By Omon Smart
Rev. Sis. Agnes Adepoju, of Our Lady of Apostle (OLA) Lagos has urged the Lagos State Government to allow people turn to God in worship by relaxing the lockdown restrictions on religious institutions as the government provides guidelines for gatherings.
While commending the state government for doing everything to protect people from the menace of the COVID-19 virus, Adepoju said that it is time for the people to turn to God for divine solutions to the coronavirus pandemic.
She said “There is no gainsaying in the fact that the Lagos State Government has made commendable efforts and continues to make efforts to bravely combat the scourge that has been unleashed on the state and its residents by the COVID-19, a pandemic which has also successfully thrown the global populace into a state of economic and political stress.
“The government has provided guidelines and continues to provide information and practical tips for keeping safe: physical distancing, avoiding of unnecessary public gatherings, use of nose masks and alcohol-based hand sanitizer etc., yet the number of cases is on the increase.
“Having tried all the human ideas with their limitations, isn’t it time to turn to God and allow people to gather in worship with the sort of guidelines that were provided? Or is it the case that the place of God in helping to overcome the infection is not recognized and acknowledged? I believe that given our circumstance of living in Lagos, the rate of infection would have been higher were it not for God’s mercy.”
She said though worshipping via the various media platforms fulfils certain purposes, it cannot be compared with congregating, as well as receiving the required sacraments, especially the Holy Communion.
She stated however that in spite of the government’s efforts to manage the situation, the numbers have not reduced, adding that the decision to indefinitely suspend Public Religious activities across the state is certainly inappropriate and needs to be reconsidered. An earlier pronouncement of the government had given citizens of the state, especially the Christian Churches, the impetus to prepare vigorously for a gradual resumption of Public worship beginning from 21st of June 2020. Their hopes were dashed and their spirit dampened by the announcement of June 16, 2020.
“Asking worshippers to stream religious activities of worship through the media fulfils a purpose but it cannot be compared with congregating in an orderly fashion for worship, seeking the intervention of God. It is even more difficult for us Catholics since it is said that receiving the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist in Holy Communion is what makes us to be fully alive in Christ.”
She said that it has become clearer that some of those places that restrictions have been relaxed have turned out to be places where the virus can be easily transmitted especially given the inability of anyone to enforce the precautions.
“Open markets, banks, intra-state bus stops; interstate transportation facilities etc. are more likely fertile grounds for transmission. This is not to disregard the importance of the market, banks or public transportation or trivialize the importance of the services they render but rather to highlight the fact that opening up for public worship is not likely to increase infection in the same way as it can be increased in these other areas that are not able to keep the guidelines.”
She argued that churches are by far more capable of enforcing the guidelines from the government, and can be easily monitored than any other place.
She further argued that there is obviously no reason for the government not to allow worshippers to gather in church to worship even only on Sundays for fear of spreading the virus.
“Whatever level of risk that may have been there in gathering to worship have been obviated by the regulations put in place. The risk of getting the virus when people come to Church is by far less than it is in the other places that they have to go to. Let it be known that humans are religious by nature and an average Nigerian is incurably religious as their religious beliefs are pervasive of their entire life.”
While quoting Isaiah 7:13; she urged the government to listen to the cry of the people, who have handed their rights to them in trust.
“These silent mass of people wish to exercise their rights to gather in worship and government should not stand in the way. The least the government should do is to reconsider its decision to suspend public worship and let those who are ready to start to begin.
“Those who exercise their right not to gather should not be allowed to abridge the rights of those who wish to gather in worship. It would be injustice to those who wish to reopen if their rights are denied them for no just cause, especially as they wish to exercise it only within the guidelines given by government. We plead for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to guide the governor and those who assist him to take decisions always, especially in this matter.”