As converts to Islam. Children must follow their father’s
As Hanifa Marwan walked down the
busy market streets of Khartoum, Sudan, she saw the love of her life for the
very first time. “I will never forget the day we met and how he kissed my
hand goodbye”, she said.
But in an extraordinarily conservative
country where Muslim women are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, their love
could never be. However, a Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman, but a
non-Muslim man may not marry a Muslim woman unless he converts to Islam. Children
must follow their father’s religion by law.
The 33 year-old, whose father was
Muslim, was convicted of apostasy after falling in love and having relations with
a non-Muslim man in Sudan. She faced being whipped a hundred times for the act
of committing ‘zina’ – meaning unlawful sex in Arabic – for engaging in sexual
relations with a non-Muslim man and received death threats from the community,
including her family.
In fear of Marwan’s life, her
beloved partner decided if he truly loved her, he had to let her go and consequently,
ended the relationship with Marwan to keep her safe. Nonetheless, this was not
enough to convince Marwan’s family and community that it was in fact over and she
still had to face being given the hundred lashes as punishment for her crime.
Marwan fled from potentially
brutal violence and death and ended up as an asylum seeker in the UK, before
being granted leave to remain. This status meant she was no longer eligible for
state benefits, but was challenging this decision. After leaving everything and
everyone behind, Marwan took to sleeping on the floors of churches and wherever
she could find a place, not knowing where she was going to be sleeping from one
night to the next.
A church made a referral to
Salford-based charity, Emmaus after finding her sleeping rough on the church doorstep.
Marwan spent six months at Emmaus, volunteering for the charity in return for a
safe and warm place to stay, with breakfast lunch and dinner served and help to
apply to colleges. “I was just happy to be alive”, she said.
Everything needed in a home is
provided and paid for, from electricity to TV licence. Emmaus provides help
with college, university, job and housing applications for the homeless and
rough sleepers, as well as helping them to integrate better into life in the UK,
access medical and social services, arranging English language and speaking lessons,
while supporting them towards future employment and learning to live
The charity opened in September 2014
and saw over sixty homeless people, known as companions in 2017 and over 700
people across all Emmaus communities across the country. They currently support
22 companions, 15 of which are men and seven women. Six people moved into their
own accommodation in the last year where they have been successful in living on
their own independently.