“Churches will continue to be closed, religious leaders are encouraged to continue to put in place measures to prevent COVID-19, in preparation for the opening of churches in the next 15 days based on the results of the health analysis," the cabinet said in a statement.”
The decision came after the Religious of the Immaculate Conception, RIC, last week wrote to the Rwandan Government Board, RGB, outlining some of its strategies to protect against the Coronavirus pandemic, as long as the government has sustained them and continued their activities to pray.
On May 28 this year, the forum wrote to the Prime Minister requesting that churches and other faith-based activities be facilitated so that they too can begin to operate.
On June 5 this year, a meeting was held between the government’s representatives and the administration of the RIC, chaired by the minister local government, Prof Shyaka Anastase. The meeting was aimed at exchanging views on RIC’s recommendations of religious activities in this period of coronavirus.
RIC has been asked to develop and demonstrate measures to protect against Coronavirus in churches, Parish, and mosques, to be reviewed by government agencies.
Religious measures to prevent Coronavirus
RIC management wrote to RGB informing them of the proposed measures including cleaning synagogue buildings such as Parish, churches, or mosque before and after using them, using soap and clean water.
There is also the provision of washing hands tanks or hand sanitizer, buying temperature fever testing machines and people to be examined before entering the church, leaving a one meter distance between people, and wearing masks while attending religious services.
There are also appointed toilet cleaners and assistants to comply with the pre-and-post-wash hands’ culture and inform RIC members of the COVID-19 guidelines to be followed by faith-based organizations.
Also religious services last no more than two hours, the services are held where they were held regularly and meet all the need requirements. It also includes scheduling at least an hour between the services that take place in the same room to make room for cleaning.
“During these times only one service is conducted, (Sunday for Protestants, Catholics, and Pentecost). Saturday for Seventh-day Adventists, and Friday for Muslims. Other services will be considered later based on the members’ compliance with the coronavirus prevention guidelines and the progress of the pandemic in the country,” the statement said.
According to the RIC, anyone who leads the Mass wand anyone in charge of the program will be allowed not to wear masks while standing in front of the congregation and comply with at least a two- distance meters.
There is also the fact that each church reduces the number of people who lead the song by keeping at least a two-meter distance while singing, greeting people by shaking hands and hugging is forbidden, sharing or using public microphones is also not allowed.
“Holy Communion will be done by receiving on the hands, the giver and receiver will both be wearing masks and having a one-meter between them. There is also a continuation on one meter between people who a going to receive the Holy Communion.”
Among the religious observances includes “night gatherings, large evangelistic concerts, public prayer rooms, children’s services, zone services, and praying for people while touching them, are unauthorized.”
RIC also told RGB that it is forbidden to exchange materials, for example, to take songbooks, the Quran and the Bible.
To avoid the exchange offering baskets, the RIC says that members should be encouraged to offer on Mobile Money, Money Transfer, Bank Transfer and to set up baskets that won’t move around the congregation.
It is said that at the time of the funeral of a Christian who has died, it has to be done under the general government’s guidelines, the sacrament of marriage in the church should not exceed 50 people.
The Cabinet meeting decided that "wedding ceremonies are valid but not attended by no more than 30 people. The Ministry of local government will issue detailed instructions on this matter".
RIC pointed out that spouses and those escorting them must abide by all the rules, be encouraged, and not hold celebrations after marriage. Baptism for Catholics will be performed by the recipients while wearing masks and performed at a mass of minorities and appropriate intervals.
While this practice was also resumed, the clergy agreed that baptism for Protestants, Pentecost, and Seventh-day Adventists because they baptize in rivers and lakes, will be suspended.
According to the RIC, Muslims are required to go to the mosque with their praying equipment such as small mats, to use the Quran in the cell phone, and not to touch in the Quran or other books in the mosque.
Joy to religious members
The clerics, who had been out of the church for three months, said they hoped the analysis of the health sector will inevitably allow them to return to God’s house because the steps taken by the clergy are clear.
Kayitare Jean Claude of Rutonde Catholic Parish in the Archdiocese of Kigali said that although the mass continued through radio and television, he is happy that the churches are about to reopen.
“We work together to study the word of God and to pray together as a family. It is a great pleasure to have God perform miracles and we are going to return to His house,” Bazambanza Enock of the Seventh-day Adventist Church said.