Rwandan President, Paul Kagame Closes Down 6000 Churches, Says Pastors Must Be Holders Of Degree In Theology Before They Can Practice
President of the Republic of Rwanda, Mr Paul Kagame has closed down over six thousand (6000) churches in Rwanda.
According to the Mr Kagame, these closed down churches were being led by
fake, dimwits, and uneducated people who called themselves men of God
with the aim of deceiving people for their money.
He, therefore, took to his Twitter and posted; “I have closed down 6000
churches in my country and I now demand a degree in theology for every
Pres Kagame cracks down on churches and mosques to better regulate the religious sector
By Kylie Kiunguyu on April 26, 2018 — Authorities have in the span of two months closed more than 6,000 churches and 100 mosques across Rwanda, including 714 in the capital city of Kigali, for failure to comply with health, safety, and noise regulations. The closures have been met with mixed reactions as human rights groups have long accused Pres Kagame's government of clamping down on freedom of expression.Rwanda’s government has made it a priority to close thousands of churches and dozens of mosques as a way to assert more control on the religious community. Authorities say the churches and mosques’ often makeshift operations have threatened the lives of followers.
At the March National Leadership retreat in Gabiro, President Paul Kagame expressed his concerns saying he was shocked by the high number of churches in the small country. “700 churches in Kigali?” he said of houses of worship. “Are these boreholes [deep wells] that give people water? I don’t think we have as many boreholes. Do we even have as many factories? This has been a mess!”
The closures have been met with mixed reactions as human rights groups have long accused President Kagame’s government of clamping down on freedom of expression. However, the government has defended the move explaining that aside from safety it also aims to tighten rules on registration and the functions of churches thus reducing the numerous fraud cases against religious leaders who take advantage of their impoverished followers.
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Anastase Shyaka, the head of the Rwanda Governance Board that regulates faith-based organisations said in a statement that, “Prayer houses were found in such poor physical conditions, and we are not targeting any religion. We are closing prayer houses of all different denominations and asking them to meet existing health and safety standards for their followers.”
The President of the private Rwanda Religious Leaders Forum, Alexis Nkurunziza said in a separate statement that, there is proposed legislation which aims to regulate faith-based organisations separately from civil society organisations.
The existing law on civil society organisations permit Rwandans to open churches and register after a period of months and doesn’t require pastors to go through any training. By contrast this new legislation would require pastors and church leaders to have degrees in theology to ensure they not only teach the proper doctrine but also minimise the number of hacks who claim to have received a calling to deliver the word.
Another requirement for churches is the installation of lightning rods following a lightning accident earlier this year that killed 16 worshipers and injured 140 at a Seventh – Day Adventist church in the country’s southern region. Houses of worship must also have government certification that building requirements such as adequate plumbing and parking have been met.
Read: Lagos shuts 22 churches and mosques over noisy worship
Justus Kangwagye, a Rwanda Governance Board official who oversees faith-based organisations, said to Christianity today that the government is not trying to permanently close the churches but is merely doing its due diligence. “Freedom of worship does not mean you keep churchgoers in a substandard church that is likely to fall,” he said.
Mosques across Rwanda have also been affected by closures. Mufti Sheikh Salim Hitimana, the leader of the country’s Muslim community said that approximately 100 mosques have been closed.
“We are now trying to fix what the Government told us to do,” he said to AP.