Rwanda deports American evangelist over 'public disorder'

Tuesday October 8 2019

 

By IVAN R. MUGISHA

Rwandan authorities have deported an American missionary accused of causing public disorder and being in the country illegally.

Gregg Schoof, a Baptist preacher, was deported on Monday night shortly after being arrested and being interrogated alongside his son by Rwanda Investigative Bureau.

The Emmigration and Immigration office told The EastAfrican that Mr Schoof "did not have a valid purpose to stay in Rwanda" after his church was closed for contravening regulations and his Christian radio censored indefinitely for airing "hateful sermons".

"Mr Schoof was deported because his work permit had expired. There was no reason to renew his work permit because his church and radio were closed, François-Régis Gatarayiha, the Director General of Immigration and Emigration told The EastAfrican.

"We offered him a short extended stay to prepare to leave the country on condition that he does not disturb public order, but he went ahead and violated that condition and we decided to deport him."

Mr Schoof was living in Rwanda since 2003 together with some members of his family, running Amazing Grace FM, which was closed last year after airing a sermon that was ajudged by the Rwanda Media Commission as "hateful against women".

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That particular sermon by his fellow pastor, Nicolas Niyibikora, was aired live in Kinyarwanda in which he argued that women "are the source of all evil".

The sermon drew ire from women organisations in the country, leading to the radio station's suspension and later, indefinite closure.

Schoof took the media regulator to court on grounds that his radio was closed illegally but he lost the case.

Last Sunday, Schoof sent out a communication to journalists calling for a press conference on Monday to share his grievances, but was arrested outside the venue on Monday morning and interrogated by authorities together with his son.

Before his detention, he provided a statement to reporters in which he asked if "this government is trying to send people to hell" and accused the government of legalising abortion and providing condoms in schools, among other criticisms.

In February last year, authorities ordered 700 churches to close across Rwanda - including Schoof's church in Kigali - for failing to comply with building regulations and for noise pollution.