One hundred twelve residents of Kamembe in Rusizi District were recently arrested for violating the law governing prayer time in their area.
Members of ADEPR Church in Guhundwe were rounded up at midnight, because the law stipulates not going beyond 8 p.m. It was a joint operation between the police and the army.
Police said they did not believe the story these people told of simply having been praying to their God.
The law enforcement officers wondered how such a big congregation had chosen to gather at someone’s residence instead of going to their designated fellowship place, their church building.
They further argued that Christians are known for praying loudly; these particular people were found praying in near whispers.
For these reasons, the police thought there must have been some other, not-so-innocent intentions. However, they were promised to be released if they divulged the true reason for breaking the law.
Christine Furaha at whose home the prayers were taking place maintained that contrary to what the security officials suspected, the meeting was for prayer and prayer alone.
She also claimed to have been authorised in writing by the area local administration to host such prayer meetings at her home.
Law broken is law broken, period. And so the police were right in arresting people who had exceeded even the extended time limit of 10 p.m. they had secured as a favour.
But it is wrong for police to say openly that these people must have had other plans besides praying.
Praying in low tones, one of the suspicious behaviour according to the police, is normal for Christians. It is true that often-times they, especially Pentecostals, pray in high-pitched voices.
But it is normal too for them to pray in very low tones for reasons ranging from resting to speaking to their God in a different tone.
In essence, whereas competent law organs may later find the arrested people guilty of more than one account – breaking the law governing night prayers – going beyond time can also turn out to be the only offence they committed.
For this reason, suspicion for any other crimes ought to have remained as hindsight to avoid prejudice.