World Watch Monitor | 072718
The Rwanda Governance Board continues to close churches it says fail to meet requirements laid down at the beginning of the year. New requirements set in place for those congregations that want to continue ministry are also complicating efforts to comply. Many see the closures as part of an effort by the government to make its aggressive secular stance clear.
According to a report by Rwanda’s pro-government KT Press, more than 8,000 churches have now been closed, and the number keeps growing.
“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, told World Watch Monitor.
World Watch Monitor learned that in one village the church was closed while a wedding was ongoing. The couple and all the guests were simply told to leave the church during the service, and the church was closed.
Another church was stopped from having services and other meetings (such as home groups) in a school hall as an alternative after all the churches in that parish had been closed. The church had timber instead of a metal door and window frames, and was told the roof also 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 now meets in a church building in another neighbourhood. Another congregation’s members walk 20km to attend church in a neighbouring community after their church was closed.