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Rwanda
Sunday, 07 August 2011 00:00
Religious Freedom Ranking:
2.5 out of 5 stars: Poor

Rwanda

 

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and the government generally respects this right in practice, although social and religious strife related to the war been Hutus and Tutsis remains problematic. Individuals have the right to choose and change their religion, and discrimination based on religion or faith is punishable by law. A law granting legal status to approved religious communities has been under consideration since 2008. Meanwhile, all religious groups must register with the government. Some small storefront churches have been denied registration but have been encouraged to reapply. The government also regulates public meetings, including those for religious purposes, and has the legal authority to punish groups that do not receive permission for their assemblies. Even religious organizations that are registered with the government may be required to give advance notice for outdoor events.

Rwanda has a population of 10.7 million people. Fifty-seven percent of the population is Roman Catholic, 26 percent are Protestant, 11 percent are Seventh-day Adventists and five percent are Muslim. Less than one percent of the population practices indigenous religions or is Baha’i. There is a growing Jehovah’s Witness population, as well as evangelical Protestants and other Christian-linked religions. 

From 1990 to 1994, Rwanda experienced a horrific civil war between the Hutus and Tutsi resulting in the massacre of more than 800,000 Tutsis. When the Tutsis subsequently defeated the Hutu regime, millions of Hutu refugees temporarily fled the country fearing reprisals. Order has since been restored and the country had its first elections in 1999. The government has welcomed and works closely with numerous international religious and missionary organizations that have been helping to provide relief and development in Rwanda. However, the government requires that all groups entering and working within the country register to acquire legal status. It imposes difficult and burdensome registration and renewal requirements. Because of a law dealing with religious communities that has been under consideration since 2008, but has not yet been passed, no groups have been granted official legal status in the country. Instead, some were granted provisional authorization.

Night meetings of religious groups were sometimes banned because such meetings had been used in the past to plan attacks. Because some nuns and clerics had been implicated in the genocide of 1994 there have been some residual bad feelings toward the Catholic Church, but they have gradually been dissipating. Still, there have been some attacks on Catholics by the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) troops and the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD).

Furthermore, mass killings perpetrated by the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God in neighboring Uganda in March 2000, have caused the government to watch closely for religious groups that may be prone to such violent or destructive behavior.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and other minority religious groups claim they receive unfair treatment by the government. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been arrested for declining, for religious reasons, to participate in night patrols. Also, students belonging to this faith have been expelled for refusing to sing the national anthem. Furthermore, government officials that preside over wedding ceremonies require the couple to take an oath while their hands are placed on the flag. Jehovah’s Witnesses have objected to this practice on religious grounds and it has made it difficult for practitioners to marry legally.

 

2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Rwanda

Rwanda - New World Encyclopedia

Rwanda Country Profile- BBC News

Last Updated on Friday, 21 October 2011 15:27