KIGALI - Parliament will soon discuss a law governing religious organizations in the country. The law was prepared by the Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC).
This draft, which The New Times has seen, aims at regulating the establishment and functioning of religious communities in Rwanda while protecting the freedom of worship from being abused.
When this law is passed, citizens shall enjoy the right to freedom of thought and religion. According to the draft law, freedom of worship consists of the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of one’s own choice. It may be exercised either individually or in a community, and expressed either in public or privately.
The law also defines a religious community as a group of people who share a set of beliefs regarding fundamental issues of life. Religious belief herein may or may not be about God.
The law will also governs projects or foundations of affiliated religious organisations. These are defined as non-profit making organisations founded to help religious communities achieve their mission.
When asked for a comment, Sandrale Sebakara, the Secretary General of Forum of Born Again Churches of Rwanda (FOBACOR), told The New Times that their organisation has no idea of the draft law.
“We have not seen the draft law again since the Ministry of Local Government had a meeting with us and told us about the draft law sometime back. But they told us that the draft law needed some amendments concerning the definition of religion because the ministry is going to mix us with tree worshippers,” Bunini Gahungu, the Secretary General of Alliance Evangelique au Rwanda said.
To ensure public order, transparency and accountability, all religious communities are required to be registered. However, the provisions under this Article do not preclude individuals whose religious community has not been registered, to express their religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
In order to conduct activities in the country, religious communities shall apply for registration and shall submit to the competent body a copy of its annual socio-economic report showing sources of funds and the way the funds are used. They will also submit a copy of their socio-economic business plans not later than January 31 of each year.
Article 46 of this law states, “Buildings intended for worship, shall conform to the standard of housing and settlement and land use. Such laws should not be applied in a discriminatory or exclusionary manner.”
The law allows worshipping from home, but Article 48 states that it should be done in accordance to religious laws and practices.
The use of homes as places of worship shall conform to public order and the rights and freedom of others. The law prohibits unauthorised crusades and mass preaching.
“Religious Communities shall not hold extraordinary public meetings without giving prior notice to, and where required by law, without obtaining appropriate permissions from the competent local authorities and security services where such meetings are planned,” The law states in part.