Now That Worship Centres Are About To Reopen

By Casmir Igbokwe

Many Christians and Muslims are eagerly waiting for the reopening of churches and mosques. The Federal Government had shut down these worship centres in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic currently ravaging the world. The closure did not go down well with many. Hence, some pastors and imams defied the lockdown directives and held services and prayer sessions. Some Christians have also been going to the blessed sacraments to sleep. They believe that lying down in God’s sanctuary will touch His milk of Godly kindness and probably compel Him to give them their hearts’ desires. Now that the Federal Government is considering reopening worship centres, people have to be extremely careful.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) understands this need to be cautious. Recently, it indicated that the ban on religious gatherings might be lifted in June. CAN president, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, said the group had been consulting with the Federal Government on the modalities to follow before the reopening of churches. According to him, if government didn’t entertain any fear in opening markets and banks, which were not as organised as the church, why should it now entertain fear about the compliance of the church?

Of course, there should be no fear, as long as the guidelines are strictly adhered to. Churches should disinfect their premises and provide hand sanitizers or soap and water for worshippers. People must continue to adhere to social distancing and wearing of face masks. They must not shake hands or hug tightly during and after service or mass. And there should be no room for fanaticism or such belief as “Jesus is my husband, nothing will happen to me.” Yes, we know Jesus heals and He protects. But heaven helps those who help themselves. Let us help ourselves first before we look unto God to help us.

It has become imperative to give this admonition because many people now believe that COVID-19 in Nigeria is a scam. The general suspicion now is that it is not different from malaria that we are used to. Perhaps, that is why the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) sent messages to a cross section of Nigerians recently differentiating between malaria and COVID-19.

According to the NCDC, “COVID-19 is not the same as malaria. Both may present with fever and both diseases can come at the same time. PCR test effectively detects COVID-19 in patients.” In another message, the agency said “COVID-19 is real. So many of our health workers are risking their lives to protect the rest of us. Take responsibility. Be supportive and stop spread of fake news.”

It was this doubtful attitude that made some Muslims not to observe safety measures during the last Eid-el-Fitri celebrations. The Sultan of Sokoto and president of Jama’atu Nasril Islam, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar, had directed Muslim faithful to stay at home and pray. President Muhammadu Buhari gave the same directive. But many Muslims flouted the order. They listened more to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, who reportedly allowed mosques to resume congregational prayers. There were large numbers of worshippers in mosques in such places as Borno, Nasarawa, Niger, Sokoto and Yobe.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, home to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, people adhered to the lockdown measures of the government. They avoided group Eid prayers and public celebrations, which were called off as a result of COVID-19. Like our Sultan, Saudi’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, instructed Muslims not to go to mosque but to stay at home for Eid prayers. They listened to him. They also adhered to the 24-hour curfew imposed on the nation from the beginning of Eid-el-Fitri on May 23. Eid prayers were broadcast from the Ka’aba, Islam’s holiest site in Mecca, with no worshippers present. The people of Turkey also obeyed the nationwide lockdown imposed for the entirety of the Eid-el-Fitri. Though the United Arab Emirates has been lifting restrictions and reopening businesses, it has not reopened mosques and worshippers were asked to perform Eid prayers at home.

The questions for Nigerian Muslims are: how many of them showed genuine humility and compassion to the needy during this Sallah? How many genuinely sought the face of God against armed robbery, kidnapping, and killings that have characterised our nation? How many abhor corruption, which is incongruent with the tenets of both Islam and Christianity? How many of our governors will put a stop to the stealing of security votes? How about those aiding and abetting Boko Haram in their murderous agenda in the country?  How many of our religious hypocrites can emulate the strong faith of Leah Sharibu who refused to denounce her Christian faith in the face of severe threats by terrorists. Today, she is still in captivity long after her fellow abductees were released.

The government that should regulate some of our excesses is part of the problem. It has continued to sponsor religious pilgrimages to Mecca and Jerusalem even when the economy of the nation does not support splashing money on such personal ventures.

Our major problem in Nigeria is that we are too religious but ungodly. We have many hypocrites who frequent worship centres not because they are genuinely interested in worshipping God. They only use religion as a cover to hide their evil intentions. They pay tithes and sow seeds not because they wish to genuinely help humanity. They only do so in expectation of multiple rewards from God. It is akin to the marketing gimmick of “buy one, get two free.” Our nation will never progress if we do not change this type of mindset.

Happy new month!

Re: Curious mass movement of strange men to the South

Dear Casmir, in a political economy, there are social institutions but beggar’s segment is not included. Government in the north should not have sent the almajirai to their home states. They should have established rehabilitation centres for them in the city and trained them in skills like shoe mending, music, instrumentalism, etc.

– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

Security agencies should be held responsible for breakdown of inter-travelling restriction because of bribe from drivers. But what is the mission of these almarijai from North to southern states since they are not going to contribute to the economy of the states they are going to reside? There must be hidden agenda about this mission and somebody must be behind the journey to southern states in spite of  the lockdown. Southern state governors should wake up and stop immigration of almarijils into their states.

 – Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Dear Casy, the present mass movement of strange men from the North to South East and South-South is their plan for Fulanisation and jihad. The security men posted to our area are of northern extraction. They aid the movement. The northern henchmen had over the years prepared them for this war. They are sent to join the terror herdsmen in their evil plan. Have the northern governors raised their voices over our complaints. Let me remind them that the Fulani invasion and the jihad of 1840s hadn’t brought modern and human advancement to the North, rather it brought hegemony, religious bigotry, poverty, illiteracy and chaos. The present one must fail. They used Gowon in the past; now Buhari wants to try. Let southerners defend their ancestral homes. May God save us from the evil forces.

– Eze Chima C., Lagos,+2347036225495

Truth is bitter. Let him who has ears, hear and change for the better. On almajaris’ movement to the South, may God teach us how to cope in this ‘marriage of inconvenience’! Their headache (occasioned by low level of education and development) is now our headache. They have refused to grow up. I hope there are no ulterior motives behind the movements, which our competent governors in the South must unravel and stop now.

– Mike, Mushin,+2348161114572

 

Thank you for the alarm you raised. Some may tag you a prophet of doom or call you names, but one thing is certain, you are far better than the capitalists parading themselves as our leaders. But why is it that they don’t take proactive measures? Or learn from their southwest counterparts that took their destiny in their hands. A stitch in time saves nine! Thanks for your informative  journalism.

– Smart, Abakaliki, 08134774884

Dear Casmir, but for your candour, I would have readily come to your defence against the angst and onslaught of “Jesus freaks”, like our brother, Dr. E.O. Sibeudu. He and his ilk got offended that you dared to disagree with their big religious masquerade, Bishop Oyedepo, on reopening of churches during the lockdown, for usual massive attendance by their captive congregation. I recall that, a few months ago, same Dr. Sibeudu, or another writer took umbrage at another columnist in your paper, Ray Ekpu, for comments on the pregnant woman in Lagos who rejected blood transfusion, on religious grounds, to aid safe delivery of her baby at a Lagos hospital. But the Lagos State Government did the needful by almost forcefully saving the lives of both mother and child, through needed CS procedure. As religious fanaticism or beliefs go, people are metaphorically free to do whatever they like with their walking sticks, provided they do not hit me, or the public with it. Popular public demand and frenzy for ease off of the lockdown seem to have the effect of defeating efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve, with spikes in new cases in some states. Your readers respect your sense of decency by entertaining their views, even when in contrast to yours, when you could publish such angry views as ball into the editor’s waste basket.

– Dr. Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt, 08085914645.

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, June 1, 2020

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