The New Statesman’s rolling politics blog

RSS

We must stand up for Meriam Ibrahim and other persecuted Christians

The government must speak out firmly against her barbaric sentence and call on the Sudanese government to revoke it.

The government must speak out firmly against her barbaric sentence and call on the Sudanese government to revoke it.
St. Matthew's Catholic Cathedral near the Sudanese capital Khartoum. Photograph: Getty Images.

The plight of Meriam Ibrahim has outraged and shocked people across the world. Sentenced to death by hanging in Sudan simply for being a Christian, 27-year-old Meriam is a prisoner of conscience who has been specifically persecuted because of her faith.

Amnesty International has rightly described her sentence as "appalling and abhorrent" and their online petition calling for her release has already reached 154,000 signatures. Not only is her sentence abhorrent, but she has also been forced to suffer cruelty at the hands of the Sudanese authorities during her detention in jail.

Her current conditions in Omdurman prison near Khartoum are desperate. She is reported to have spent the past five months chained to the floor of her cell. Reports that she was shackled whilst giving birth this week show that her treatment, and the treatment of her young innocent children, has been both inhuman and cruel. Human Rights Watch claims the prison is "beset with overcrowding' and suffers from 'poor sanitation, disease and the deaths of many children living with their mothers."

Merian's plight is just one of a growing number of cases around the world of Christians being persecuted for their faith. She was raised as a Christian by her mother, and refuses to renounce her religion despite the offer from the Sudanese courts to withdraw her sentence if she does. It is vital that at these moments - when the world's attention is focused on such victims of persecution - politicians are not afraid to speak up and speak out against such attacks on innocent people because of their religious beliefs.

The Labour Party has asked British ministers to apply pressure to the Sudanese government to try and ensure her release, and it is vital that the UK government continue to speak out firmly against her barbaric sentence and to call on the Sudanese government to revoke it. The British government will continue have our full support in their efforts resolve this matter, and in speaking out more vocally on the issue of Christian persecution.

Indeed, this year the UK assumed its place on the UN Human Rights Council, and as part of that body the UK government now has a unique and timely opportunity to use this platform to speak up for religious freedom as a fundamental human right and speak out against the persecution of Christians worldwide.

Merian's case is a reminder of how significant a struggle this is, and just how urgent a task.