Pastor Ituah Ighodalo of Trinity House, has advised the Buhari governments to shut down churches if the measure would assist Nigeria to battle the rising cases of COVID-19.
But he stressed that churches, especially large ones, should not be blamed for the rising cases of infections in the country. He said most churches have been adhering to the COVID-19 protocols and that the government should focus more on public places like markets and bus stops.
Ighodalo spoke on a program on Arise TV on Monday, which was monitored by The PUNCH.
To curb the first wave of the pandemic, various governments in the country shut down religious houses, clubs, cinemas, and so on around March and they have only recently been reopened. Already, the rising cases of COVID-19 have made Lagos and Kaduna states to impose partial lockdown to curb its spread.
When asked whether the government should also shut down churches again, Ighodalo said, “If we need to. There is nothing sacrosanct about a religious house; a religious house is a gathering of people wanting to worship God. If that gathering and that intimacy in the gathering will lead to the spread of germs or disease, God, because you want to worship Him, would not say that the physical things that you need to do should not be done.
“So, if we need to shut down the churches, why not? Churches were shut down several months ago. We didn’t die, we survived. The churches learned to go online, on Zoom. Christianity benefited from it because we now began to use more technology to offer our evangelism and our worship of God and we quite enjoyed it.
“The Zoom meetings are not as intimate but we have managed to reduce things to house fellowships and life must go on.”
On whether church gatherings contributed to the recent hike in COVID-19 cases, he said, “To speak to the issue as to whether churches are the ones who have not allowed COVID-19 cases to go down or who are the ones going against COVID-19 protocols, I regret to say I don’t quite agree. I think the government has bigger fishes to fry –If you go to any of the markets, any of the buses stops, any of the busy places, people don’t even wear masks. So, those gatherings of people are much more than the gathering in any church from time to time.
“In fairness to most churches, they have tried. A few no doubt have flouted the rules here and there but most of them have tried to keep to the COVID-19 protocols…So, it is not fair to say that it is the big churches that are flouting COVID-19 guidelines.”
Ighodalo also urged the leadership of churches not to feel persecuted should the government choose to shut down churches to curb the rising coronavirus infections amid the second wave of the pandemic.
“No church should feel the government is against them. No, we are a social gathering. (It is) the same way the government is against night clubs, event centers, and so on. It is nothing personal and I don’t take it personally. I think we are in a moment of crisis and if the churches need to pay some price and go through some situations, let’s do it,” he said.
When religious houses were shut down during the first wave of the pandemic, many church leaders including Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church Worldwide and Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of LoveWorld Incorporated, also known as Christ Embassy openly kicked against it, describing it as an attack on the church.