Rwanda Closes Hundreds of Churches.

Churches and other faith-based organization are in for a turbulent ride in Rwanda as the East African nation has, since January 2018, seen a massive crackdown and closure of places of worship. This is in pursuance of a new drive to tighten rules on registration of religious organizations and to reduce fraudulent practices, according to government sources.

The authorities have so far shut down thousands of churches and about 100 mosques for failure to comply with building regulations and noise pollution standards.

The development has brought about a widespread condemnation of the government from within and around Kigali, as many see the measures as being harsh and extreme. However, the government explains that the decision is based on the need to curb the growth of unregistered religious institutions as well as the indiscriminate building of substandard structures for churches and mosques.

Rwanda

President Paul Kagame

The government has also proposed new laws requiring a minimum of half a hectare of land space for church buildings as well as proof of theological training for pastors. This is likely to affect most small churches, especially Pentecostal prayer houses run by young preachers with no Bible school training.

The state accused these churches of taking advantage of their congregants for monetary gain; an accusation that has been met with mixed reactions. According to the prophet and founder of Patmos Church, Jean Bosco Nsabimana, despite the concerns “the move will provide more transparency.”

“The closure of churches didn’t stop our collaboration with the government, we recognize that they were a little forceful in the closures of churches, but on the other hand, it has also forced churches to comply and ensure that they build adequate structures, which is also something that is good for the country and gives the country a good look,” he added.

Nsabimana, however, wondered why the government hasn’t done the same thing with the bars and nightclubs. On the requirement to acquire half a hectare of land, he said: “How is that going to be possible in a country like Rwanda where there is a lack of land?”

Rwanda, which is a landlocked country, has a majority Christian population while Muslims make up about 5% of the country. Official figures show that there are about 15,000 churches in Rwanda and only 700 of them are registered. The government had earlier in the year banned mosques in Kigali from using loudspeakers during the call to prayers.

Some activists see the new regulations as a violation of freedom of expression and religious rights. However, some pastors have decided to quickly acquire training certificates in compliance with the new laws.

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