Calvary is hosting two fundraisers to help the Kiskiminetas Presbytery toward its goal of raising $50,000 for our partners in Gitarama Presbytery to use for the purpose of reopening churches.
In early March 2018, the Government of Rwanda began closing churches across the country. These closings have affected our partner churches.
Below are two opportunities for you to participate in this fundraising effort. A summary of the situation in Rwanda follows.
Red, White and Blue Take-Out Sale
To celebrate the birthdays of Presidents Lincoln and Washington, the Mission and Outreach Committee will have take-out chili for sale on February 24 following the service. All proceeds will benefit Rally for Rwanda through the Kiskiminetas Presbytery. Featured will be one quart of red (traditional) chili, or white chili, and blueberry muffins all packed up for your lunch at home. Sign up to reserve your chili and muffins on the Mission Table.
Trades of Hope Party
March 8 is International Women’s Day and also our Trades of HopeParty at 7:00 p.m. in the dining room. Church member Janet Treacy will conduct the program; she is now a part-time Compassionate Entrepreneur for a company called Trades of Hope which features handmade products by female artisans throughout the world. Come for an educational opportunity as well as some fun, shopping and desserts. Bring some friends! You do not need to register to attend. All proceeds will benefit the Rally for Rwanda project.
Rwanda Church Closings Background
The following information is provided by the Kiskiminetas Presbytery:
Currently, Gitarama Presbytery has 93 worship areas, including 39 parishes, and 54 chapels. Ten (10) parishes and 26 chapels have been completely closed, while 29 parishes and 28 chapels have been required to undertake some renovations with a limited deadline. This means that many facilities have been padlocked shut. Others have a provisional license to conduct worship, with a limited deadline to meet government requirements. At this point, it is our understanding that the term “limited deadline”means something like 15 days, to 3 months, depending on circumstances of the worship facility.
And so, we ask why. Why has the government of Rwanda taken this action? It is difficult to understand completely from so far away, but here is what we can tell you. But please understand that the items below do not simply apply to our fellow Presbyterians. They apply to all worshiping groups all across Rwanda.
- There are issues of safety in some churches across Rwanda. Many churches are old adobe style construction with small, modified tree branches as rafters, holding up heavy tile roofs. The structures are mostly older. The government says that safety is a concern.
- Churches are now required to have two men’s and two women’s “restrooms.”
- Some congregations worship in the open. In February of this year, a large group of about 200 people were worshiping on a mountainside in Rwanda when they were struck by lightning, and 17 people were killed. Some congregations also worship in tents.
- Some congregations were meeting in homes in residential neighborhoods, which were not equipped to handle the large number of people and were also becoming loud and imposing neighbors.
- Some “churches” are being formed by people without proper education in order have a means to earn a living. Finding work is difficult in Rwanda. Therefore, the government is beginning to institute educational requirements for church pastors.
- And finally, there are concerns voiced by folks from outside of Rwanda that the government is concerned about the growing number of churches in Rwanda, especially as it relates to large group gatherings where voices of dissent may spread. If you look at the listing of requirements that are needed in order to be considered an appropriate worship facility, one has to wonder if safety of the population is the primary concern. (for example, churches are required to have paved areas for parking cars. A large percentage of the population in Rwanda does not own a car within their entire multi-family clan.)
- We are learning about proposed legislation which would make it a crime to make derogatory remarks about President Kagame, and would be punishable by a seven (7) year prison sentence.
The closing of churches not only causes concerns for the affected congregations, but also affects the pastors and their families who might not be paid because of the decrease in collections from or closing of the affected congregations.