About 8,000 churches have been shut down in Rwanda following new requirement and rules set up by the Rwandan government for the religious community.
These included basic requirements in terms of “safety, hygiene, infrastructure, and legality.” while the number of churches facing the reality increase by the day, a local analyst who pleaded to be anonymous explained to the situation of things
“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,” he said while also citing churches that have fallen victim of new law.
“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, 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.” He said
Following the new regulations, Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Governance Board Prof. Anastase Shyaka explained the reason behind the laws:
“In fact, we discovered that the number of churches were bigger than the number of villages in the country. The number itself is not a problem but in some buildings, three or four different denominations would hold prayer services at the same time, resulting in unbearable levels of noise and unsafe environment for occupants.”
Here are some of the new 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.
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