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Meriam Unshackled; Flies to Freedom After Long Wait

Contact: Jerry Dykstra, Media Relations Director, Open Doors USA, 616-915-4117, JerryD@odusa.org

SANTA ANA, Calif., July 24, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- The long, torturous wait is over.

According to BBC News, Christian mother Meriam Ibrahim and her family have flown from Sudan to Italy where they were met by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who declared a "day of celebration." She also met with Pope Francis.

Meriam had initially been sentenced to death by hanging by a Sudanese court after her refusal to renounce her faith and follow Islam. Following an international outcry, Meriam was released from prison in June. However, negotiations with the Sudanese government for her departure from Khartoum stalled. She was re-arrested. Later she was freed again and resided for more than a month in the U.S. embassy.

Dr. David Curry, President/CEO of Open Doors USA, states: "The news of Meriam's release is so very heartening and an answer to many prayers worldwide offered up to Jesus on her behalf. The challenge remaining is to eliminate violence and persecution against individuals for their faith.

"Women of Sudan and elsewhere should have the freedom to read the Bible if they so choose and decide for themselves what they believe. Thankfully, Meriam now has that freedom, but sadly the rest of Sudan's female population does not."

In May, Open Doors began an international advocacy campaign for Meriam.

Kristin Wright, Advocacy Director for Open Doors USA, says: "We are elated at the news of Meriam's arrival in Italy, and excited that she will soon be welcomed in the United States. We are incredibly grateful for partners and supporters who worked tirelessly for Meriam's freedom.

"For Meriam, this day marks the end of a long and difficult saga. We're so grateful that this courageous woman now has the opportunity to live in freedom. Today is truly a day of celebration."

Meriam, 27, who is a doctor, was accompanied to Italy by her husband Daniel Wani and their two children. Their daughter Maya was born in May in prison while Meriam was bound in chains. Wani, also a Christian, is from South Sudan and has U.S. citizenship.

Sudan is ranked No. 11 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. For more information on the list, go to www.WorldWatchList.us.

For almost 60 years Open Doors has worked in the world's most oppressive and restrictive countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ's light in these places. Open Doors empowers persecuted Christians in the areas of Bible and gospel development, women and children's advancement and Christian community restoration. Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.

(To set up an interview or for more information on Meriam, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email jerryd@odusa.org.)