The negative effects of the second round of COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions are not lost on the body of Christ in Nigeria.
Hence church leaders, who spoke to Sunday Telegraph on the subject matter, have lent their voices on the move even as they related their various experiences with the pandemic.
One of the respondents is the General Overseer of God’s Kingdom Christian Centre, Dr John Kome. He described COVID-19 as a scourge on the church, pointing out that its effects on church activities was inevitable, because the pandemic is global and still ravaging the lives and economies of the world.
He noted that the resurgence of COVID-19 was of course expected, having been predicted by medical experts since the first outbreak.
“Some state governments had warned that churches, other religious groups and organisations should as a matter of responsibility, observe all necessary COVID-19 restrictions and protocols to avoid a second wave of fatalities.
“According to the government, not more than 50 worshippers at a time and in other cases, not more than half the capacity of a church building space, should be critically adhered to. I think it is better to obey and be alive, than disobey and cross over to life beyond.”
Kome, however, explained that the upsurge of COVID-19, caused him to cancel all Christmas and New Year programmes. He therefore urged all Nigerians not to throw caution to the wind, allow large gatherings or engage in all manner of uncontrollable behaviours.
He added that the second phase of the COVID- 19 affliction seems to be more dangerous than the first and therefore, called for utmost carefulness and discipline. While pleading God’s mercies upon the nation, Kome said: “It is better to play safe than to die.
The restriction orders have been given, so we have no option than to obey and keep praying, so that a solution can come which will allow normal church activities to continue.” For his own part, the Lead Pastor of Evangel Pentecostal Church Worldwide, Iheanyi Ejiogu, does not think that anything can affect the true church of God.
“Any other programme of the church can be affected by the restriction, but not the ‘Church’ of Jesus Christ which was built on a spiritual solid foundation. We should know that the church is not a building or a physical place per say, but a divine mandate and movement by God,” he affirmed.
Ejiogu noted that year 2020 literally opened many more positive vistas of ministry or church engagements that had not been considered or explored. “Technology is synonymous with some level of education and exposure, that is a major component that has affected many who have not been able to adjust to the rapidly changing times.”
According to him, the word of God is clear that God will build his church and nothing will be able to stop it, not then, not now, not ever.
Ejiogu said since the pandemic started in early 2020, church leaders have ensured that it does not spread by making sure that members observe all the safety rules in the church and outside.
“In my view, I think that the church is doing a good job at ensuring that basic sanitary measures are taken (washing hands, spacing, sanitizers and masks) more than anywhere else,” he said. He also advised that in spite of that, more efforts should be made in ensuring that all the directives given by the authorities are obeyed, especially, as they affect the church.
We in the church have been law abiding. We obey rules, regulations and directives from the government. In the case book COVID-19 pandemic, we should put more efforts in making sure that the government directives are adhered to adequately & faithfully.
Violating them will not do us any good at all.” Also, the General Overseer, God’s Firmament Covenant Ministry (GFCM), Prophet Ambisy Remigius Christian did not see anything wrong with further imposition of lockdown, by the government. He said: “The restrictions are a welcome development, for the safety of the people.
As I speak, many see the whole scenario as an exaggeration because the number of deaths being recorded and reported, raises a question because there had been deaths before the COVID-19 came up. People have thousands of reasons to die on their own without COVID-19.
“The hardship and other health challenges being faced by the masses at the moment, is worse than coronavirus, as many suffer and die on a daily basis for high blood pressure, malaria, typhoid fever, asthma, diabetes, cancer etc.
“People used to have fever, cough, catarrh, but anyone who has symptoms and dies, especially the elite, could be attributed to coronavirus.”
He explained that last year, the federal and state governments locked down the country, restricted movements, business transactions, worship centres, offices, hotels, bars, recreation centres etc. , from operating, but regretted that much was not done to support the people to survive it.
Christian gave an instance in America during the last lockdown where everyone was given palliatives to survive during the period.
“I know a Nigerian couple in America who received the sum of $5000 from the government for locking down the country. But such did not happen in Nigeria. We saw how the little palliatives that were provided by the government were shared and hidden in various houses across the country.
“Now, that the government is giving orders restricting this and that, without making a good provision for the upkeep of the masses who went through hell during the previous lockdown, one wonders what will happen. How do they want the people to survive?
“During the last lockdown, a lot of people died as a result of hunger and hardship. That should not be allowed to repeat it this time.”
The cleric pointed out that based on the last lockdown experience, churches would surely survive further actions to contain the pandemic and are already operating according to the COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“We are observing the COVID-19 safety regulations, and if we could survive the last one that came as a surprise, we will also survive further lockdown, if need be.”