New law to phase out chaos among churches in Rwanda

By Elias Hakizimana.

Churches and faith-based organisations in Rwanda used to conflict on the way they are established and governed since they had no order to follow but with the new law determining the organization and the functioning of faith-based organizations everything became clear.

According to different church leaders and representatives of faith-based organizations, the New Law No.72/2018 of 31/08/2018 determining the organization and functioning of faith-based organizations will prevent offenders from preaching on behalf of their own interests.

Speaking during the workshop organized by Rwanda Religious Leaders Forum (RRLF) in partnership with Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights Development (GLIHD) on November 1, 2018, Father Emmanuel Nsengiyumva said that some pastors/shepherds used to preach on their own interests before the law established and anyone could get up in the morning and establish a church of which he names him/herself the Bishop.

“This disorder could have consequences on christians, we are looking on philosophy of the new law and it will challenge some pastors who still attempt to offend it. Anyone who still attempts to use his own house as a church will be limited by this law. In fact, the law is coming to respond to the problem but also will challenge those who are not in line with catering for a citizen,” said Nsengiyumva.

The workshop gathered together representatives of churches and faith-based organisations from 30 districts across the country from their respective forums.

Recently, the Government of Rwanda closed churches that were built sub-standardly, an issue that used to fully contribute to the chaos being mentioned in the law.

Pelagie Niyibizi, Pastor of Reform Baptiste-Convention Rwanda said that no one will be able to create a church without having legal personality.

No one will also give himself a rank as Bishop, pastor, etc; as the law determines who must be the church leader and states efficient names like ‘Umwigisha, Umubwiriza; and it sets the requirements to stablish a church or a faith-based organization.

Before the law, people used to create churches and as they want but one of the criteria to establish a church is to have a certificate in Shepherdhood/Theologia skills according to Niyibizi.

Tom Mulisa, the Executive Secretary of Great Lakes Initiative for Human life and Development (GLHID) explained that as partners of RRLF they partnered to prepare the project of this law and took it to the parliament for review and approval before it reaches out the general community in order to respect it.

The law does not allow people who believe in vocation and start working as bishops or build a church in disorder.

“Anyone from the forum is required to understand the law and explain to christians. We believe it will tackle many issues. Whoever can see the challenge in the new law can raise a concern to the law reform commission. Whoever still has the mindset based on vocation can also give his/her ideas and show the reason,” said Mulisa.

Lambert Dushimirimana, the in-charge of law translation in Rwanda Law Reform Commission (RLRC) said that the previous law used to mix names of a church where in Kinyarwanda some people used to say ‘idini’ while others said ‘Itorero’ and this was not clear to people.

He also said that ‘Religious organisations’ changed to faith-based organisations. He said that the law was under preparation even before the government took a decision to ban churches that were operating sub-standardly.

The new law has 50 articles and it came into force on the date of its publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Rwanda on August 31st, 2018.

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,( is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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