Gradye Parsons, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on May 26 on behalf of pastors Yat Michael Ruot and Peter Yein Reith, members of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church who are imprisoned in Sudan.
“We would be extremely grateful if the U.S. government would use its networks to find out more about these pastors’ situations and to employ every means at your disposal to urge the government of Sudan to ensure that their human and civil rights are not violated,” wrote Parsons.
Ruot and Reith were last seen on June 3 and their latest court hearing was scheduled for June 15. The pastors were captured and detained by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on charges of violating the Sudanese Constitution and alledged espionage.
In the letter, Parsons informs the President of the events occurring in Sudan. He requests help from the U.S. government to ensure the well-being of Ruot and Reith.
"Our partner churches in Sudan and South Sudan have asked us to do what we can to secure the protection and release of the Revs. Yat Michael and Peter Yen and to promote respect for religious freedom in Sudan," the letter continues. "We know that you share our concerns for religious freedom around the globe. We urge you to use the resources at your disposal to ensure that the rights of these pastors are respected fully."
Parsons' letter to the Obama administration is one of over 60,000 letters written by Christians in the U.S. in 2015, requesting government action be taken on behalf of Sudan. In April 2014, Obama published a letter in the Federal Register that the Republic of South Sudan is a national emergency. The letter advised American citizens against the risks of traveling in Sudan without the assistance of the U.S. embassy.
“The situation in and in relation to South Sudan, which has been marked by activities that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan and the surrounding region, including widespread violence and atrocities, human rights abuses, recruitment and use of child soldiers, attacks on peacekeepers, and obstruction of humanitarian operations, continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” wrote Obama.
The offenses charged against these two pastors are often apprehended by Sudan’s government with capital punishment or life imprisonment. Ruot was arrested after preaching a Sunday sermon nearby Khartoum on Dec. 2014 and Reith was arrested for inquiring about Ruot to Khartoum’s Office of Religious Affairs on Jan. 2014. They were kept from having access to legal representatives and were not allowed to see any visitors after being moved to a maximum security prison in North Khartoum.