The Government forcibly closed thousands of Churches in Rwanda after the Rwanda Governance Board issued a decree claiming that the churches do not meet the newly established requirements.
Following the decree, Rwanda’s pro-government KT press reported that more than eight thousands churches were forced to close. Furthermore, the new obligations set in place by the secular government are complicating the congregation’s efforts to comply.
“On checking which churches were included, we learned that all churches are suffering the same fate, and that even churches considered luxurious for local standards have had to close,” a local analyst, who wished to remain anonymous, stated while speaking to the World Watch Monitor.
When the decree was issued, church services were ongoing while government enforcement agencies directed them to leave the building as they forcibly closed thousands of churches.
One congregation was stopped from housing services and other meetings, such as Bible study and home groups, which they were using because their church was closed. The reasoning behind the inability to utilize their own church was because the building had timber instead of a metal door and window frames, plus they were told that the church’s roof needed to be elevated “just a little.”
“It seems that the local authorities in the different districts initially had some freedom about the degree to which they could enforce the new requirements,” the local analyst said. “However, it now seems that those who were more lenient have been rebuked and have become stricter. In one district authorities banned all meetings of a closed church, and congregants are not even allowed to meet in home groups.”
One congregation is being forced to walk over twelve miles to a neighboring community to attend church services.
The following is a list of the newly established requirements;
- Toilets being a certain distance from the church entrance. In one instance local authorities entered the church halfway through the service and ordered the people to leave because the church would be closed. This church has fulfilled 80% of the requirements and was not aware of this new requirement.
- Congregations have been told they also need to install a certain kind of canvas ceiling, even though that material carries a considerable fire hazard.
- One church was told it needed to change its roof and rebuild one of the brick walls. This will be hard for them to do as they have already been forced to make loans and depend on the goodwill of businessmen to meet the initial requirements.
- Church access roads as well as church compounds need to be paved. The inside walls and ceilings in the church must be plastered and painted. Exposed brick is not allowed anymore.
- All churches must have lightning-conductors.
- All pastors now need to have a theological degree. This was already communicated as a requirement, but now the degree needs to be from an accredited institute.
- Another new law states that only institutions that also teach science and technology can teach theology, meaning that few of the many (often highly regarded) theological institutions or Bible schools are regarded as valid.
The decree has not even been “officially approved” yet, however, the government is enforcing it upon local congregations which have already taken out loans to comply.
Rwanda does have a clause in their constitution under article thirty-seven which was amended in 2015. After the government forcibly closed the churches, Prof. Anastase Shyaka, Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Governance Board, claimed on television despite the closures Rwandan’s still have their right to religion guaranteed.
Furthermore, over the last several months the citizenry has noticed a marked increase in the practice of secularism within their country;
- They no longer allow prayer meetings in government institutions, which used to be very common.
- Words referring to the Christian faith have been removed from the preamble of the Constitution.
- During the commemoration of the genocide, neither pastors nor priests (who used to play a prominent role in past commemoration events), can speak or preach any more, unless the event is organized by a church.
- Two Sundays per month, main roads are closed, meaning that many people cannot reach their church. Church attendance has declined.
- Many Rwanda Patriotic Front (the ruling political party) meetings and other activities that may be compulsory are arranged for Sundays.
As a result of the closures and the newly declared government ruling, six pastors have been detained for allegedly plotting to defy the government. Although, the pastors were released the incident goes to show that leniency of the newly illegal restrictions will not be tolerated.
Christians all over the world face oppression and persecution, it is vital that we pray peace over their situations and take legal action against similar instances coming to fruition in the United States of America.
Furthermore, similar secular practices are happening in China, as the Christian Journal has recently covered. However, while many other nations are attempting to regulate Christians out of Church, it is vital that Christians remember what Scripture declares; “for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:20