The wait is nearly over in a close-knit Manchester, New Hampshire, community with ties to South Sudan.
Mariam Yehya Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan because of her faith, arrived in Rome on Thursday with her husband Daniel Wani, an American citizen who has lived in Manchester, the baby girl she gave birth to while in prison, and her toddler son. The family, which met with Pope Francis in Vatican City, is expected to the travel to the United States.
“I was crying,” Gabriel Wani said of the predawn phone he received from his brother Daniel the other day. “He said they were coming to New Hampshire. This is his place now.”
The family’s plight has long been a topic of prayer meetings and Sunday sermons, dinner-table talk and pleas to members of Congress from people in a city that has learned to embrace newcomers. Since Thursday, southern Sudanese people have been stopping by Gabriel Wani’s home in Manchester, where he lives with his wife and their three daughters, with words of support.
“A lot of people have been waiting for them,” Wani said. “The whole community wants to welcome them.”
In 1998, Daniel Wani, his brother Gabriel and sister Mary were among the first southern Sudanese refugees to resettle in Manchester.
Manchester — with a population of about 110,000, the largest city in northern New England — has long served as a resettlement site for refugees from dozens of countries who have been scattered throughout the United States by the State Department.
Since the late 1990s, more than 500 people from what is now South Sudan were resettled in New Hampshire, the majority of them in Manchester, according to refugee advocates.
Newcomers included southern Sudanese children taken as slaves during the country’s most recent civil war along with a handful of the thousands of orphaned and displaced children, known as the “Lost Boys,” who trekked hundreds of miles to neighboring countries to escape the violence.
SOURCE: Ray Sanchez