A Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence, which was later overturned, has left Europe for the United States, where she will make her new home.
The woman, Meriam Ibrahim, was due to arrive with her husband and their children in Philadelphia on Thursday on a flight from Rome, where last week they met privately with Pope Francis.
Blocked from leaving the country
Rev. William Devlin, a New York City pastor who has helped the family, said they would be flying onto Manchester, New Hampshire, about 50 miles (80 kilometres) north of Boston.
Meriam's husband, Daniel Wani, had previously lived in New Hampshire, where hundreds of southern Sudanese refugees have settled over the years. He had been granted US citizenship when he fled to the United States as a child to escape civil war, but he later returned and was a citizen of South Sudan.
Sudan initially blocked Ibrahim from leaving the country even after its highest court overturned her death sentence in June. At one point, the family took refuge at the US embassy in Khartoum.
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Devlin said Ibrahim expressed some sadness when he talked to her.
"She is leaving everything she knows behind," he said.
Magnet for immigrants
Ibrahim had been sentenced to death over charges of apostasy. Her father was Muslim, and her mother was an Orthodox Christian. She married Wani, a Christian from southern Sudan, in 2011. Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims. By law, children must follow their father's religion.
Manchester, with 110,000 people, is northern New England's largest city and has been a magnet for immigrants and refugees for decades. There are about 500 Sudanese living in the city just north of the Massachusetts state line.
A small gathering is planned at the airport tonight, said Gabriel Wani, Ibrahim's brother-in-law. He spoke to his brother and said the family is doing well.
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