Two days ago on a Sunday morning, The New Times was among many media outlets around Kigali alerted to go and witness the demolition of a church building. It belongs to Assemblee de Dieu Church, situated in Kimihurura.
Within a short time the press was present and ready for the show. Photographers filled with anxiety were already taking pictures of the standing structure. They were waiting to compare it with its rubble later, after the job had been done.
A bulldozer, together with a seething Kigali City Council demolition team, arrived towards 9 o’clock. The structure was going to be brought down because it has been constructed in an area gazetted as a wetland.
For this reason the laws governing environmental conservation have allegedly been broken, which necessitated Rwanda Environment Management Authority and the Council to take corrective measures.
But the destruction did not come to pass. The leaders of the church, together with a congregation growing by the minute and getting ready to participate in and/or conduct the Sunday morning church service, made a decision.
It was to block the pulling down of their sacred building. They eventually succeeded. It took a lot of haggling though. The destruction team had to call the mayor of Gasabo District to come and move things out of an impasse.
It had arisen out of the church leadership presenting to the team what they called authentic documents that showed construction had been carried out legally. Not that the bulldozing team was acting illegally either. Nonetheless, the mayor found good grounds to delay the demolition that Sunday, pending clarification of the matter.
There is no doubting that the role some among the Rwanda Catholic clergy played in the Genocide has had a negative effect on the moral-spiritual perception of the Church in general. However, Church is still Church, even here; and so we need to treat its members, infrastructure and activities with a reasonable level of sensitivity.
Although this level is not explicitly defined here, certainly planning to demolish a church building on a Sunday morning falls way below the level.