Coronavirus disease which started in Wuhan, China in December 2019 has become a global pandemic within a couple of months claiming thousands of lives on a daily basis.
As medical scientists battle to find vaccine to tackle and to prevent the disease, every country has adopted measures to halt its spread.
Like the rest of the world, the federal and state governments announced total lockdown for more than a month and a ban on social and religious gatherings with churches and mosques closed.
But even as a cure was yet to be discovered for the disease and cases of infection were increasing everyday across the country, some christian leaders, led by Bishop David Oyedepo of Winners’ Chapel have called for the reopening of churches.
They argued that if the government could reopen the markets and other businesses, worship centres should not remain closed. Many Nigerians have however kicked against reopening of places of worship describing such move as premature and insensitive
Barrister Banjo Ayenakin: The call by some Christian leaders for the reopening of churches in the face of COVID-19 pandemic is inhuman and insensitive. There are scriptural examples of pandemic in the Holy Bible and God’s instruction to mankind during these periods was for man to stay indoor until the siege was over. God will not do for man; what man is to do for himself. God will not do by prayers what man is to do by work. This is an issue of life or death.
One must not play church or religion with what has to do with man’s existence or otherwise. I don’t believe it is the desperate need for money that is making these religious leaders clamour for the reopening of places of worship. I sincerely believe this call is borne out of ignorance of the enormity of what the world is facing with its attendant complications. All hands must be on the deck to ensure that the battle over COVID-19 is won.
Rev. Fr. Raymond Anoliefo, Executive Director, JDPC Lagos:
Personally, with the uncertainties around COVID-19, I will suggest that all public religious gatherings should remain suspended till further notice.
Life and being healthy should come first. And I don’t think that God will be particularly upset that His children are safe and healthy. This is a time when the family should be seen more as a domestic Church and hence the worship of God should be encouraged in the homes and in our hearts, and in these times, even online.
The “Church” must first be borne in our individual lives, hearts and homes before it is born into the public spaces, “physical buildings”.
Furthermore, COVID-19 has made it evidently clear to us that preservation of human life, which is a gift from God, comes before
“public worship” of the Giver of life. Preserving life and ensuring that its dignity is protected is the primordial way of worshipping the Creator.
Indeed, the biblical Good Samaritan worshipped God, not in a sacred building filled with fellow worshippers singing praises to God, but alone on a dusty road at the feet of a bloodied and abandoned half-dead man.
And the Catholic Church has always been in the forefront of upholding this Samaritan principle everywhere, as evinced in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) donating her hospitals (425 in number) to the government for use as treatment centres.
Bishop Seun Adeoye, World Bishops Council: Bishop Adeoye described the decision of government to keep churches closed while markets and businesses were opened as double standard.
He said allowing markets and banks to open while the pandemic was still raging showed that churches could as well commence congregation without jettisoning the safety of the masses.
He said, “those agitating for reopening of churches wondered why the government would relax restriction at markets, banks and other businesses while churches were closed. If we feel that the society is still under threat, then the lockdown should be general rather than opening businesses and lock religious centres.
Personally, I believe that if we have not reached the stage to ease the restriction, then every public space should remain under lockdown. Is government saying the banks and markets it opened are not places where the virus can be transmitted? I see the move as counter-productive.
We are all aware that our markets lack any control mechanism, so how does the government intend to check transmission of the virus in such condition and circumstances? From the foregoing, you can understand the reasons behind the agitation of those seeking for the opening of churches.
Read More: Vanguard