Should Christians switch off their phones during prayers?

Chatting, taking selfie in church services have become a common issue in different churches. Christians have many reasons to do that. But, isn’t this doubtful to church leaders or preachers?

The advancement of technology has not only led to many people using phones but to a new addiction with many people now finding it difficult to spend a few minutes without their mobile telephone.

Turning mobile phones off is a common message by religious leaders during service. However, many people don’t agree on whether using phones in holy places like churches or mosques is good or not.

Religious leaders’ views

Sheikh Salim Hitimana, the Mufti of Rwanda, said it was forbidden to use a mobile phone in a mosque during prayers because it can cause someone to lose focus and humility in prayer. However, it is allowed during another session of speech (Imvugirwaruhame).

Hitimana considers prayer session to be a spiritual moment for Muslims to worship and give thanks to God.

“When a follower enters the mosque, they should immediately switch off their mobile phones.  There are reminders at the entrance. A mosque is a place where everyone needs silence. So, when the phone is not in silent mode, it can disturb the owner as well as the rest of the communion. Prayers need concentration and prayer sessions usually take no more than an hour and 15 minutes, this time is not long for someone to keep their phone away,” the Mufti said.

Monsignor Philip Rukamba, the Bishop of Butare Diocese and president of the Episcopal Conference of Rwanda, said a mobile phone was a useful tool, adding that its usage during mass does not matter when it is used suitably.

“Mobile Phones are used to read, write, and send messages among others. The problem is not a mobile phone but the way it is used. The necessity is to use it appropriately in the way a user respects the church institution. A Christian can share updates on what is going on during service, they can also read the Bible or take notes,” Rukamba said.

However, Rukamba added that mobile phone can distract people in the church.

“Though there are some cases of people who regularly need their phones to be on, it is better not to use it in church until they get out. Every Christian needs to give God time.”

Pastor Patrick Nsengiyumva from the Pentecostal Church of Rwanda (ADEPR Katabaro), said that he can’t oblige Christians to turn their mobile phones off because they can be used to read the bible, songs or respond to an urgent issue.

“Someone can enter the church, but also have an appointment with someone else. It is not easy for him to switch the phone off. Currently, smart phone have apps for bible and gospel songs.

Christians are likely to use those apps while they are in church. Following along scripture in church electronic bible allow for quick find. Most of young people do not use hard copy of the bible. So, mobile phones could not be a burden, but Christians should be advised on proper use while in church,” he said.

Is using social media in church disrespectful

Dieudonne Mbonigaba, a Christian who prays at Nazarene Church International, Remera Parish said using a phone especially for other things and not spiritual related matters was disrespectful.

He added that mobile phones were disruptive agents of communication and everyone should avoid anything that might disrupt their communication with God.

“When one’s mobile phone is on, at church, that person will be required to cut off communication with God in case of an incoming call. Let’s say someone attends a meeting with a highly respected person, will they be allowed to respond to phone calls?” he asks rhetorically.

Social media addiction

Another Christian says he sometimes goes to social media while in church because some preachers take long to finish their sermons.

“I sometimes use the phone in the church because the sermon takes a long time. Also, some preachers fail to manage their audience. Youth and old people are interested in different things. The preacher can talk about important things but irrelevant to young generation which make us bored and decide to use our phones,” he said.

John Mugabi, who prays at Christian Life Assemble Church (CLA) in Nyarutarama, confesses that he is addicted to his smart phone and will most cases pull it out in church to check the latest on social media.

“I am addicted to my phone especially social media such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. When I get in church it is so hard to switch it off, instead I put it in silence mode and keep on checking on my social media apps. It is bad and I regret it. I want to stop it but very hard. I feel that it is disrespectful to God as well as my church,” he said.