Rwanda deports American pastor who criticized government: ‘It’s a very sad day’
Rwanda deported an American pastor and missionary after he was arrested for allegedly disturbing the public order, according to a state-run newspaper.
Conservative Baptist missionary Gregg Schoof was deported after allegedly overstaying his work permit. He had been living in the country since 2003, the New Times reported on Tuesday, citing immigration authorities. Police arrested him for what they called an illegal meeting with journalists to criticize the government's shutdown of his local radio station and church.
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"We arrested Mr. Schoof and handed him over to the Rwanda Investigative Bureau," John Bosco Kabera, a police spokesman, told Agence France-Presse news agency. "He was arrested for holding an illegal meeting with journalists in a public space. It is illegal to hold meetings in public spaces without authorization."
In a letter posted on his website Sept. 7, Schoof, a Fundamental Baptist Missions International missionary, announced his family had to leave the country because his visa was not being renewed. He posted a video Oct. 1 from a going-away party.
"We are being kicked out of Rwanda," the father of six wrote. "Try to logic this out: Church--illegally closed. Radio--illegally closed. So now, because we are 'not doing anything,' they cannot give us visas."
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He said his family is going to Uganda to start several radio stations, evangelism, and possibly start a church there. He said he hopes to one day go back to Rwanda to reopen the church.
"It's a very sad day but we try to make it very happy also," the pastor shared in the video. "Some of our church folks have decided to come just to wish us goodbye."
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Schoof's Amazing Grace radio station was banned last year after authorities said it broadcast a sermon that described women as "evil."
The New Times report said Schoof released a statement on Monday criticizing Rwanda authorities for loosening restrictions on abortion and schools for handing out condoms.
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"Is this government trying to send people to hell?" the statement asked.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.