What does it feel like to give birth in a prison cell under a death sentence with your ankles shackled and your toddler son nearby? Mariam knows. What does it feel like to face execution by hanging for allegedly violating Sharia law? Mariam knows. What does it feel like to take a costly stand and to be willing to die for your faith? Mariam knows.
You have heard the compelling story. Although Mariam Ibraheem had always been a Christian, she was charged by a Sudanese Sharia court with apostasy and adultery for marrying an American Catholic man and for allegedly converting from Islam. She was three weeks pregnant when she was imprisoned in January 2014. Initially, she was given three days to convert to Islam. Imams visited her and put tremendous pressure on her to convert or die. If she converted, they would set her free.
Mariam recently told Fox News’ Megan Kelly in a moving interview, “The situation was difficult, but I was sure that God would stand by my side. I relied only on my faith and I knew that God would stand by me at any time in any situation.” When asked how difficult it was to stand by her faith in a Sudanese prison, she responded, “I had my trust in God. My faith was the only weapon that I had in these confrontations with Imams and Muslim scholars, because that’s what I believed.”
Kelly then asked, “But why not just say what they wanted to hear to save your life?” Ibraheem replied, “If I did that that would mean that I gave up. It’s not possible because it’s not true. It’s my right to follow the religion of my choice. I’m not the only one suffering from this problem. There are many Mariams in Sudan and throughout the world. It’s not just me, I’m not the only one.” When asked if she believed she would be killed, she responded, “Faith means life. If you don’t have faith, you’re not alive.” Kelly responded, “Wow.”
Indeed Mariam isn’t the only one. Many of our dear brothers and sisters in other parts of the world like Iraq and Sudan have been courageously answering that question with their tears and with their blood. Let us remember to pray for the persecuted church.
But, what about me? What about you? Can we honestly say, like Mariam, that our faith is so dear and precious to us that it is our life? Or is my faith more like a convenient add-on to my otherwise me-centered existence? Is God the central reality of my existence, around which all other reality orbits? Or is my faith more like a belt or purse – a spiritual accessory that I can conveniently put on and take off while enjoying my otherwise comfortable and narcissistic American middle class life? Would I be strong enough? Would my faith be steadfast and immovable if I were in prison under a death sentence for my belief in Jesus? If we rightly fear God, we will not wrongly fear any man!
God does not promise to carry us to heaven on comfy and cozy beds of ease. Nor does He promise us that we will not face opposition and persecution because of His Son. In fact, He promises it and tells us not to be surprised. As the cultural pressure against American Christianity grows we may, sooner than we think, face situations like Mariam and other brothers and sisters are enduring across the globe. The question is: Will we compromise what we know to be true or will we stand firm? Authentic Christian faith is robust and strong, like Mariam’s, fueled by Holy Spirit power. It endures the cultural pressures to conform and the varied tests of affliction. May God grant us the strength, by the power of His Holy Spirit, to stand firm and remain bold, courageous, and steadfast as pressure grows against biblical Christianity and as our faith is increasingly tested like Mariam’s!
Broyles is a constitutional attorney serving as the President of The National Center For Law & Policy (NCLP), an organization fighting to promote and defend religious freedom.
Copyright© The National Center For Law & Policy. Reprinted with permission.