Saudi Arabian officials have sentenced two men to flogging and prison for helping a women convert to Christianity and escape the country.
The uproar started last summer when a video clip surfaced showing a young woman in a hijab relating to an Arabic Christian TV host how she converted to Christianity after Jesus came to her in a dream. She is the first Saudi Arabian woman to publicly convert to Christianity.
“I have quit the darkness of Wahhab Islam and entered the light of Christianity,” Maryam said calmly to the camera. “I dreamt that I needed to do this. Jesus Christ came to visit me in my dream and gave me the name of Maryam.”
To counter the claims that anyone in Saudi Arabia would choose would leave Islam, the media portrayed her as a Muslim coerced and kidnapped by two men she worked with at an insurance company. They were arrested last year after Maryam’s father filed a complaint against them for influencing his daughter.
One was her boss, a Lebanese Christian man sentenced to 300 lashes with a whip and six years in prison for encouraging her to leave Islam. The other was a Saudi man sentenced to 200 lashes and two years in prison for helping her leave the country. Maryam’s parents claimed their daughter was the “victim of an international organization trafficking in people,” according to Gulf News.
Maryam has fled to Sweden to escape the death penalty, Saudi Arabia’s punishment for apostasy.
The country operates on a strict form of Sharia law and does not allow any faith besides Islam. In 2010, the U.S. State Department said that in Saudi Arabia “freedom of religion is neither recognized nor protected under the law and is severely restricted in practice.”
Suzan Johnson Cook, the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom, will travel to Saudi Arabia later this month, according to Fox News. Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., told the cable network he hopes she will speak up for the men: “Freedom of religion is an internationally recognized human right. The Obama administration should speak out on this case and urge the Saudis to release these two men.”
In the video, Maryam encourages others who are questioning their faith: “There are many lost souls who don’t know what to do about their religion, they don’t like where they’re at but are afraid to change their religion. I encourage you to just ask God. Ask Christ, He is going to come to you. He will appear to you in a dream or He will come to you in a vision. It has happened to so many people.”