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A number of Christian pastors, primarily within the Pentecostal denomination, have been arrested along with their churches shuttered by the government of Rwanda. The government and their administration has clearly targeted Christians in the capital city of Kigali in the guise that the closures were prompted regarding hygiene, noise violations, and building safety issues.
Most of the 714 closures were small and very humble churches. Simply by the government targeting such a multitude of these gathering places of Christian fellowship in one sweep equates to an obvious assault on Christianity. The churches are similar in nature to the same type of Holy places of worship that have been multiplying across the continent of Africa in recent decades.
David Himbara, a Rwandan international development activist and supporter from Canada, said that the real reason why the government has closed the churches is due to "fear and paranoia." He called the Rwandan government's explanation for the closures counterfeit.
The closures prompted allegations and claims that President Paul Kagame and his administration are stepping on religious liberties. Recently, six pastors were arrested under the allegations that they were conspiring to rally other Christians including clergy to defy the shutdown orders.
The chief executive of the Rwanda Governance Board, Anastase Shyaka, which ordered the closures, told the New Times, a Rwandan English daily newspaper, that the action was about "honoring God. It means that if we are Christians, where we worship must meet standards showing respect for God."
Currently, there are more than 1,300 Christian churches in Kigal. In a widely quoted criticism, President Kagama stated, "Are these boreholes that give people water? I don't think we have as many boreholes. Do we even have as many factories? This has been a mess," he added in his remarks at a national leadership retreat last week.
David Himbara stated that President Kagame closely controls political parties, the media, and civil society at large in the country. Himbara added, "The Christian churches constitute the last open space of freedom and Kagame knows this. The localized community of churches offers a slight space for daring imaginations for talk about changes within Rwanda."
The city of Kigali does not have a sewage or treatment plant, and hygiene problems are widespread in the city and also in the entire country. Therefore, the reasons aren't a viable basis that the Rwandan government is offering pertaining to why they have closed the Christian churches.
Written by James Rathman; Minister for Jesus Christ