The FCT Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board (FCPWB) at the weekend conducted its third screening exercise for intending pilgrims to various holy sites in Israel, Rome and Greece to ascertain their genuineness and the correctness of information provided.
The screening committee, which is comprised of members drawn from officials of the FCT Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board and executives of the FCT Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) was held at it’s headquarters in Abuja.
Speaking with journalists on the exercise, the Director, FCT Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mr Dabara Audu John, noted that the screening exercise is to tackle cases of absconding, ascertain their health status and the correctness of their traveling documents amongst others.
He added that about 400-500 intending pilgrims are expected to participate in this year’s pilgrimage exercise from the FCT.
He said, “The reasons why we do screening for intending pilgrims are very obvious, one, we want to ascertain those who have negative effects on Christiandom, having absconding tendencies. We want to see if we would be able to dictate such persons, by making them to appear before us, ask them some pertinent questions, like the reason why they are going on pilgrimage and other critical salient questions. We want to be sure whether they are actually for pilgrimage or trying to run away from the country, which we know is very embarrassing.
“Also we want to be sure that those people that are ready for pilgrimage, whether they are fit health-wise. So we want to ascertain their health status.m, like know their sugar level, blood pressure, and even if you are HIV positive it doesn’t stop you, but we need to know, so that we monitor you, which help us prepare with the relevant drugs in case of any health crisis that may occur in the holy land.”
According to him, about 300 intending pilgrims are expected to be screen, adding that over 100 persons who purchased the forms are yet to submit their forms and be screened. He said, “we are going to fix a day, after our state of readiness visit to Israel, Rome and Greece for them to be interviewed and thoroughly screened.”
On the discovery of new holy sites, he said, the board is looking at Turkey where we have the seven churches listed in the Bible, we have Jordan and other countries which is of spiritual relevance that we intend to take a tour to know the sites that are very significant and when there are discovered we will start visiting those sites. But this is a decision to be taken by the NCPC and in collaboration with the states.
He said, the date of departure for FCT pilgrims has not been fixed, but that nationally the airlifting of pilgrims will begin on November 17, 2019, stressing that for the FCT, it will wait until reasonable number of intending pilgrims have paid their mandatory fees and then the date will be fixed.
Responding to cases of denial of visas for intending pilgrims, Mr Dabara said, “During our state visit to Israel last June, this was what we discussed with the embassy in Israel and immigration officials. And one thing that very unknown to us is the reasons for denial of visas, which they are not ready to tell us and the reasons are not far fetched, if they tell you, you could go and device a way to overcome it and according to them, they will invite bad elements into their country. But we have assured them that after carrying out rigorous screening in Nigeria, we are sure of almost all of them and so we appeal that they should be lenient enough to grant them visas.”
The FCT Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board is a government regulation body that screens, organises and accompanies the intending pilgrims of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja to the Holy Lands of Israel, Rome and Greece. The board works in consonance with the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC).