Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Federal Government has warned church leaders, Christians and other Nigerians against ‘reckless confidence’ as regards the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, who spoke at the interdenominational church prayer service against COVID-19 held at the National Ecumenical Centre, Abuja, yesterday, expressed discontent with the level of “recklessness” and disregard for COVID-19 prevention guidelines/protocols, particularly at various worship centres.
The national spiritual exercise was put together by the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) to solicit the intervention of God on the affairs of Nigeria, with specific request for an end to the pandemic, which has negatively affected life and living across the world.
The interdenominational prayer meeting was attended by church leaders and other Christian faithful from different denominations, as well as officials of the Federal Government, led by the SGF.
With scary figures and pictorial illustrations, the SGF, who doubles as the chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, appealed to church leaders, who he said command huge followership and loyalty, to encourage their followers to adhere to the non-pharmaceutical measures for prevention, as no vaccine has been developed to tackle the pandemic.
“Non-pharmaceutical measures remain the only way for now, because no vaccine has been developed so far. Also, no specific drug has been known to be effective in the treatment of the disease,” he said.
The Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, urged Christians to be hopeful and assured them that God was working for the good of His people, irrespective of the situation.
“As Christians, even in tough and challenging times like this, we should know that God is in charge and in control and means well. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts.
“Obviously, COVID-19 has altered global affairs and social existence (such) that even after a vaccine eventually neutralises the virus, society will still feel its social consequences for decades. The COVID-19 pandemic is like other times in history of famines, wars and plagues; though none perhaps has so effectively brought the entire world to so nearly complete a standstill.”
Executive secretary of NIREC, Rev. Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua, in his welcome remarks, explained that the national prayer was also meant to mark the end of the three days of fasting and prayers against the dreaded coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria and beyond.
“I must correct the impression that CAN organised this event. It was organised by NIREC, which comprises CAN and Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs (NSCIA).
“Our Muslim brothers concluded their own event last Friday with a Juma’at prayer at the National Mosque, which was aired live.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Abdullahi Shuaib, former co-chairman of NIREC in Lagos, has urged religious leaders to prioritise messages of hope in their sermon to reduce the effects of COVID-19 on the people.
CEO of Jaiz Foundation, made the call on Sunday at a virtual Faith Leaders’ Dialogue Forum organised by Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace, in collaboration with Faith for Peace Initiative.
The theme of the forum was: “Roles of Faith and Inter-Faith Communities in Post-COVID-19 Economic Recovery.’’
According to him, there is the need for religious leaders to provide spiritual tonic that will rekindle the hope of their subjects in God, considering the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the socio-economic activities of the people.
Shuaib urged religious leaders to constantly preach messages of hope to their followers for them to have strong faith to recover all they had lost.
He lauded the initiative of faith-based organisations in providing palliatives to the less privileged, saying more would be necessary, after the pandemic but in a more coordinated manner.