Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza
Citing a survey last year which found that there were some 557
practicing Christian denominations in the small Central African
nation, Burundi's lower house of parliament has passed a bill
requiring churches to have at least 500 members and a building
to stanch the "proliferation of churches" in that country.
Under the proposed law, foreign churches will need at least
1,000 followers before they can register as a legitimate church,
according to the BBC.
Evangelical churches have been cropping up at a rapid pace in
the predominantly Christian nation of nearly 9 million people
since the end of a long ethnic based civil war in 2005 in which
an estimated 300,000 people were killed.
The government, led by born-again Christian President Pierre
Nkurunziza, believes that the church community is currently too
haphazard, with just about anyone being able to start a church,
and it has also been plagued by scandals as well. One recent
scandal involved a pastor imploring barren women who wanted
to conceive to sleep with him.
Pentecostal Holiness Church, Burundi
The BBC said the bill got unanimous support from the MPs in
Burundi's National Assembly and is likely to get the same
reception in the Senate.
Once the president signs the bill into law, churches will have a
year to sure up their pews or shut down their operations.
While the politicians overwhelmingly support the move, some
members of the public have questioned the wisdom behind the
move, citing scriptures that contradict the number rule like
Matthew 18: 20 which says: "For where two or three are
gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Critics also cited Matthew 13:24-30 in which Jesus explains
that the wheat and the tares must grow together.
"The word must be preached whether in mountains, rivers or
synagogues. The problem is not about too many churches but
our economy. Life has become so unbearable and people are
embarking on anything to make ends meet. No, we should not
ban them. Only God will remove the wheat from chaff," said
Wellington Mukundwa in a comment on Facebook.
"I find the decision by the lower house of Burundi shocking,
particularly the thought process behind it. You do not curb
abuse by limiting the number of churches. If this bill is passed
into law, those 'bogus' pastors will simply join forces and abuse
even more people. Let people face the wrath of the law when
they err," warned Edmund Mbewe.
source: christian post