Joe Effiong, Uyo
Christ Embassy, a.k.a Loverworld Incorporated, has distanced itself from the guidelines for the reopening of churches issued by the Akwa Ibom State government through the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
The church in a press conference addressed by Pastor Emmanuel Effiong on behalf of the zonal co-ordinator, Pastor Charis Owoeye, said on Saturday emphasised that it is not affiliated to CAN as such any directive by CAN is not binding on Christ Embassy.
Similarly, the church which tagged the CAN guidelines; “Impracticable”, explained that CAN had gone beyond the international standard in observance of safety measures with regard to the opening of churches and other gatherings.
“Recently, the Akwa Ibom state government lifted the ban on congregational worship in churches within our dear state which was placed by the state government in an attempt to control the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
“According to the government, the lifting of the ban is predicated on what it described as an agreement reached with the State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). The state government adopted the guidelines as proposed by the said association for opening of churches in the State; a guideline that stifles our fundamental rights to freedom of religion /worship.
“Our Church is a global ministry and we do not believe nor advocate unionism of the church, rather we believe in the unity of the faith; this, our Statement of Faith clearly reflects.
Today, we state without equivocation that we are not members of CAN or any other association in the country and as such, hold the strong belief that we cannot and should not be bound by whatever decision, the association or any other association reaches with the Akwa Ibom State Government.
We have not relinquished our rights to CAN and accordingly under the law of the land, the body cannot speak for us or enter into any legal binding agreement on our behalf.
While we do not question the rights of any body of churches forming an association nor are we against CAN or any association setting up guidelines for their members, it is totally unacceptable to believe that such guidelines will be binding on none members of their groups. Government on the other hand failed, refused/or neglected to involve all parties with vested interest in Christendom in the consultation to reopen churches, thereby arrogating non-existent powers to the association, which acted only to the limit of its leadership knowledge.
While stressing that Sections 38(1), 39(1) and 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), African Charter on Human and People’s Rights as well as Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international treaties guarantee Nigerians the freedom to choose their religions, associations and lawful assembly without let or hindrance, the church held that CAN in the state made it extremely difficult, if not near impossible for it to exercise its faith as Christians.
Christ Embassy said the strict guidelines laid out by CAN make it impracticable for the church to exercise their rights as they expose a clear picture of experimentation with the Church as a guinea pig.
It however agreed with some of the steps on basic hygiene and social distancing, but stressed that the use of face mask for a long period may cause hypoxia and that it would be ridiculous to expect no more than 200 worshippers irrespective of the sitting capacity of the hall and congregation.
“This is a clear attempt to gag the church. The Church is more essential than a lot of other sectors and must be allowed to hold its services freely as she can regulate the conduct of her members.
“We deem it very important to not only set the record straight, but further place it on the public domain for the information of the government, security agencies and the general public that we as a Church shall soon commence our normal services, while adhering to the basic guidelines as stipulated by the state government, in keeping with international hygiene best practices.”