Just a few weeks ago, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Believer’s Love World went on the offensive. He accused the Nigerian government of conceding into international pressure to enforce a lock down and ban religious gatherings because the ‘Anti-christ’ wanted to install 5G towers in the country. He also suggested there was a direct correlation between the spread of the Coronavirus and the spread of 5G technology. After significant backlash from multiple quarters, Oyakhilome amended his statement and praised 5G, turning his criticisms to other religious leaders. Not one to be usurped in the religious wars, Bishop David Oyedepo of Living Faith Church (Winners’ Chapel) has stepped into the ring, with a conspiracy theory of his own.
Bishop Oyedepo sharing some thoughts on the recent partial relaxation of the Lockdown.
What say you? pic.twitter.com/UdZNfX1mxI
— Naija (@Naija_PR) May 6, 2020
In a recent broadcast sermon, Bishop Oyedepo is recorded suggesting that the government allowing markets stay partially open while upholding the ban of public gatherings is an attack against the ‘growth’ of the church. He suggests that religious organizations are more able to promote social distancing while markets cannot.
It seems a sensible argument on the surface, except for the fact that Bishop Oyedepo suggests that the government has instituted its ban on public gatherings specifically against the church to prevent its ‘growth’. The ban on public gathering covers ALL public spaces, including gyms, swimming pools, barbing salons and hair salons, spas and even religious gatherings of all denominations. To suggest that the government would slow the entire economy simply to target churches is the kind of propaganda and conspiracy theory mongering that has damaged the church’s reputation in the two months and shown that religious leaders can be incredibly short sighted, when prevailing circumstances do not benefit them.
It would cost Bishop Oyedepo very little to engage the NCDC and understand the reasons why the ban on public gatherings exist, why there is a partial exemption for markets and what can be done in the interim. Many religious rituals, especially in christianity require a lot of interpersonal contact, baptisms, anointings, laying of hands, all high vectors of disease spread in a highly communicable disease epidemic.
Perhaps its time Oyedepo takes a leaf from Oyakhilome’s book and focus on edifying his congregation rather than stirring up dissent in these difficult times.