Update: The BBC reports that Sudanese authorities have said they will release Meriam Ibrahim "in a few days". The move follows international condemnation of the decision to execute the 27-year-old mother for apostasy.

Save Meriam said the front-page banner headline in The Times last Friday. 

Almost the entire page is devoted to the story of the young mother who has just given birth to her second child whilst in chains in a Sudanese prison. Guards at the women's prison in Khartoum refused to release her whilst she gave birth to a daughter.

"Appalling, horrific, inhuman are all adjectives we might use to describe this atrocity, but 'unprecedented' should not be among them."

Meriam Ibrahim is 27 years of age. She already has a son living wi-her in prison while she awaits her execution-which will likely be carried out within two years.

Her crime? She refused to renounce the religious fai-wi-which she grew up as the daughter of a Christian mother.

Meriam's father is a Muslim a-according to the interpretation of the Koran favoured by Sudanese courts-she should consider herself a Muslim.

This despite the fact that she was raised a Christian - she lived wi-her mother - a-has never professed to be anything else. She is married to a Christian man-Daniel Wani-an American citizen whose physical disability means that he would face huge difficulties in caring for his children were the court's ultimate sentence to be carried out.

The only reason the court has delayed the dea-penalty for two years is to allow Meriam time to nurse her child. If this was intended as a sign of the court's humanity-it has failed miserably.

Sudan professes-in its constitution no less-to protect freedom of religion. This pledge is obviously not wor-the paper it is written on. International condemnation is the only thing even remotely likely to prevent Meriam's death.

Appalling-horrific-inhuman are all adjectives we might use to describe this atrocity-but 'unprecedented' should not be among them.

Figures published by the Pew Research Center"s Forum on Religion a-Public Life-show that religious persecution is on the rise throughout mo-of the world.

The report measured bo-institutional - i.e. government - restrictions on religious fai-plus acts of social hostility perpetrated in the name of religion-between 2006 a-2009.

It fou-that restrictions on religious beliefs a-practices rose in 23 of the world"s 198 countries - including a very small number of European nations. It decreased in only 12 countries a-remained essentially unchanged in 163 countries.

The report added that more than 2.2 billion people " 32 per cent of the world"s population " live in countries where government restrictions or social hostility on the basis of religion rose substantially over the three-year period.

Only one percent of the world"s population live in countries where government restrictions or social hostilities declined.

Meriam has enjoyed nothing like the benefits of due legal process a-the blatant inhumanity of her degradation is provoking outcries from human rights campaigners a-political a-religious leaders.

"Along with repulsion at the way Meriam is being treated, comes the awful realisation that there will surely be hundreds or thousands of similar cases about which we will hear nothing."

From the moment her story first hit social media networks a week ago, it was met with strong reactions from people of many faiths and none.

Along with repulsion at the way Meriam is being treated, comes the awful realisation that there will surely be hundreds or thousands of similar cases about which we will hear nothing.

Even in the age of ubiquitous social media, the era of citizen reporters whose witness to crimes can sometimes bear instant and widespread fruit, we simply can't see everything.

While Sudan locks itself in the middle ages, Pakistan also faces condemnation for the death of a pregnant woman who was publicly stoned by her relatives and onlookers.

Farzana Parveen had committed the apparently unpardonable sin of marrying a man of whom her father did not approve.

The details of the story are still murky but it appears that the husband may also have been involved in a murder - that of his first wife. Allegations also appeared today linking Farzana's family with the earlier murder of her sister.

Apparently, this kind of thing is not uncommon in parts of the country, where certain social classes consider themselves to be above the secular law.

Some would argue that the story is less about religion than that of Meriam Ibrahim. However, there's little doubt that the father and his community will use their religion to justify their crimes.

One thing is certain. Like the story of Meriam, it demonstrates that women are often the first to suffer when inhumanity is overlooked - or worse, condoned - by law.

'Honour killing' is a word that should be stricken from the public vocabulary in every country that makes any claim to being civilised. There is nothing even remotely honourable about murdering a woman in cold blood simply for choosing her own partner.

In an age that celebrates the recent lives and humanitarian achievements of Martin Luther King Jnr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and others, the march toward justice still faces a long and arduous road ahead.

Even if, in the face of injustices like these, the only weapons we have at our disposal are social media, letters to MPs and the like, we must not remain silent.

And, as the Pew figures suggest, we must not ignore the potential for inhumanity or religious persecution within our own region of the world.

Mal Fletcher





Mal Fletcher is a speaker, author, broadcaster and the founder/director of Next Wave International, a Christian mission to contemporary cultures with a special focus on Europe, and EDGES TV. Follow Mal's daily comment at twitter.com/malfletcher.Mal Fletcher's latest book Fascinating Times is available now. Reproduced with permission from www.2020plus.net. Copyright Mal Fletcher 2014.