MANCHESTER, N.H. - A Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence arrived Thursday in the United States, where she was welcomed first by the mayor of Philadelphia as a "world freedom fighter" and later by cheering supporters waving American flags in New Hampshire.
Meriam Ibrahim flew from Rome to Philadelphia with her husband and two children, en route to Manchester, where her husband has family and where they will make their new home. Her husband, Daniel Wani, his face streaked with tears, thanked New Hampshire's Sudanese community on his family's behalf and said he appreciated the support.
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, Ala., touching off a bus boycott.
Nutter said it was only fitting Ibrahim landed first in Philadelphia, a city founded as a place open to all faiths. He gave her a small replica of the Liberty Bell, a symbol of American independence, which he said she understood.
"Meriam Ibrahim is a world freedom fighter," he said.
Ibrahim had been sentenced to death over charges of apostasy, the abandonment of a religion. 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.
Sudan initially blocked Ibrahim from leaving the country even after its highest court overturned her death sentence in June.
Manchester has been a magnet for immigrants and refugees for decades.