Rwanda Closes 700 Unsafe Religious Houses

Rwanda Closes 700 Unsafe Religious Houses

The Rwandan government has closed around 700 buildings used for religious purposes for failing to comply with building and community regulations.

Most were small Pentecostal churches, with one mosque also closed.

The churches range from massive buildings attracting thousands of worshippers weekly, with others within tiny structures built without planning permission.

Many have been shut following complaints of noise pollution, with some church leaders using loud public address systems to attract worshippers.

According to the Rwandan New Times, the crackdown is being carried out by local authorities with the support of the Rwanda Governance Board, where premises have exposed attendees to unnecessary risks and danger, with churches required to meet “modest standards”.

In Rwanda, the vast majority of worshippers are Christian, with leaders of many Pentecostal churches claiming to be able to perform miracles to increase attendance, but many also follow traditional practices

According to a proposed new law, all preachers must have theological training before opening a church; currently, many churches are run by charismatic preachers rather than those with formal religious training.

In Africa as a whole, 63% of the population identify as Christian, 30% as Muslim, and 3% follow traditional beliefs.

Some African governments and organisations are beginning to try to hold churches accountable.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta recently called for churches to be regulated, with his government aiming to stamp out bogus churches led by self-proclaimed prophets.

These messengers are believed by millions of devoted followers over their claims to have the power to perform miracles, for which they often demand payment, or “donations”.

South Africa’s Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CLR) found that “commercialisation is definitely there… and abuse of people’s belief systems”.

Speaking to the BBC, CLR Chairperson Thoko Mkhwananzi-Xaluva said the sector needed to be regulated: "We've found that other religions such as Islam and the Jewish religion are systematised for disciplinary codes and monitoring but Christianity, because of its volatility in terms of anyone being able to start up their own church, we feel there is a need for regulation, self-regulation.”

Read More: The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office have reiterated the importance of the right to freedom of religion or belief in an event on December 11, 2017 commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948