REOPENING PROTOCOL: Govt breached agreement — Churches

An empty church

…Catholic: We can’t bar worshippers over 65 from services

…CAN to meet Lagos govt over grey areas

Following the guidelines introduced by Lagos State government for the reopening of churches and mosques, findings by  Sunday Vanguard  revealed that several Christian leaders are poised for a showdown over what they described as the failure of government to stick to agreement. They claimed that the state government deviated from many of the conditions and protocols they jointly agreed upon.

Last week, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced the lifting of the ban on religious gatherings after two months. The ban was aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. According to him, Muslims could resume worship on June 19 while their Christian counterparts would begin on June 21. Persons below 15 years and above 65 years, however, would be required to stay home. “We will be advising very, very strongly that persons below the age of 15, because of how well they walk around, and how they become difficult to hold down, should be excused from the places of worship, while citizens above the age of 65 should also not be allowed into these places of worship. These are very, very, very important points that we need to re-emphasise,” he said. Irrespective of the guidelines, Christian leaders told Sunday Vanguard that government’s position did not align with the “strategic collaboration agreements reached.” Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Martins, was not happy with the latest development, arguing that the church had, since February 28, put measures in place  for the safety of its members in line with international standards. Measures not in line with our practices  — Catholic Church.

The Director of Social Communications, Rev. Father John Godonu, who spoke on behalf of Archbishop Martins, said the Catholic Church did not agree with all the guidelines for reopening of churches, describing some as being at variance with Catholic global practices. He said some elderly people may resist the restriction order. Backing the fears of the church with an example, the Archbishop said a 90-year-old parishioner, who was driving himself a couple of days ago, resisted when confronted with the restriction order. The senior citizen was said to have challenged anybody to come with him to any diagnostic centre to ascertain his level of fitness. Noting that the restriction order, at best, should have been as advisory, he said: “There are Nigerians in this country, who feel they are strong enough to go and worship their God. They should not be denied access to church. As a global church, we have issued guidelines since February to all our parishes on physical distancing including how to take Holy Communion. We provided hand sanitizers, face masks and other non-pharmaceutical interventions.”

Guidelines not clear — RCCG The Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, pleaded for time to study the directives before an in-depth response.

Head of Media and Publicity, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, told our correspondent that the state government’s condition for reopening of churches was not clear to the church. He said: “Please, give us till early next week to respond adequately to your query.

As you know we have this monthly Holy Ghost Service ongoing and I can assure you that by Monday, I would have been sufficiently briefed on the details of the state government’s directive, especially as it relates to the age restriction.” On his part, Chairman of Lagos State Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Apostle Alex Bamgbola, said the guidelines for resumption of religious gatherings fell short of the Church’s expectation. He, however, advised all Christian leaders to be calm as there were plans to reopen dialogue with the authorities to review the position. We’re not registering with safety commission — PFN Meanwhile, Chairman, Lagos State chapter of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Bishop Sola Ore, urged Pentecostal in the state not to be in a hurry to register their churches with government as directed by Lagos State Safety Commission. The Commission had, last Wednesday, said the registration of religious centres, social centres and other private enterprises had commenced. We will abide by guidelines — Methodist Bishop Also speaking, Methodist Bishop, S.T.V. Adegbite, said: “We have met on it and Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, from the national president to state executive officers are going to abide by the rules and regulations concerning the reopening of churches. There is no ambiguity in what they have said’’.

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