Over 700 churches in Rwanda have been forced to suspend operations following a government crackdown on their activities. These churches, mostly Pentecostal failed to meet minimum standards as they were found to have failed with building regulations in terms of legal status and safety.
The crackdown on the 714 churches was carried out by respective urban district authorities in partnership with the Rwanda Governance Board, local Rwandan media The New Times reported. In an interview on Monday, Justus Kangwagye, the Head of Political Parties and Civil Society Department at the Rwanda Governance Board said most of the affected churches were asked to suspend operations until they meet the standards expected of them.
“Worshiping should be done in an organised way and meet minimum standards. Exercising your freedom of worship should not encroach on other people’s rights. They have been asked to halt operations until they meet the requirements.
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“For instance, if the infrastructure is deemed likely to cause danger to those worshipping, it is obvious that it fails to meet the requirements,” he was quoted by The New Times.
The heads of these places of worship have also been warned against making noise that will disturb the peace in residential neighbourhoods.
In terms of legal issues, Kangwagye explained that before establishing a church, one must have a temporary certificate which expires after twelve months. He, however, stressed that one must make an application for formalising their operations within nine months of opening before the expiry of the temporary certificate.
The news of the shut down of these churches has drawn divided opinions among residents in Kigali. While some believe the move will protect the general public, others felt that the churches involved should have been given ample time to fulfil those requirements or relocate to other areas.