Churches in Kigali City must regulate the noise coming from their houses of worship or risk strict fines or even face closure, the City of Kigali has warned.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, the Mayor of Kigali, Fidele Ndayisaba, said they have received overwhelming complaints from residents about deafening noise from churches that disrupted their tranquillity which city authorities said was intolerable.
"The law provides that any individual who makes noise that is disturbing to the public faces fine of up to Rwf100,000. Churches, especially those in residential areas, must consider people who live next to them and respect their peace or else face these measures," Ndayisaaba said.
"We have sensitised churches, particularly about their hygiene and aeration conditions inside the churches. We have also urged them to abide by the law and either reduce noise or install sound proof facilities, so that they can operate within the regulations".
Police Spokesman, Theo Badege, says the regulations should not be considered harsh to churches but rather as a way to harmonise their activities with the serenity of the population.
"This does not only apply to churches but other establishments like nightclubs that make it difficult for people to enjoy their sleep.
It is a positive step that has been understood by many nightclubs which have installed sound proof and can now operate freely," said the police publicist.
Some churches interviewed by The New Times however, dismissed the regulation as selectively targeting them.
"The question is- why are they singling out churches when there are worse noise pollutants disrupting city activities? For example, there are loud promotional shows which even disrupt traffic flow but you find the police simply giving them protection instead of stopping them. Why are they now being strict on churches?" Pastor Rose Basiinga of Crossroads (Pentecostal) Church in Kimironko told The New Times in a telephone interview.
"Most churches have a timetable and spend three to four hours praying, which isn't long- after which, activities are closed. How can that honestly be the biggest problem city authorities are thinking about? We have always stayed within the country's laws and our service to impact positive social attitudes in the masses should be supported".
However, prayers should never cause other people to suffer, according to Ezekiel Mpyisi of Kigali English Adventist Church in Kibagabaga, who strongly support the regulations.
"God is not deaf and certainly doesn't need people to shout for him to listen. People should pray while knowing that what they are saying is personal between them and God. Otherwise, I am quite sure that even God would not be pleased when church activities disrupt other people's wellbeing," Mpyisi told The New Times.
KCC gave an ultimatum of December 2012 for churches to put in place measures to curb noise pollution, after which, any church found to disobey will be punished accordingly.
In article four of the Organic Law of 2005, noise is mentioned among the destructive pollutants to the human environment.