This is Pastor Emmanuel, assistant pastor of Masaka parish, and his wife Immaculate. We are standing outside Gako church, one of the two local ‘satellite’ churches that are part of Masaka parish. At least it would be one of the local churches if it was open. As a sound, though incomplete, building it has been closed by the new government building regulations.
It is in a fabulous setting with amazing views and was once the meeting hall for a community of genocide orphans.
There are around 10 small rooms around it that still house some of the orphans. But it is isolated on a hillside of scattered houses, reached by a very rudimentary road.
The small church community of mainly women and children is unlikely to be able to raise the money to complete the work needed.
That same morning, Emmanuel and Immaculate also took me to see Ruyaga church, the other of the two local churches that are linked to the main church in Masaka parish.
Though is another beautiful hillside setting, it is even more remote and rural and also closed. The sizable plot of land on which it is set is earmarked in the government’s ‘city plan’ for a new zoo. Until it is clear whether that will go ahead, there is little point in working towards reopening the building, Pastor Emmanuel thinks, even if the money could be raised from the small congregation of subsistence farmers.
This is Pastor Emmanuel and Immaculate, with the catechist (a kind of local minister) and the senior lay leader in Ruyaga church. However, they and the congregation can only meet in very small numbers in local homes (large church gatherings are prohibited outside a licensed church building) or walk several miles to the main Masaka parish church, which has reopened but is too far away for many.