Thursday, June 12, 2014

Is Meriam Ibrahim A Modern-Day Perpetua or Felicity?

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim is the Sudanese woman sentenced to death in her native country of Sudan for having married a Christian.  Though Meriam professes Christianity, the government claims that because her father was Muslim, Meriam is a Muslim and therefore she's violated the (Muslim) faith by marrying a Christian.   The account of her husband, Daniel Wani, is, meanwhile, a bit confusing.  Apparently a Sudanese, he's variously described as being a U.S. citizen, a lawyer, living in the United States and here it states he's in a wheelchair and dependent on Meriam for everything.

Viewed from a Western, 21st century perspective, the story is hard to believe, bordering on the unimaginable especially when one considers that Meriam was sent to prison for her so-called crime of apostasy while 8 months pregnant, is in prison with her 20-month old son, is to be given 100 lashes and put to death by hanging.  Is it the 21st century or the 11th, 2014 or 1014?  Or is it perhaps 203 A.D.

The Future Victims of the Colosseum
Henryk Siemiradzki
That's the year Roman Emperor Septimius Severus ordered a group of Christians fed to wild beasts if they would not denounce their Christian faith.  Among them was Vivia Perpetua, then 22 with an infant son (Meriam is 27 with a young son), along with a slave, Felicity, who was pregnant when imprisoned and gave birth to a daughter in prison (as did Meriam).  Perpetua and Felicity, both young mothers, steadfastly professed their faith though gored and bloody. That they endured this most horrific of deaths in a Carthaginian amphitheater is a painful reminder of their astonishing courage and faith. Such martyrdom may or may not be in store for Meriam and I don't know that she's a Catholic, but regardless hers is a modern-day tale suggesting that the Christian persecution and heroism of darker times cannot be relegated to the ash heap of history.

The story of Perpetua and Felicity is easily accessible, but I read a particularly thoughtful account in a little book called Married Saints by John Fink.  You may find more here and perhaps here where you might also take a look at the author's book.

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