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Virtual prayer: Faith in a time of crisis

After registering its first Covid-19 case, Rwanda put in place measures to curb the spread of the virus, among which, places of worship, and other large gatherings were temporarily suspended.

The guidelines prompted religious leaders to inform their worshipers that services were suspended, hence, all places of worship were urged to find alternative ways to carry out prayer without gathering physically.


People were initially sceptical about how this would work, but they have been able to continue with worship, virtually. 


In July, the government permitted the reopening of some places of worship, but some are still closed because reopening is a gradual process.


Weekender talked to different people who shared their virtual prayer experience.

Catholic mass has aired via the national broadcaster, and some say it has been a good experience.

“Although we have not been able to come together physically as usual in churches, our hearts were together. We were all urged to put our hearts together and direct them to The Almighty as we watched and followed the service through media platforms,” shares Marcellin Murayi, a Catholic.

Sylvain Nsabimana, a Protestant pastor, says services were being streamed online and they were shocked by the viewership which was unexpected.

“Even though it was not as lively as an actual gathering, believers were following the service online and praying at home. So we coped with that, and the development of technology helped a lot,” he says, citing that it is still the channel being used as his church is yet to reopen.

Several worshippers, like Piello Kulimushi, also realised that more youth were attending online church services, more than an actual physical gathering.

“Our online service went well and more people followed. However, we realised that young people are more comfortable using digital ways than previous ways,” he comments.

According to Myriam Mukamukiza, a Muslim based in Kigali, there were no big changes for Islam believers.

She asserts that most of Islam’s rituals do not necessarily rely on large gatherings, citing that her prayers at home were spent well.

“There was no need to meet, I just washed my hands and feet, looked for a mat and started my regular prayers,” explains Mukamukiza.

Some families opted to hold services as a family, because they were living in the same house. Emmanuel Niyonsaba’s family is one of those.

“We were together as a family, we spent the whole day together in one house, why wouldn’t we pray together,” Niyonsaba says.

“After a few weeks of the lockdown, I told my family that we would hold Sunday service at home,” he says.

As of November 2020, more churches were reopened, but many believers are still following their services on different online platforms, but have hope that today, or tomorrow, God will make a way.

“While we believe in the power of medicine and in the power of our health experts, we also believe in the power of the Almighty God and his spirit,” says Mukamukiza.

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