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Pastors see us as means of livelihood! Rwandans call for tough sanctions on churches

A new study shows that at least 72.9% Rwandans believe pastors see them as means of livelihood and doing business. (PHOTO/COURTESY)

KIGALI – A vast majority of Rwandans are so skeptical of churches that they want the government to impose very strict regulations on them, according to a new study.

The findings show that 84.7% of Rwandans are in favour of “erecting tight regulations and monitoring churches’ operations”.

The study was conducted by the country’s former Prime Minister Dr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi. It is titled ‘Citizens’ Perception on Proliferation of Churches in Rwanda Post 1994 Genocide against Tutsi: Analysis of Root Causes, Effects and Perspectives’.

The survey findings are published in the International Journal of Research in Economics and Social Sciences (IJRESS).

A government crackdown that ended in July last year closed 7,000 places of worship.

The study by Mr. Habumuremyi says that “freedom of worshiping God granted” by 2003 constitution is one of the major reasons there was this explosion of churches in numbers.

The other cause is the “internal conflicts” in the churches that are causing the birth of new groups, as they fight over money and resources. When a particular pastor cannot get enough from the church, they leave to form their own.

At least 72.9% Rwandans believe that many churches are born because pastors see them as “means of livelihood and doing business”.

From a combination of several other issues, the churches are viewed so negatively by Rwandans reaching 81.2% of the population.

At least 95 percent of Rwandans consider themselves Christians, according to the 2012 national census. Some 44% of the resident population of the country is Catholics.

Another of the big groups is the Pentecostal Church of Rwanda, which says it has over 2m members out of a population of 12m.

More than 74% Rwandans are not happy with the churches, says Habumuremyi, because” teachings in churches focus on miracles instead of sensitizing people to work”.

However, despite the number of Rwandans who favoured tighter regulations on the churches being high, a much bigger percentage of 88.2% said they want all pastors to undergo university theology studies.

The study was based on a sample of 150 respondents selected from the National Women Council, National Youth Council, Opinion Leaders, Church Leaders, Local Administrative Leaders, and Students at public and private universities.

This latest study comes as the government has begun implementing a law that requires religious groups to file their books of accounts with the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) annually.

Mr. Habumuremyi was Prime Minister from October 2011 to July 2014 before he was fired by President Paul Kagame.

He is currently head of the Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO) and President of the Board of Trustees of the Christian University of Rwanda.

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