US pastor who broadcast ‘hate against women’ on Rwanda radio station arrested for disturbing peace

Gregg Schoof apprehended after criticising government shut down of ‘Amazing Grace’ radio

Vincent Wood
Tuesday 08 October 2019 00:46 BST
The pastor set up his radio station in Kigali more than a decade ago
The pastor set up his radio station in Kigali more than a decade ago (Screengrab/Great Lakes Post)

An American pastor who had his Rwandan radio station shut down after airing a sermon that described women as “evil” has been arrested for disturbing public order.

Authorities in the majority Christian country shut down Gregg Schoof’s Amazing Grace station in 2018 following outcry from women’s rights activists over who claimed he had “spread hate against women”.

Now Mr Schoof has been apprehend in the capital Kigali after gathering reporters to give a statement criticising the nation’s government for the decision, ahead of his move out of Rwanda following the expiration of his visa.

Established more than 10 years ago by the pastor as part of his missionary in the country, the radio station faced criticism in 2018 after broadcasting a sermon by local pastor Nicolas Niyibikora, who is alleged to have said: "Who can say anything good about women? There is nothing.

"Women we have now in our midst are prostitutes. Women brought sin into the world and when the world goes into extinction, it is because of women,"

Shortly after it aired in January, complaints poured in through social media.

The National Women's Association and Rwanda Women Journalists' Association also criticised the broadcast.

Mr Schoop, originally from Phoenix, Arizona, has since claimed the sermon used women as a metaphor for “bad churches” and that the pastor “did not preach against women”.

Mr Schoop had been ordered to apologise by airing a retraction and accepting a fine of 2million Rwandan Francs (£1,750).

However, he refused and responded to the ruling by saying he had done nothing wrong and was being “ordered to plead guilty” against his “conscience”.

“I am not Pastor Nicholas”, he wrote, “Pastor Nicholas must apologise himself”.

Following his arrest a police spokesman said Mr Schoof was handed over to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) "for further management."

It comes as the country seeks greater regulation of churches under President Paul Kagame, including the introduction of stringent building codes and laws requiring preachers train for a theological degree from an accredited school.

The law also requires church leaders disclose the source of their funding in a bid to clamp down on corruption.

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More than 700 churches, mostly Pentecostal, and one mosque were closed down in the capital in 2018, facing staunch criticism from some Christian groups.

However a government statement that year argued: “The closures do not infringe on freedom to worship but rather address the alarming proliferation of places of worship in dilapidated and unhygienic conditions, as well as troubling behaviour of unscrupulous individuals masquerading as religious leaders.

“The latter have, among other abuses, defrauded innocent followers, broadcast insults against women and other religions, and forced followers to fast to the point of death from starvation.”

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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