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5/31/15 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Two pastors from South Sudan will stand trial starting today in Khartoum, Sudan and could face the death penalty for their faith in Christ.

Yat Michael Ruot and Peter Yein Reith have been charged with undermining the constitutional code, waging war against the state, and spying. Under Sudanese law, these offenses carry the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison, according to their attorney. They also stand charged with inciting organized forces to complain and assaulting religious beliefs, which also carry prison sentences, if convicted.

Rev. Ruot was arrested December 21 when he visited Khartoum from Juba to preach at the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church. Rev. Reith was detained the next month when he was returning from a prayer meeting at the El Jereif West Bible School in Khartoum. His relatives said his arrest is connected to a letter he sent to the Office of Religious Affairs in Khartoum regarding Ruot’s jailing.

The arraignment three weeks ago was the first time the two pastors have appeared in court and been formally charged, according to sources. They appeared before a public prosecutor in March, which prompted them to begin a hunger strike on March 28 to protest their arrest.

Still, the pastor’s faith remains unshaken, confident God will provide for them in the midst of their persecution. “God will intervene and protect us even in prison despite the serious charges brought against us,” Ruot said. “Thank you all for your prayers and concerns for us over this long period of imprisonment.”

Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), is reportedly demanding $6,000 for each pastor to be released.

“This is nothing more than cold-blooded extortion to profit from the threat of execution of these Christians pastors,” said the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).

The agency that arrested the pastors, is notorious for persecuting Christians. NISS acts as President Omar al-Bashir’s weapon to advance his campaign of purging Sudan of ethnic and religious minorities. Bashir has long been accused of trying to create a Sudan that is fully Arabic and fully Islamic, and he is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Darfur. Many believe Ruot and Reith are in jail because they are black and Christian.

The United States Committee on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has designated Sudan as a “Country of Particular Concern.”

“The government of Sudan, led by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief. These violations are the result of President Bashir’s policies of Islamization and Arabization. The government of Sudan prosecutes persons accused of apostasy, imposes a restrictive interpretation of Shari’ah (Islamic law) and applies corresponding hudood punishments on Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and harasses the country’s Christian community,” the report said.

International Christian Concern’s advocacy work has been successful in Sudan in the past. On June 24, Meriam Ibrahim, who was sentenced to hang for blasphemy, was set free, largely due to the international attention her case attracted because of the press coverage and protests that ICC organized. ICC urges readers to pray for the speedy release of pastors Ruot and Reith and to call the Sudanese Embassy at 202.338.8565 to voice their concern.

ICC’s Regional Manager of Africa Troy Augustine said, “ICC condemns the unjust imprisonment of pastors Rout and Reith and calls for the Sudanese government to release them immediately. President Omar al-Bashir has repeatedly proven that he is an enemy of religious freedom and prime persecutor of Christians. His record of genocide and repression of religious minorities is deplorable and reveals his continued failure to rule justly.”

For interviews Please Contact Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for Africa:

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