20 February 2018

Rwanda: New Law to Govern Faith Based Organisations in the Offing

Photo: The New Times
Christians attend a Mass at Ste Famille Church (file photo).

Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) has drafted a new legal framework to guide the operations of faith-based organisations (FBOs) which it says will help address illegalities and other inappropriate activities among religious groups.

According to Prof. Anastase Shyaka, the chief executive of RGB, the current law leaves room for malpractices by some players in faith-based organisations.

The draft legislation, which has since been submitted to Rwanda Reform Commission for review, Shyaka said, will help streamline issues related to the organisations' registration, leadership, management, minimum standards for places of worship, among others.

"We need to institute measures that help make faith-based organisations pillars of society's advancement and wellbeing," Shyaka told journalists in Kigali yesterday.

He added: "Some churches conduct their prayers and sermons from shoddy, unhygienic and unsafe places that pose risks to people's safety. Some cause noise pollution while some others preach misleading sermons. We should all work together to address these threats and help enforce the new legal framework once it comes into force," he said.

RGB will be monitoring FBOs' activities to ensure compliance with the law and transparency, Shyaka added.

There are over 700 registered FBOs in the country but, according to officials, about the same number of FBOs operate without registration.

Shyaka said that this is due to the gap in the current law which grants such organisations the right to operate without getting registered for a certain time.

This will be addressed in the proposed law, the RGB chief said.

According to the draft law, FBOs will be given a grace period of one year to meet the new requirements of face closure.

Officials also spoke of the need for religious leaders to acquire training in theology.

"FBOs should also strive for self-reliance and not be prone to external manipulation," said Justus Kangwage, the head of political parties and civil society organisations at RGB.

Bishop Innocent Nzeyimana, the legal representative of Najoth Church and president of the Churches' Forum in Nyarugenge District, said the proposed law was in good faith.

"The law will bring about a positive change, especially in the management of churches because we will be required to have qualified church leaders," he said. "Some people advance the notion of calling, but this is not enough, we should know that a calling is complemented by theological skills."

"The leader of a church should posses a diploma or degree in theology because in most cases church leaders mislead their followers because of lack of such skills," he added.


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