Christian family flees to US amid prosecution, death threats for conversion

Nada and Hamouda
Nada and Hamouda | ADF International

A Sudanese family that faced severe persecution for their Christian faith has been given refuge and will celebrate their first Christmas in the safety of the United States.

Nada and Hamouda, a married couple, along with their children, escaped a dire situation in the Arab Muslim country of Sudan, where they were criminally prosecuted and threatened with death for converting to Christianity.

In Sudan, despite the decriminalization of apostasy in 2020, Christian converts like Nada and Hamouda continue to face harsh persecution, says the legal advocacy group ADF International, which is representing the couple.

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The couple was charged with "criminal adultery" after their marriage was declared invalid due to their conversion. This charge was a direct consequence of their faith conversion in recent years, highlighting the ongoing challenges faced by Christian converts in Sudan.

ADF International represented Nada and Hamouda in the Sudanese courts. However, the trial revealed the immediate and life-threatening risks to the couple, the group says. Collaborating with the Shai Fund and Ambassador Services International, the group successfully orchestrated the family's escape to the U.S.

Kelsey Zorzi, director of advocacy for global religious freedom at ADF International, expressed relief and joy over the family's safety.  

"We are overjoyed that Nada, Hamouda, and their children are now able to practice their faith without fear for their lives," Zorzi said. "While both international and Sudanese law protect Nada and Hamouda's right to freely choose and live out their faith, it's clear that Christian converts in Sudan continue to face severe threats and hostility from the government and community."

The couple's ordeal began with Hamouda's conversion to Christianity in 2018, followed by Nada's in 2021. Their conversions led to the dissolution of their marriage by a sharia court, as it was deemed unlawful for a Muslim woman to be married to a Christian man. This ruling paved the way for the baseless adultery charges against them.

The situation was fraught with danger, as explained by Zorzi in a video posted online Wednesday.

Winning the court case could have led to their death at the hands of Nada's brother, who had vowed to kill them. Losing the case could have resulted in a death sentence from the state, Zorzi said. This dire situation necessitated their urgent relocation to the U.S.

Nada and Hamouda had known each other since childhood. Three years after they were married, Hamouda became a Christian, shocking Nada and her family. At first, Nada was angry with her husband's conversion and was urged by her family to leave him. 

"My family forsook me and even my tribe hated me," Hamouda said in the video. "Indeed, I was very sad because they divorced me from my wife and took my children. ... But I stayed committed to Christ." 

After three years of separation, Nada became a Christian and reunited with Hamouda. Two weeks later, her brother reported them to the authorities. They were jailed and threatened with execution. 

One of Hamouda's friends from church connected him with two lawyers affiliated with the ADF International alliance. 

"After months of hearings, it became clear that if we lost the case, the punishment they would face could result in death," Zorzi said. "And if we won the case, Nada's brother had vowed publicly to kill them himself."

The plight of Christian converts in Sudan remains a significant concern. Christians, who make up only 4.4% of Sudan's 44.6 million population, face various forms of discrimination and violence.

According to Open Doors' 2023 World Watch List, Sudan is ranked as the 10th worst country when it comes to Christian persecution. Christian women and girls, especially converts, are particularly vulnerable to rape, forced marriage and domestic violence. They are often denied inheritance rights and, if married, are forcibly divorced from their husbands.

Although the transitional government put in place following the ousting of former President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir in April 2019 undid some sharia provisions, a coup in Oct. 2021 led to a tenuous power-sharing agreement that advocates feared would reverse religious freedom advancements. 

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