The great news of Mariam Ibrahim’s arrival in Italy filled me with so much joy and elation.
The images of this graceful and beautiful African woman, babe in hand, stepping out of the plane was a sight to behold especially after her unspeakable pain and suffering in the Sudanese prison.
So I thought I should, in a very simple letter, write down my reflections and thoughts of gratitude for this resilient daughter of Africa whose freedom is being celebrated by the entire world today. On behalf of all African women, I thank you Meriam Ibrahim, for showing the world the indomitable courage that is at the core of authentic femininity. I say this because your pain and persecution were tied so firmly to your femininity. And so your triumph was a most powerful witness to life, to motherhood, to marriage, to love and to faith.
You are indeed a true picture of faith and virtue, a true symbol of strength and resilience. You are, in my humble opinion, a real woman of substance, an African woman of substance and your story fills my heart with courage and audacity in my own vocation to defend our African culture of life,marriage, motherhood, faith and family, no matter how difficult, no matter how shameful and no matter how painful for me.
For under intense persecution, you refused to deny your Christian faith. Under the threat of the extremists, you stood as a witness and a martyr. Under the pain of incarceration, you would not deny your husband or renounce your marriage. Under the heavy shackles of prison you still had the strength and defiance to give life , to give birth. Under the certainty of a death sentence you had the determination to nurse your precious little baby.
By your powerful example, the world has come to witness the resilience of a young African woman who in the worst conditions bore heroic witness to the virtues of faith, marriage, and motherhood. Your unspeakable struggles in the last few months have been a most radiant ray of light that has pierced through the darkest clouds to contradict a modern world that is telling us that faith means nothing, that religious freedom is not all that important, that marriage is whatever we want it to be, that motherhood should be a choice we make under the most conducive situations, that our babies should only be born at the most convenient of times.
You, my African sister, have become a lightening rod to the radical feminists of our times who repudiate and denigrate every virtue that you epitomize.
Within your body, you have borne the marks and scars of a true Christian,a wife, a mother and a martyr, and in this way you have shown us what it means to be an empowered and liberated woman, and I’m glad to say it is certainly not what the western radicals and ideologues are telling us. They try to tell us that for African women to be empowered, they need to be “sexually liberated”, selfish, individualistic and fiercely autonomous, but you Meriam , by your own example , have taught us that the liberated African woman is the woman who is free to live and practice her faith, love her husband , and protect her children (born and unborn). A liberated woman is a woman of faith and family. This is the truth that must be spoken throughout Africa.
Today, the world watched you as you breathed the fresh air of freedom and as you made your first stop, not at the Whitehouse, but rather at the House of St Martha (Casa Santa Marta) which is also the house of the Holy Father Pope Francis. Instead of the presidential handshake that many others would have craved first, you chose the papal handshake. And instead of the political reception you chose the apostolic benediction for you and your family. You chose the Pope over the POTUS!
You are a woman of great wisdom and strength and indeed Africa raises, praises and celebrates you.
We rejoice with you and for you. We rejoice that you are free at last. And out of our rejoicing, I pray that more women (from our Africa and from every corner of the world) will reflect deeply on your experience so as to emulate you.
I pray for women of faith to rise up and bear courageous witness even to the point of martyrdom.
I pray for women who are pregnant to choose life for their babies at all cost.
I pray for women who are wives and mothers to stay true to their vows and vocations.
I pray that beyond our global rejoicing, we would be adorned with even a portion of the heroic virtue of Meriam Ibrahim’s authentic feminism purified and forged in the fiery crucible of religious persecution.
First published by Culture of Life Africa. Published with much gratitude and in full with permission.