Phrases like “sharing is caring” or “love your neighbour like you love yourself” are often mentioned to further emphasise the importance of extending a helping hand, and this core value is a timeless one. So imagine my surprise when a church minister strongly advised the entire congregation to keep their pennies far from the hands of beggars. A recap, shall we? It was a typical Sunday at church and everything unfolded accordingly, up until a church minister found it necessary to make a disgruntling announcement, strongly urging church goers not to cater to the women and children begging at the entrance. He went on to explain that the funds the congregation intends to relay to them would serve a better purpose were they to be transferred to the church’s community outreach department, which in one’s opinion, looks a lot like the beginning stages of a bureaucracy. Furthermore, he justified the church’s stand on the issue using everybody’s favourite scapegoat, distortion of culture, popularly referred to as “guta umuco”. Once I got past the disbelief that a church just instructed its people to keep their helping hands out of the direct reach of the needy, I couldn’t help but contemplate whether cultural norms like dignity outweigh biblical doctrines like “love your neighbour”. How it is perceived One of the people attending the same service that requested anonymity shared that while everybody is entitled to freedom of speech and expression, he believes that church ministers should not be imposing societal beliefs on their congregations. Daniella Mugabe, currently navigating her mid-30s, is of the view that supporting the needy should be a personal choice, not one with external influence behind it. “I am not against getting together to raise funds for a valid cause, but I think helping a person less fortunate than you can be a personal choice that doesn’t always have to align with a plan. For example, sometimes I give spare change to street kids every now and again, and I believe things like that happen for a reason,” she said. For Ingrid Karekezi, a post-graduate student, giving to the less fortunate is something one should be intentional about. She is aware that some of the people begging aren’t genuinely in need, so when she decides to give a helping hand, she listens to their needs and helps them if she can because she doesn’t want the goodwill to be subsided by the vices these people may inhibit. “The less fortunate deserve to be heard and seen like any other person, so when I decide to help that’s the first thing I do. I am cautious about giving them tangible money because I can’t be sure it won’t be enabling alcoholic behaviour. I prefer to buy what they need and hand it to them directly,” she says. From where Raoul Kamanzi stands, giving to the less fortunate, especially at the church’s entrance, takes away from what he intends to tithe or offer in church. “I alternate between offering in church and giving my intended offering to the women at the church entrance, and I never need to give both ways because God considers it an act of service either way,” says Kamanzi. Despite being used as a scapegoat, the Rwandan culture endorses companionship and government initiatives like “Hanga Umurimo” are there to provide an alternative source of income. However, as a developing country, getting more people off the streets and into the workforce is a priority, and while poverty is not a choice, the laziness exhibited by people who expect to receive handouts they haven’t earned on a consistent basis is a hindrance to a stable development pattern.