The Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye, has called on clerics to stick to values that promote the interest of those they lead other than pursuing personal gains.
Busingye was officiating at the celebration of a continental religious liberty festival on Saturday at Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali.
The celebration was the culmination of a two-day congress on religion freedom and tolerance that was attended by over 500 clerics from across Africa. It was organised by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Busingye said that some clerics lure the faithful into religious extremism and fanaticism, which at times divide society.
“There are clerics who incite divisions among people and starve their followers in prayer and fasting to death. These are bad practices that hurt society and distort the image of religion,” he said.
The minister called on clerics to work with governments for the common good.
“There is a commonality that all religions teach: love, respect of parents and many more and these are the creed that the Government also cherishes,” he noted.
At the closure of the Religious Liberty Congress on Friday, participants visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial where over 250,000 victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi were buried.
The Kenyan Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court, David Maraga, said; “Rwanda has a lot to teach us on how far the lack of tolerance can cause things to fall apart and at the same time what to do in order to gather society back on track”.
Having been told about the role some clerics played during the Genocide, Maraga condemned clerics who mislead society to pursue divisionism and hatred.
Pastor Blasious Ruguri, the President of East and Central Africa Division at the SDA Church, thanked the Government of Rwanda for embracing freedom of worship in the constitution.
“In Rwanda, freedom of choice to worship is highly esteemed. Our SDA believers have always exemplified it with the right to worship on Saturday while the rest of the country are doing community work,” he said.
Churches first opened in Rwanda in February 1900 when a delegation of catholic missionaries, including Monsignor Jean-Joseph Hirth, visited King Yuhi Musinga.
King Musinga gave the catholic missionaries a site at Save in Gisagara District from where they constructed Save Roman Catholic Mission.
In 1919 the first Seventh-day Adventist Missionary arrived and King Musinga gave him Gitwe site in Ruhango District for the SDA mission.
However, Musinga did not live in good terms with missionaries as they professed dogmas that threatened the social affairs of his kingdom.
He was later exiled by Belgium colonialists and Catholic priests to DR Congo and his successor Mutara Rudahigwa gave in to new religion and was baptised into Catholic Church in 1943.