by AT News Team

Fifteen members of a splinter group that has left the Seventh-day Adventist Church were given one-year prison sentences last week in Rwanda, according to The New Times daily paper. The convictions were for refusing to allow their children to attend elementary school and refusing to register for identity cards as required by law in the African nation. They also refuse to vote and “never own mobile phones or other ‘modern’ equipment, which they consider worldly,” reported the newspaper.
The members of the sect call themselves “Real Adventists” but are widely known as the Abagorozi. They do not own or use buildings and meet in homes for simple prayer services. Like Jehovah’s Witnesses, they believe that all members are religious workers. They also “believe Jesus is the Supreme Healer, Educator, Teacher, Judge [and] God will do everything for them without making any effort apart from praying.” They refuse to participate in the national health insurance plan.
One member of the group told The New Times reporter Jean Pierre Bucyensenge that they resist education and participation in government “because they need to concentrate on preparing [for] their final days on earth.” The member who refused to identify himself said “they draw their beliefs ‘deep from the Bible’ and other ‘holy writings,’” according to Bucyensenge.
A 14-year-old girl told the reporter she dropped out of school in the fourth grade two years ago. “I chose to leave school after I realized that God is the sole teacher. It is my right to choose.” It is likely that in the United States these individuals would have greater protection under the First Amendment than do citizens of Rwanda, although state laws would generally not allow a 12-year-old to drop out of the fourth grade.
“This an example of the extreme counter-cultural lifestyle of many Adventist groups in developing nations,” a missiologist told Adventist Today. “They believe that the end times are here and that God will care of them without education, medical care, or economic development.”