Covid-19: Yes, Churches Should Be Opened, But Not For Worship


Picture: Pastor Tunde Bakare and Bishop David Oyedepo

The debate on the restriction of religious gatherings has been on for a while. The government had earlier in March suspended religious assemblies, and other large gatherings as part of its efforts to combat the ravaging coronavirus. The world has recorded over 4 million cases of infection and almost 300,000 have passed away as at press time.

The debate gathered momentum last week when Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Ministries faulted the government's guidelines, which was opposed to the total closure of the market places. His standpoint has attracted a barrage of responses from opinion leaders and influencers like Pastors Poju Oyemade, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Kemi Omololu Olunloyo, and a host of others.

The churches and even the mosques are needed for the battle against this contagion. They should be kept open but not for the usual worship and prayer sessions. The massive buildings are needed to house the sick.

Its no news that Nigeria has been running out of spaces in isolation centres as the number of cases begin to surge drastically. Specifically, much pressure is on the epicentre of the disease in Nigeria, Lagos State. The Minister of Health, Osagie Enanire, announced that private owners of expansive buildings could donate them to the government for temporary usage as isolation facilities for coronavirus patients. The Federal Government is also mulling the idea of house treatment for patients with mild symptoms as well as the asymptomatic ones. But considering the nature of accommodation, we have in Nigeria, that houses many people, this might end up being counterproductive

Churches to the rescue

The church and the government are pursuing a similar cause but in different ways. While the church aims at winning souls for God and expanding the ministry, the government seeks to protect and preserve those souls to make different life choices. If the pandemic claims the lives of these people, what will the church exist for? The people make-up the church; they are the church, and not the magnificent building or the colourful furniture.

The problem with this battle is that Nigerians don't see it as a collective responsibility. Many either believe its a hoax or probably placing personal interests ahead of it. Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Citadel Global Community, appears to have realized the critical battle at hand, and he is leading the way. He has announced the donation of three of his churches (including a private building) in Lagos and Ogun States to the government to serve as isolation centres, instead of leaving them to lie fallow. He didn't stop there, he added warning notes to discourage the politicization of the deadly disease. With his move, more churches and even mosques across the country could be opened, not for worship, but the treatment of coronavirus patients. 

In a religious and highly conservative country like Iran, a major mosque - Imamzadeh-Masum, was converted into a mask factory in Tehran. Today, Iran has been able to suppress the virus to a large extent. Similarly, the church-owned Kendal Conference Centre in Mandeville, Jamaica was transformed into an isolation centre to treat Covid-19 patients.

German football giant, Borrusia Dortmund also gave out its Signal Iduna Park stadium to be used as an isolation facility to treat coronavirus patients. This news of this compassionate and humanitarian gesture has gone global. The football club is being termed as a game-changer in the battle against the disease. Coming down to Africa, the Church of Pentecost in Ghana which has a 250-acre ultra-modern convention centre gave it out to the state to serve as an isolation centre, as part of the church's corporate social responsibility.

Churches in Nigeria are making a big difference, and they can still make more positive impacts. They have been involved in the donation of money and other medical supplies to isolation centres and hospitals to combat the disease. They have also been engaged in the sharing of relief materials among the vulnerable people in the country, aside from the prayers of healing and miracles. The churches could also do more by going the Pastor Bakare way, by providing halls for treatment of patients instead of leaving them to lie unused and gather dust. If the battle against coronavirus eases or is won, and life goes back to normal, church activities will consequently resume. The economy will be revived and members will be financially empowered to fulfil their financial obligations to the church. In the event things go south, the church and other religious organizations will remain locked and the purpose of the existence of the building will be defeated with the introduction of online programmes.

Major church auditoriums to look out for

Pic: Faith Tabernacle Ota

Bishop David Oyedepo's Faith Tabernacle in Ota, Ogun State has helped ease the burden of isolation centres in the entire South-west region if the pandemic worsens. The 53,000 capacity building can accommodate thousands of bed spaces. The 24hr power supply will also reduce the cost of running the place and the first-class air-conditioning facilities will constitute another added advantage to cater to ailing people. If this is done, not only will his name will never be forgotten, he will be silencing his critics forever.

First and second pictures: Glory Dome, Abuja

Another structure that could serve the North-Central is the Glory Dome, Abuja, belonging to the Dunamis Church of Pastor Paul Enenche. Abuja is one of the Covid-19 hot-spots in Nigeria with over 500 cases recorded as at the 10th of May. The 100,000 capacity auditorium is furnished with state-of-the-art facilities that could accommodate thousands of patients. It could even be a command centre for the geopolitical zone with makeshift offices set up to map put strategies to prosecute the war.

Picture: Finger of God Cathedral, Rivers

The Finger of God Cathedral in Port Harcourt, Rivers State can also serve the interests of the South-South region. The 120-capacity edifice is unique. It is divided into different segments that could house thousands of people. Patients with critical, severe, mild and no symptoms could be divided across the different structures within the building for adequate medical attention.

Other church buildings like the Mountain of Fire national headquarters in Yaba, Lagos; its Prayer City, the Redeemed Camp of the RCCG, the Synagogue of TB Joshua, the new Deeper Life Bible Church building in Gbagada, Lagos, and Pastor Paul Adefarasin's House on the Rock Cathedral in Lekki, Lagos, could also come in handy. With this, the established churches will be giving back to the society at its time of need just as the people have been giving to the church all their lives. Nigeria with over 4,000 coronavirus cases and a crippling economy is at war, every Nigerian needs to act like a soldier to defeat this common enemy.

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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on Phone number: +2347053302356.
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