The government of Rwanda has warned it may intervene in religious organisations whose mistakes have become too many and pose a threat to social order.
Major concerns include operating in substandard structures, noise pollution, poor hygiene, lack of internal cohesion and no respect for rules and regulations.
Addressing leaders of the Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) operating in Kigali, on Friday, at Hilltop Hotel, Prof. Anastase Shyaka, the Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Governance Board, said the respect Rwanda accords religious organizations has led some of them to do mistakes “too heavy to bear.”
“Patience” towards them [religious institutions]”has come to an end.”
Prof. Shyaka said that the 2012 law governing Faith Based Organizations is under review.
This law had been enacted with lenience to “religious leaders as though they were angels who can’t do any wrong and that they are not punishable.”
However, Shyaka says this has “worsened the problems caused by church leaders who do not abide by their internal rules and regulations.”
Among the problems highlighted as mistakes done by some Faith based organizations in Rwanda are noise pollution that “deprives the general population of their welfare and security, “wrong” beliefs that sometimes cost lives of the population and church houses that don’t comply with construction and hygiene standards.
“There are churches poorly built in such a way that makes you question whether its leaders value God or their church members,” he said.
In the video showed to the participants, of churches in Kigali City, one church house, for example, in Gatenga, Kicukiro District is built in between residential houses and “noise pollution is inevitable.”
Another church house located in Gahanga, Kicukiro also, was a tent church house while another church house in Kimisagara, Nyarugenge District had no complete rooftop.
Rwanda’s Minister for Local Governance, Francis Kaboneka says, “There are businesses, some belonging to foreign investors that have run out of customers due to much noise produced by churches, and closed.”
Prof. Shyaka strongly criticized some faith based organizations that sensitize their believers not to touch the national flag while taking oath, preaching against blood transfusion “which sometimes cost the lives of innocent Rwandans.”
Minister Kaboneka shared his experience saying one day at about 2AM, received a phone call. A pregnant woman was in labour pain and had started bleeding. She was taken to hospital but when she arrived there, her relatives refused doctors from transfusing blood to her because it was against their religious belief.
“I Instructed Doctors to give her blood and I would take responsibility later. The woman survived but the baby died in the process,” Minister kaboneka shared his experience with a heartbreaking situation due to religious beliefs.
Meanwhile, Prof. Shyaka noted that “Some churches ask believers to fast until they fall down and die due to much hunger,” he observed.
Effective February 16th up to March 16th, faith based organizations in Rwanda will be required to put an end to their internal “disorganization” according to the Minister Kaboneka.
“We won’t allow disorganisation in Religious institutions”, he said.
“We will never allow any other church to fall down due to their church members, who are, most importantly, Rwandans, and kill them again. We will prevent that from happening again,” he added.
He asked leaders of faith based organizations to match their development with that of the country. “It would make us happy if we saw leaders of the FBOs from other countries coming to learn from you as with other government institutions,” Kaboneka counseled.
According to RGB, registered Faith Based Organizations in Rwanda today are 731, but Prof. Shyaka said, “Those that applied for registration are about 2000, that you may think that in the future, every Rwandan will have his own religion.”
On the law governing faith based organizations in Rwanda, under review, Priest Jean Damascene Maniraho who represented the Rwanda’s Catholic Church at the event, said that “the knowledge of the people aspiring to found new faith based organizations should be considered, and also the number of their believers because you sometimes find 10 people who organize themselves to start a new church and register it.”