More than 8,000 churches have to close their doors in Rwanda
More than 8,000 churches may have to close their doors in Rwanda for “safety reasons.” The churches of Rwanda must be remodelled to comply with new government planning requirements and local faith communities have been given a mere two weeks to carry out the expected works. Recently there have been similar anti-religious measures taken by the Rwandan government and these new developments are becoming a source of concern for Christians
Rwanda is a Christian country in East Africa. The government drafted a new bill that appears to be a big step towards the secularisation of the country. According to the bill, churches will have to be remodelled in order to comply with new planning rules. Churches have been given two weeks to comply with the new regulations or face closure. Should this happen, the Christian faithful will have difficulty finding alternative places to worship.
A law enforced but not yet enacted
The Rwandan churches of all denominations must comply with the new planning laws because of more stringent requirements of “hygiene, infrastructure and legal status”. Faith communities that fail to comply with the new protocols will have to suspend their operation and close their church buildings. Affected communities will have to gather in neighbouring churches. This may mean that some of the faithful will have to walk over 20Km if they wish to attend Mass. A local observer, who wished to remain anonymous said: “All denominations will suffer the same fate. Buildings that are considered “affluent” will have to close their doors because of the new norms.”
Only two weeks for the works to be done
The required changes deal mainly with access to the places of worship. The two-week time frame for compliance will be impossible for most churches. Also, faith communities must now prove that their pastors and priests have an adequate theological education.
Six pastors were arrested for “conspiracy”
In March of 2018, seven hundred churches of mainly Pentecostal Christians, in the province of Kigali had to suspend their activities. After this first wave of closures, six pastors were accused and found guilty of conspiracy against the government but were later freed. According to one of them, these arrests served as a warning to other Christians not to oppose the government’s changes. The arrests have worried Christian leaders.
Churches are now less visible in the public square
There are several signs indicating this statement to be true. For example:
Prayer meetings can no longer be held in governmental institutions.
Terms relating to the Christian faith have been removed from the preamble to the Rwandan Constitution.
Every second Sunday the main roads are closed. Because of this many Christians cannot make their way to church.
Finally, at the recent commemorations of past genocide in Rwanda, priests and pastors were prohibited from saying any words of tribute in public even though the memorial services were all held in churches.
Rwanda is not on the ‘World Watch List for Christian Persecution’ because 90% of the population is Christian.
Translator: Ildikó Ungvári
Source: Portes Ouvertes