Authorities in Rwanda have closed more than 700 churches in the capital Kigali for failure to meet safety and hygiene standards, the privately-owned The New Times reports.
It says the operation began a week ago and has so far targeted 714 churches and one mosque.
A state official, Justus Kangwagye, told the news site the houses of worship were in breach of safety standards.
“Worshiping should be done in an organised way and meet minimum standards. Exercising your freedom of worship should not encroach on other people’s rights. They have been asked to halt operations until they meet the requirements,” he said.
He said some churches had not renewed their licences and the authorities were not going to allow them to continue to operate.
The report says some churches were operating in tents and did not have adequate parking for the worshippers, who ended up parking on the side of the road and causing traffic jams.
Kigali residents, according to the report, gave mixed reactions to the operation. Some supported the move but others called on the authorities to give the churches more time to comply with the rules.
Bishop Innocent Nzeyimana, the president of the Churches’ Forum in Nyarugenge district, pleaded on behalf of the churches that they should be allowed to operate until the raised issues are fixed, the report said.