of “apostasy” and sentenced to lashes on a charge of “adultery.”
We would consider it bad enough for government to punish apostasy and adultery at all, let alone with such harsh penalties. But the charges against Ibrahim do not even mean what we would understand those terms to mean. Ibrahim was charged with “apostasy” for not practicing a religion she never professed. She was considered in the eyes of the law a Muslim because her father was one, even though she was raised Christian.
Likewise, “adultery” doesn’t refer to a relationship outside her marriage but to her marriage itself. Since the law considered her Muslim, it considered her marriage to a Christian invalid.
Despite the impending threat of death — and despite giving birth to her second child in a Sudanese prison — Ibrahim refused to renounce her faith. And in God’s providence, her plight came to the attention of the world.
After international outcry and many prayers, and after additional harassment by the Sudanese government even after she was initially released, she was finally able to leave the country, after which she met Pope Francis, who thanked her for “her steadfast witness of faith,” in the words of the Vatican spokesman.
Her story, moving in itself, also puts a personal face on the suffering and persecution facing so many, in places around the world, notably in Iraq.
Ibrahim is indeed a steadfast witness of faith, and a woman of extraordinary courage.
There are existential questions we all face: Who am I? Why am I here?
But another is: For what would I be willing to die?
Here is a woman who would die for Jesus Christ, as have so many of our sisters and brothers down the centuries.
Pray for the suffering church.