National News

Aug 1, 2014 6:18 PM by NBC News

Sudanese woman sentenced to death for her Christian faith is back on U.S. soil

(WHDH) A Sudanese woman who refused to deny her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence is back on U.S. soil.

Thursday night she landed in New Hampshire where her husband lives.

It was an emotional reunion for Meriam Ibrahim after a harrowing journey that captured the world's attention.

Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman once sentenced to hang for being a Christian, arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire with her husband Daniel Wani and their two children, where they will make their new home.

In tears, Wani said they were overjoyed.

"I can't describe it even if I say something, it's not enough," he said.

They arrived surrounded by family and supporters at the Manchester Airport.

"It's freedom. It's all about freedom, and that's what she's getting right now. She's getting freedom," Rosella Lewis, a family friend, said.

Ibrahim was first thrown into jail a year and a half ago after her family turned her in for abandoning Islam, a crime in Sudan.

Her daughter Maya was born while Ibrahim was shackled.

Supporters around the world called for her release and finally last week, after diplomatic negotiations, Ibrahim was allowed to go and taken to Rome where she was greeted by Pope Francis at the Vatican.

"She came from so far, she had struggled and to see that she met the Pope, it was a blessing for us to see that," Lewis said.

But it was hard to top Thursday night's homecoming at the end of an 18-month ordeal and the beginning of a new life.

"I'm so happy that they're home. It's been a long journey for them, but they're home," Lewis said.

Ibrahim and Wani said after a few days of rest they will have an even bigger celebration.

Meriam Ibrahim flew from Rome to Philadelphia with her husband and two children, en route to Manchester.

Earlier in Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter said people will remember Ibrahim along "with others who stood up so we could be free." He compared her to Rosa Parks, who became a symbol of the U.S. civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, touching off a bus boycott.

"Meriam Ibrahim is a world freedom fighter," he said.

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