Jehovah’s Witnesses have been active in Rwanda since 1970. They obtained legal registration in 1992, which the government confirmed in 2002. The Witnesses are well-known for their political neutrality and are generally free to practice their religious beliefs. They took no part in the atrocities during the genocide of 1994 and even risked their own lives to save others. However, some discriminate against the Witnesses for maintaining their same standard of political neutrality today.
Some school authorities expel Witness schoolchildren for refusing to participate in patriotic and religious ceremonies at school. * Additionally, the government requires schoolteachers to participate in seminars that involve military training and the singing of the national anthem. As a result, hundreds of Witness teachers have lost their employment. In 2010, the Rwandan government required all public servants to participate in an oath ceremony involving the national flag. Consequently, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses employed as public servants lost their jobs.
Despite these challenges, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Rwanda are grateful for the religious freedom they do have. They hope that in time Rwandan officials will recognize that their politically neutral position poses no threat to the government.
^ par. 3 Jehovah’s Witnesses view participation in patriotic ceremonies as a religious act and a violation of God’s commandment to worship only him. Although they do not join in such ceremonies themselves, they respect the right of others to do so.