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Concern over Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag's death sentence in Sudan

WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit's letter to President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir about Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag's death sentence.

23 May 2014

Letter to President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir:

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the World Council of Churches, I write to communicate our profound concern regarding the case of Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag.

We were shocked and dismayed to learn that on 15 May 2014 a court sentenced Mrs Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag to death for apostasy. Though brought up as a Christian from childhood, she was accused of converting from Islam to Christianity, and of having committed adultery by marrying a man who is Christian.

Whether Mrs Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag was born of Muslim parents or Christian parents, such a sentence runs counter to the letter and spirit of the Sudanese Constitution, Article 38, which provides that ”every person “shall have the right to the freedom of religious creed and worship, and to declare his/her religion or creed and manifest the same, by way of worship, education, practice or performance, subject to requirements of the law and public order, no person shall be coerced to adopt such faith, that he/she does not voluntarily consent.”

In condemning Mrs Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, this ruling violates this fundamental principle of international human rights law embodied in Sudan’s own constitutional guarantees to all of its citizens. The egregiously unjust punishment imposed by the court affects not only Mrs Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag but also her young son – currently imprisoned with her – and her soon expected child.

I express my concern about this matter, in my role as general secretary of the World Council of Churches, against the background of the World Council of Churches’ close cooperation with Muslim brothers and sisters in working for justice and peace in numerous situations around the world.

I am asking you to use your presidential powers to prevent the implementation of this unjust and unconscionable sentence.

Sincerely yours,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary