RE: “Churches should be closely monitored” (The New Times, March 1). I think putting order in our religious places of worship is a noble and well needed intervention.
However, our religious institutions are key partners in national development. They are key in tackling teen pregnancy, promoting forgiveness and reconciliation, education programs, supporting marginalised communities, efforts to fight malaria…the list is endless.
At one time there was a lot of resistance to family planning programmes, especially from men due to ignorance, but churches would encourage their members that the programme was safe (partly because usually the pastor has good moral standing in the community) and designed to maintain manageable family sizes.
Religious organizations deal with the matter of the heart.
As someone wisely said, the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. By government taking a harsh stand against religious organisations it is shooting itself in the foot.
Secondly, a good number of religious organisations develop out of members’ contributions. Few churches (and they the mainstream churches) have foreign donor support and so it’s totally unrealistic to expect the ‘small’ churches to get spanking new buildings and infrastructure overnight.
There is nothing wrong with tents — the 2016 World Economic Forum for Africa that took place in Kigali was held in a tent for five days playing host to international dignitaries and this is common everywhere you go. Religious organisations have the knack for penetrating regions that even the government cannot simply because they bring a community around specific goals and ideals.
Go to the rural areas and your ‘humble’ mud floor church is the venue for akagoraba k’ababyeyi, umuganda meetings, the local kindergarten and primary school. Their infrastructure can be best used by the government to reach the grassroots for their development programmes.
Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) and the government, in general, need to rethink this issue and avoid shooting themselves on the foot.
However, I propose that RGB creates must-have requirements like washrooms, water, etc and churches that don’t have them be closed till they comply. This soft-conciliatory approach serves well for both sides.