Perhaps for the first time in history, Christians in the country yesterday marked this year’s Palm Sunday in their homes and neighbourhoods to which they have been confined by the government because of the coronavirus.
Because churches and mosques are currently locked, the Christians could not hold the usual ceremonies and processions that depict the Biblical Jesus Christ riding on a donkey to Jerusalem.
The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Samson Ayokunle, said no other disease had generated so great a fear in the hearts of all and disrupted the social-economic system of the world in the past 100 years as the coronavirus pandemic.
He observed that “what has contributed more to the fear is the fact that the Western world which we had depended upon for quick solution or support at a time like this appears to be brought down to its knees for help wherever it can come from.”
In his message to mark the Palm Sunday, Ayokunle said the situation called for sober reflection on people’s ways of life.
The CAN president, who urged Nigerians not to be naive with their faith, pointed out that faith without knowledge might be dangerous, adding that God who gave the medical experts knowledge wanted people to appropriate such knowledge to their advantage.
“At a time like this, I want to encourage you to be strong in the Lord and stand firm against the wiles of the devil set in motion by the pit of hell to destroy our future.
“At a time like this when the coronavirus pandemic is doing havoc worldwide, the hearts of many people are failing them especially in the Western world where it has done more havoc than elsewhere.
“The medical personnel are overwhelmed while they themselves have fallen victims of the attack of this rude virus. Even medical personnel from Nigeria are being wooed by American government with immediate visa at their embassy if they wish to come and work. The virus does not respect anybody whether high or low. We appear to be a bit luckier in Africa because it has not been able to kill as many people as it did in the West”.
The Catholic Bishop of Abuja Archdiocese, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, said the stay-at-home order by the Federal Government was aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19.
Kaigama, who spoke to journalists after celebrating a privately televised Palm Sunday Mass at the Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Catherdal, Area 3, Garki, Abuja, said as patriotic citizens, Catholics must comply with the order because the Bible urges obedience to constituted civil authorities.
“It is a sober period and since people cannot move about freely due to the stay-at-home order, and being patriotic citizens, we must comply.
“We get some Catholics and Christians who say who is the government to tell us what to do with our faith, but we must apply reason to faith.
“If there is a pandemic that will wipe all of us away and we insist that we must gather because God is greater than the government and so on, then we are not obeying even the scriptures because we are told to obey constituted civil authorities
“I beg Nigerians to realise that this is a passing moment, this is a crisis that will definitely pass with the aggression I see the Federal Government is trying to tackle it, and even the global community is trying to tackle it. I am sure we shall overcome,” the cleric said.
Members of the Methodist Church in Lagos and Abuja also observed the Palm Sunday silently in the privacy of their rooms.
Many of the church members observed the day through an online message platform announced to them by their leaders who had earlier circulated the order of service through WhatsApp and other social media platforms.
Speaking to The Guardian in Lagos, Bishop Samuel Nortey of the Methodist Church, Lagos Cathedral, explained: “Nobody wished and prayed that this year’s Palm Sunday should come the way it came but as believers and children of God we are hopeful and trust God that as it was in the days of children of Jerusalem so shall it be for us as God’s people. This day is remarkable because the story behind Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem is that he was actually going into Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world and to save the world from external destruction and death.”