Some residents of Calabar, the Cross River state capital, have said the state government does not have the moral justification to arrest Pastors for opening the doors of their Churches to worshipers if government is unable to enforce closure of drinking joints/bars, markets and other social gatherings.
They described as ‘intimidation’ the State government’s order to security agencies to arrest and prosecute religious leaders holding services/mass in their Churches.
A resident, who identified himself simply as Pastor Ebenezer said: “When they suspended religious and social activities, we closed down our Churches. But, we watched and behold, every other social activity was going on smoothly. Please visit major hotels and joint in Calabar and see things for yourself.
“It is like this coronavirus thing is all about Church gathering. That order to arrest Pastors was a high level intimidation of the body of Christ. I advise government never to harass any man of God in the guise of enforcing coronavirus order. If government cannot enforce closure of other social gatherings, then it has no justification to harass any pastor.”
Another resident, who preferred to be addressed as ‘Concerned Child of God,’ said “I went round the city of Calabar and have observed that markets are always filled to the brim with no form of hand sanitizing, little or no nose mask usage and without social distancing.
“Supermarkets are opened; SPAR is very much opened and attending to many customers. Civil servants from level 10 and above were asked to return to work and ministries are filled with activities. Beer palours/bars are opened with people seen having their time, drinking and socializing with or without nose masks. Most of these gatherings and socialization take place between hours of 6am – 10pm daily.
“But Churches have been asked not to gather to pray, worship God and attend to the spiritual needs of God’s people even for at most 1 hour. Is there a direct relationship between Coronavirus and the Church?
“Is there any research that shows that Coronavirus can be easily spread in Church than other gatherings no matter the least period of time gathered? Has the origin of Covid-19 been traced to the Church? Does the Church produce Coronavirus?
“Why can’t the church gather with observation and enforcement of use of nose masks, hand washing/sanitizing and social distancing measures same as it is being done at the ministry offices and supermarkets etc? For how long will the Church continue to be locked up while other activities go on unhindered?”
Recall that the State government had on Saturday issued a press release saying religious leaders who flout the order on large gatherings would be arrested.
The release, which was signed by Christian Ita, Chief Press Secretary to Gov Ben Ayade, read in part “some religious bodies have elected to violate the ban on large gathering.
“His Excellency, Governor Ben Ayade, seriously frowns at this development and hereby directs law enforcement agencies to ensure strict enforcement of the Covid-19 laid down preventive measures by arresting for prosecution any religious leader who violates the ban on large gatherings by conducting service/mass and have their worship centres permanently sealed.”