Time is running out for two Christian pastors facing a possible death penalty in Sudan, the American Center for Law and Justice is warning as it launches a global petition asking the world to help save the two men.
The Rev. Hassan Abduraheem and Rev. Kuwa Shamal have been arrested, transferred, and re-arrested on multiple occasions this past year in the Islamic-majority country of Sudan, with government officials accusing them of national security crimes.
ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow is arguing, however, that the imprisonment and the threat of a death penalty punishment are directly linked to the pastors' Christian faith, and has warned that if other believers don't speak up, the government of Sudan will send them to their deaths.
"They could be sentenced to hang for their faith if the world is silent," Sekulow wrote in an email, linking to the petition.
"Christian Pastors Hassan and Kuwa need your voice now. Time is of the essence, as the trial continues. Our silence could be their death," he added.
"Other Christians facing death in Sudan are now free because you spoke out. Be heard now for these persecuted Christians."
Sudanese authorities have arrested numerous Christian pastors in the past couple of years, with South Sudanese Presbyterian Pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yein Reith also facing a possible death penalty until they were freed from prison in August 2015.
The ACLJ's newest petition, which has already been signed by 56,000 people, warns that there is a "deadly crackdown" on Christians in Sudan.
The petition also notes that Abduraheem and Shamal have spent 12 months in very poor conditions, with their situation unlikely to improve unless others speak out.
Other persecution watchdog groups, such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide, have also been reporting on the case against the two pastors. Back in May, lawyers who are representing the two men noted that the clergymen are being held in small rooms "with intermittent electricity supply and limited ventilation."
Shamal and Abduraheem are reportedly both from the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, an area which the central government has targeted since 2011 in an aerial bombardment campaign against the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, leading to many civilian deaths.
CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said back then that the treatment of the two pastors is "indicative of a government campaign to harass and restrict the rights of the Christian community."
"We urge the authorities to end the judicial harassment of the Christian community and to uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief for every citizen. We also call on the Sudanese authorities to rectify any derogation from constitutional and international fair trial principles and ensure that the men are detained in a safe and habitable environment," Thomas added.