#Covid19: Pastor Chris Oyakhilome & the gospel of conspiracy theories

Chris Oyakhilome

Last weekend, a video surfaced on social media of a sermon Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, the general overseer of Nigerian mega church Believers Love World, preaching a sermon about the Coronavirus. However, his sermon wasn’t an exhortation of his congregation or an admonition about social distancing can help flatten the curve and protect the elderly and immunocompromised among us, instead it was a thinly veiled conspiracy theory about how Coronavirus was being spread by ‘5G’, the newest form of mobile technology, and that both were part of a grand scheme to bring about the End Times. He asked his congregation to resist 5G, and suggested the Coronavirus vaccine which is being developed is a tool to ensure that everyone gets microchipped and receives the ‘mark of the beast’.

 

Pastor Chris Oyakhilome isn’t the only person who has been peddling this narrative. Across the internet there are hundreds of people ranking from celebrities like Keri Hilson and JJCSkillz who are all pushing different versions of the conspiracy theory that the Coronavirus pandemic is either exaggerated or a fallacy, used to drive people to their homes so that a shadowy enemy can install 5G towers across the world in preparation for either mind control tools, the ‘Mark of the Beast’, or to attack poor countries. It is just especially worrying that Chris Oyakhilome, a religious leader with a powerful hold on millions of people would also indulge in conspiracy theories, delegitimizing the work that healthcare workers are doing to educate people on safe practices during this time and the risk they put themselves through to ensure everyone is safe.

No one is above the law, not even religious leaders like Chris Oyakhilome, and freedom of speech cannot supersede public safety. This is a reminder that even having religious or spiritual authority does not make one less susceptible to conspiracy theories or ignorance, and we need to be extra vigilant who give platforms to. Oyakhilome is a prime example of how NOT to use your platform in these times.

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