By Emily Watt | 5 December 2019
Rwanda | Over 8,000 Churches Closed This Year
The Rwanda Governance Board continues to close any church that fails to meet new requirements laid down at the beginning of the year.
Rwanda has a thriving church, with 90% of the population identifying as Christian. However, new requirements are making it hard for the church to meet together.
Under a newly proposed law the churches are expected to meet, “Basic requirements in terms of safety, hygiene, infrastructure and legality,” Justus Kangwagye, a government official, said.
According to a local Rwandan press, more than 8,000 churches have now been closed, and the number keeps growing. The new regulation applies to all faith-based organisations, and mosques have also been affected.
Many see the closures as an effort by the government to make its aggressive secular stance clear.
“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 said, who wished to remain anonymous.
In one village, a church was closed during a wedding service. The couple and all the guests were simply told to leave the church.
One congregation now meets in a church building in another neighbourhood. Another congregation’s members now have to walk 20km to attend church in a neighbouring community after their church was closed.
“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.”
New Challenging Requirements
Many new requirements not originally included in the directive have now been added, including:
- Toilets being a certain distance from the church entrance.
- Congregations have been told they also need to install a certain kind of canvas ceiling, even though that material carries a considerable fire hazard.
- 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, not brick.
- All churches must have lightning-conductors.
- A new law states that only institutions that also teach science and technology can teach theology, meaning that many theological institutions degrees are not valid.
- All pastors now need to have a ‘valid’ theological degree.
However, for Christians gathering it’s difficult to meet these required changes within the given timeframe of 15 days.
- Pray for the Rwandan government to make it easier for Christians to gather.
- Pray that the churches that have closed, that they’ll be able to re-open.
- Pray that God provides the resources for churches to meet the new requirements.
Stay updated with news from the persecuted church.
Source: World Watch Monitor