From Africa Metro comes the story of Pastor — well, presumably “Imam,” now — Salim Mikdad, whose 480-strong congregation turned up for services at his church in Rwanda last Tuesday, only to be informed the church was now a mosque and they were all converting to Islam.
If the story holds up — and let us take due care to note that news from some parts of the world is not always reliable, especially when it all seems to trace back to a single local media source — it would be the first such mass conversion in Rwanda.
Most news reports building from the Africa Metro piece describe this as a “forced” conversion, a characterization taken from the word of a single church member who said the flock “all turned up for a church service only to be forced to convert to Islam by their pastor.”
It is not clear what sort of force was involved, beyond Pastor Mikdad invoking his authority over the congregants to declare the change of religion. The report says an Islamic cleric “preached to Pastor Mikdad and succeeded in convincing him that Islam was the way to go, making him decide to switch faiths.”
According to Africa Metro, this conversion was made easier because there are still hard feelings in Rwanda about the local Catholic and Protestant churches “giving moral sanction” to the awful genocide of the 1990s, and “playing ethnic politics” between the warring Tutsi and Hutu tribes over the years.
The Muslim population in predominantly Catholic and Protestant Rwanda is said to be “rising,” but Africa Metro says it currently stands at only 4.6 percent, mostly Sunni.
That could be a misprint, as a 2002 Washington Post article on the rise of Islam in Rwanda estimated the number at 14 percent, while confirming the idea that many Rwandans turned to Islam “because of the role that some Catholic and Protestant leaders played in the genocide,” while local Muslim leaders and families were “being honored for protecting and hiding those who were fleeing.”