Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Christians across the country, yesterday, marked a lowkey Palm Sunday in compliance with the Federal Government’s directive against public gatherings.
President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a 14-day lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun to check the spread of coronavirus.
Palm Sunday is celebrated to commemorate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey where palm branches were placed for the donkey to walk on. It marks the beginning of the Holy Week, which is the final week of the Lenten Season.
Few families placed palm fronds and branches outside their doors while others marked it with processions, carrying branches of palms.
In his homily at the Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral Garki, Abuja, Metropolitan Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, Ignatius Kaigama challenged the Federal Government to device a reliable and efficient means of reaching out to suffering Nigerians who were forced indoors by coronavirus.
He insisted that the measures currently being used by government to reach few Nigerians was ineffective and called for change of approach.
At an almost empty church auditorium of Our Lady, Queen of Nigeria Pro-Catheral Church, Garki, Area 3, Abuja, he pointed out the increased level of poverty and hunger in Nigeria, unarguably, caused by the lockdown as part of measures to contain community transmission of dreaded coronavirus in Nigeria.
He appealed to security agents on enforcement duty not to be high-handed in the cause of the enforcement, noting that it was a difficult task to stay indoors without provision for food and other necessary items.
“Government must be sensitive to the suffering of the masses who have nothing to eat or means of survival at this critical period. Though, it was nobody’s fault that the coronavirus pandemic had kept everyone at home but we must show love, empathy, understanding and care for one another.”
He particularly advised those saddled with sharing items meant for the vulnerable people against the temptation to seek to gain from the global misfortune.
“It should never be about what we can gain from the situation. It should be about what we can contribute to the system,” he said.
The Archbishop also urged Nigerians to obey the stay-at-home order of the Federal Government.
“No one should dare the government. No one should accuse government of being harsh be cause it has locked up the cities. All the measures are for the safety of all and we should be seen as being respectful of constituted authority,” he said.
He urged Christians to pray for an end to the scourge, and urged those saddled with implementing the lockdown order to handle Nigerians with respect and civility.
“Security personnel should not intimidate people on the highway. There should be no extortion,” he said.
The Archbishop, thus admonished Catholics and the entire Christians to keep their faith stronger and not allow Coronavirus distance them from God.
He described this period as time to let the Lord lead believers and transform them, so that they would be good Christians, dependable and patriotic Nigerians. “During this period, we intensify prayers, charity toward others, especially the poor, the marginalised and the deprived in the society.
“We must say masses and have devotions in our homes regularly. We must draw closer to God and trust him more than before. We must develop ourselves spiritually and trust God. We must not make the mistake of saying that Jesus is on holiday, as Jesus is everywhere and never on holiday. Jesus could visit you at home just as He visited Martha. So, you must be prepared at all time to receive Him.”
He said prayed for the frontline heroes who are working during this difficult time to keep the country safe and informed.
On his part, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) urged Christian faithful to embrace peace in spite of the troubles of life.
Adeboye gave the advice while speaking to Christian Faithful on Sunday to mark another Palm Sunday.
Adeboye who spoke on the topic ‘Peace’, took his text from Phil. 4:4-7, remarked that God is a God of peace, the prince of peace Himself and gave His children peace, via a live broadcast at the April 2020 thanksgiving service of the RCCG, said the country needed peace to overcome challenges..
He emphasised that one could have everything including money but would have nothing without the Prince of Peace.
Adeboye noted that the peace of God could vary from great peace to multiplied peace, all round peace, peace like a river, among others.
“Peace comes in when you give your life to Jesus; great peace is for those who love the lord and train their children in God’s way, they will never be bordered about anything.
“There is also a multiplied peace (Dan.4:1) which I pray to be your portion today, there is all round peace which Solomon enjoyed in all ramifications because of God’s covenant with him and his father, David.
“There is peace like a river (ISH.48:18) which a believer can swim in and relax, that is the kind of peace that Paul and Silas had when they were thrown in prison, this kind of peace can sing in the day of trouble.
“One can have this kind of peace when God has spoken to him/her, I pray that God will give you a hearing ear from now, once you can hear from God, you will have all round peace and will never be bordered for anything,” he said.
Also, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Oyo state Branch, on Sunday urged Christians to take advantage of the significance of Palm Sunday to imbibe the culture of living a life of sacrifice.
Chairman of the branch Pastor Benjamin Akanmu also urged Christians to emulate the humility, love, and selfless service of Jesus Christ, which made Him to die on the cross for the salvation of mankind.
He called on Christians to live a life of positive impact in the society and to draw people to Christ even as they do what those things that would be acceptable before God.
“When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on what we commemorate as Palm Sunday, His entry was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah; He is victorious, triumphant, riding on a donkey.”