How churches are changing people’s identities

Churche sare touted as not only being a path to heaven but also a way to wealth and blessings while on earth, according to clerics and believers.

Some Christian churches have a philosophy that someone’s identity, including their names, carry curses of their forefathers since ancient Rwandans were not Christians.

They claim that it is good to have a name traced in the Bible or Kinyarwanda name that does not belong to anyone in your present and past family members.

The bearer of the name and all that links them to their ancestors is vulnerable to living a miserable life because they are still connected to the ‘pagan’ forefathers.

For example, if you are called by the name of your grandparent who died, the grandparent will sabotage your life by the authority of their name you bear.

Believers are advised to go through a process beyond baptism called ‘deliverance’ to be purged off the past evils including the ones inherited from family.

The process is done in solitary rooms and includes fasting plus prayers where a person renounces their ‘evil past’ including their name to become a new person.

One of the churches where deliverance is done is the restoration church at the ‘prayer mount’, in Masoro, Gasabo District.

The church is called ‘Masasu’ after its founder, Apostle Yoshua Ndagijimana Masasu, who has founded 56 Evangelical Restoration churches in Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo.

An individual who is struggling financially can seek appointment from the men of God in this church and be guided on how to renounce all their ‘filthy past’ and be given a new name.

Pastor Abishai Ntwari is the one in charge of deliverance services at the church.

He acknowledges that he too changed his name although he does not disclose what name he was called by before.

He emphasizes the need for deliverance in simple words: “yes it is needed because it is biblical”, in line with the purpose of Jesus’ ministry and Christianity.

“People need the service of deliverance because Jesus came to deliver the captives” he explains.

Captivity in this manner is a situation when one is not successful in one way or the other. Such person may need to be delivered from captivity.

How deliverance is done

The guidance is both written and oral.

The first step requires a believer to write all their past history, name, nicknames, detailed family history (including if your parents had church matrimony or if any people were during your birth).

One also writes details of their acts and happenings in seven year intervals i.e: (0-7, 8-14, 15-21, 22-28, 29-35).

The individual writes these essays and many more in three days of solitary prayer and fasting – solitary because even marriage partners are not allowed to consummate marriage during deliverance.

The individual seeks another appointment and delivers the papers. The second step stipulates the procedures of renouncing former connections.An individual renounces one item per day for seven days of prayer and fasting.

The paper shows areas of renouncing including connection to certain names, family, lineage, clan and many more.For example, if one carries a family name, they are considered to be a captive of a demon of the first owner of the name because Rwandan forefathers were pagans.The man of God chooses the new name of the individual during deliverance.

Pastor Ntwari says “such names may not bar you from entering the Kingdom of God but brings impediments in your daily life”.

After becoming a new person, an individual can go ahead and change names officially.

Bishop Fidele Masengo of Foursquare Church says his church also providesdeliveranceservices.

“A Christian confesses an isolated sin and is helped to be delivered from it,” he says.

He however adds that there is no need for people to change their identity that connects them to families and the country at large.

“I think one only needs to change their behaviour not the entire identity because our identity connects us to our families. You can’t commit to become a stranger to your family”.

The New Times’ Kelly Rwamapera