Coronavirus should be a learning experience for Nigerians

Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti

Rev Fr Benedict Bimbola Joseph is the administrator of St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State.

He spoke to Daily Sun on the need for Nigerians, especially government at all levels, to learn from the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic while it lasts so that the country can come out stronger and better after the situation.

He also pointed out that the pandemic could be a blessing in disguise, hence, political leaders should take charge of the crisis.

In what way has your church been supportive of the people since the lockdown began?

When the situation came and we saw the need of the people, the church in Ekiti generally rose up to the challenge. The Bishop made some moves to ease the suffering of the people because we realised that many people around us are those who earn their wages daily and that is what they live with. Also, if people are going to stay at home and cannot go out to earn their daily wages to feed themselves, definitely there should be other sources to sustain them in this period, that was the challenge the church decided to rise up to. As a diocese, there was a measure and at the parish levels too there were measures and that was what we responded to at our own parish. Also, the name Catholic, meaning universal, one thing we have always observed is that we don’t discriminate between people and not only in this instance but in all our doings. Religion should not be a criterion to help people. Most of the people who work with us are not Catholics. The beneficiaries of our palliatives were not restricted to the Catholic Faith alone or Christians in the society, people of other faiths came too. Ours was whosoever had come would definitely return home with something. What we did was for everyone to have a taste of the love of Christ. What we gave were foodstuffs except on a few occasions where we gave out cash.

How many days did it last?

The Church started it since the lockdown began. It is still ongoing because this is a Church but it is just that the number of people coming has reduced, as they now come in tens, unlike initially when people were coming in large numbers every minute and, at a point, people thought it was courtesy of the state government. I had to tell them that the government didn’t give us anything but that the whole exercise was the initiative of the church, through the supports of the members. So, regardless of the lockdown, the Church has always assisted people because there is an arm of the church responsible for this.

You said people came in large numbers, how were you able to cope with the issue of physical distancing?

What we did was that we made sure there was no crowding around those who assisted in giving out the items. There was enough distance between persons and no physical touching. It was strictly one person at a time. Once you collect your items, you leave immediately.

There were so many perspectives from some men of God on the pandemic. What are the possible solutions for the world?

What we need are prayers. This is not the first time that humanity is experiencing something of this nature. Right from the time there have been issues like this and people had cried to God, we cannot rule out the fact that prayer can play a very important role in this matter.

Also, we have to rely on the inspiration of scientists, because God has given them that gift to know how to handle matters like this. In addition to prayers, we should also work. How do I mean? We should try and foster the efforts of scientists to see that we have a vaccination for this and even cure for the pandemic.

There were prophecies from some men of God that the world should expect deadlier outbreaks. Should people regard or disregard these prophecies?

What I want us to know is that each day God gives us enough reasons to live. Nobody could imagine that something like this could come up and I don’t think people should pray for something like this, but that it would or would not come up again is not what anybody can say. We learnt something like this came up about a hundred years ago. So, it can come up but not that God will plan to destroy us, out of human error or naturally it may come up again. But whenever it comes up, I am very sure that God will also show us the way out of it.

What are possible solutions in the face of economic recession as occasioned by the pandemic?

Yes, our leaders, the politicians, and those in charge of affairs should really be thinking by now as this is the time that the people really need them. We rely so much on them, that was why they were voted in. They should think of how to really lead the people out of this very serious situation. The situation is really going to affect our lives in this country, our economic and political lives will be affected and this could also be a blessing in disguise, so that if we are able to learn something from the pandemic, then, it will benefit us. We should not just pass through this serious movement without learning something. Our political leaders should use this time to actually reflect and do things differently for us to have different results. I am sure all over the world nations are making moves to make sure that they are able to come out of this crisis better than they were, and Nigeria should not be left out of this and we rely so much on our political leaders to do this for us.

CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) has called for the reopening of churches. What is your take on this?

What CAN has said is not out of place, because if the government is relaxing the lockdown order in some aspects of the people’s lives, I think their faith and religion should also be considered as essential. CAN is on the right course seeking that consideration. The government should see that as very important and see how together with other considerations that can be possible.

How would you rate efforts of governments at managing the pandemic?

We need to commend efforts of governments especially at the state level for what they have been able to do but. Obviously, we know that Nigeria at this time of her existence should do better in a very serious situation like this. We can do better in terms of government’s policies, preparations for this kind of a situation, as this came too sudden for our government to have been able to do anything perfectly. But so far so good. We may not lament so much on what has been done, but there can be serious improvements on what we have on ground.

Some men of God were arrested, charged and fined for violating the lockdown order. How did you see the disobedience from such servants of God?

As children of God, obeying the order of the day shows part of our Christian commitment. If God has put some people in charge to regulate our lives and put things in order, then, it doesn’t really matter who we are as long as there is no malice in what the government is doing. I mean, as long as policies of the government are not malicious, they are not deliberately fashioned against any particular faith or religion. So, if the government had said ‘stay at home’, no congregation for now for this particular reason, and nobody is above the law as far as that reason is concerned, then I think everybody should comply because the Bible makes us understand that obeying the regulations of authority is part of our Christian commitment.

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