COVID-19 Pandemic: A Social Challenge for the Nigerian Church
By Raymond Lamai and Anselm Sunkle
The current prevailing challenge of the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) started in the industrial city of Wuhan China, in the latter part of 2019. Like a child’s play and before long, it blossomed into the mother of all viral diseases and had decimated and continues to decimate human population worldwide.
As the pandemic rages on without any prospect of abating or cure in sight, the lives of the masses of the people have been placed on the line, sandwiched between the killer disease and the ravaging poverty in the land.
Most Nigerian masses live on daily income, barely surviving on their petty businesses and trades. Taking this daily income away from them by way of a lockdown is to expose an already impoverished population to more hunger and starvation. For example, the sudden escalation in deaths in Kano and Yobe States which could not be immediately ascribed to COVID-19 but described variously as mysterious deaths.
The Yobe state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Muhammed Gana was quoted as saying the upsurge in death rates in the state could not be immediately ascribed to COVID-19, until investigations have been carried out. Can the hunger factor be ruled out in the two cases?
Another urgent, very urgent, matter is the escalating genocide on Christian communities in certain parts of the country, like Kaduna, Niger, Benue, and so on. What is the Church doing to stem this evil tide? The governments in Nigeria cannot withstand the Church if the Church were to wake up and advocate for the defenceless.
Where at such a time as this, is the place of the Nigerian Church in the current plague ravaging the land? The first century Church was not faced with any particular plague, but they shared food and clothing to their members. They were said to have had all things in common (Acts 4:32). But we are faced with a terrible plague that threatens the very existence of mankind.
More than ever before, this is the time to demonstrate that Biblical care and concern for the people of God. There are multitudes of people in the Church today whose only one meal per day existence has been taken away by the lockdown order for which no alternative has been provided.
If Church members have obeyed Biblical injunctions and have given joyfully and faithfully to Church coffers over the years, now is the time to show them that their lives are more important than the physical building projects of the Church.
By the way, the COVID-19 Church close down has amply demonstrated that the people are the Church, not the physical buildings.
This is the time to identify with Church members who are going through harrowing existential challenges of their lives. Immediate structures need to be put in place to cater for the poorer members of the Church to survive the ongoing and seemingly endless invasion upon humanity by the corona virus. To do otherwise is to ignore the welfare of God’s people at such a perilous time as we are going through.
We note however, the efforts made by a few Church leaders across the country who are already extending helping hands to Church members. We commend their foresight and kind gestures. But the number of Churches doing this is like a drop of water in a dry ocean considering the huge population of Christians in this country.
This is a matter of life and death and will require all Churches in Nigeria to put on their welfare caps as this evil COVID-19 rain continues to fall. If the church can adequately take care of its own and the Muslim community does the same for its Ummah, then the Nigerian political leaders can continue to play their games, but not with the lives of our people.
Lamai and Sunkle are of the CSMN Media Team of Christian Social Movement of Nigeria, CSMN.