AS Nigerian Christians and their counterparts across the Christendom round off the celebration of Easter today, its significance and lessons including the supreme price paid by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary for the salvation of mankind, and his resurrection upon which Christianity was founded should not be lost by all the faithful.
The festival regarded as the most significant in Christianity, we recall is observed by Christians to mark the end of 40 days and nights fasting period (lectern season) also characterized by alms giving and intense prayers climaxing on Good Friday to commemorate the passion and death of Jesus Christ and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
But this year’s celebration has coincided with a devastating public health crisis in which over 210 countries among them Nigeria and territories are battling to contain the novel COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed over 107, 724 lives out of 1,762,708 confirmed Coronavirus cases as at Saturday with no vaccine for cure in sight thus causing much pain and disruption of the global economy.
Consequently the federal and state governments in conjunction with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in response to mitigating the spread of the ravaging virus have come up with directives and precautionary measures such as public enlightenment for staying safe by regular washing of hands in running waters, refrain from shaking other peoples’ hands, using sanitizers, maintaining social distancing and remaining indoors until the scourge is defeated.
The implication of these restrictions we note is that for the first time in recent history the all important festival will not be marked with the usual attendant pomp and pageantry as the faithful are locked down in their homes and compelled to detach from friends, relations and associates.
It is also on record that prior to that, the federal government had announced a locked down in Lagos and Ogun States as well as Abuja for two weeks which had been extended indefinitely for the people to stay safe at home except those on essential duties.
We demand total compliance from all Nigerians to the guidelines of public health experts and should continue to fully cooperate with government officials and security agents, during this unusual time of since no cure has been found for the pestilence.
Though it is regrettable that majority of Christians had found themselves marking this year’s Easter in a subdued manner, away from the usual congregation in churches, which itself is unprecedented in the history of the religion in the country, we urge the faithful to view the restrictions as inevitable sacrifices that must be made to stay alive and healthy.
In addition, since the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the bedrock of Christianity, Christians particularly public office holders, civil servants, religious, traditional and community leaders and traders should seize the opportunity of the celebration to reflect on how well they have demonstrated love and commitment to the point of sacrificing themselves to the welfare of fellow humans especially the less privileged members of society.
Therefore, traders should not make abnormal profit from the suffering of others resulting from governments’ restrictions on movement of persons by hiking the prices of food items such as rice, yam, tomatoes, groundnut oil and others to alleviate their hardships as experience has shown in recent weeks. This must stop as the act is not only wicked but ungodly.
We believe that Christian traders and transporters and indeed all traders should emulate Christ sacrificial love in their private and public conduct by not inflicting further pains on the citizenry through increment in the cost of foodstuffs and transport fares to reciprocate the love that Christ shared for us by dying on the cross of Calvary. Christians should reflect on the importance of Easter in their dealings, not only with other Christians, but with people of other religions.
The palliatives introduced by the federal and some state governments as well as financial and material donations made by public spirited individuals and organizations to cushion the effects of the lockdown and the attendant hardships are commendable even as we charge those who are to yet to do that to immediately toe the path in the interest of the suffering masses.
Similarly, we challenge those charged with the responsibility of distributing the food items and other relief materials to carry out their assignment with patriotism, transparency, accountability and the fear of God.
We totaling condemn criminal elements that had cashed in on the lockdown to attack and rob people of the affected states of their possessions to immediately stop their nefarious activities and turn a new leaf just as we challenge security operatives to deal decisively with such hoodlums to safeguard lives and property currently under serious threat. The Nigerian armed forces and other security and intelligence services should if necessary assist the Nigeria Police Force to address the security threats.
The three tiers of government and those in charge of the nation’s healthcare system are similarly challenge to use the season of Easter as sober reflection and a wakeup call to improve on Nigeria’s decaying and ill -equipped public hospitals and health institutions which the outbreak of Coronavirus has exposed with a view to increasing budgetary allocations to the sector in subsequent budgets and overhauling the system.
In our view such additional funds should be channeled to upgrading existing health infrastructure, build new ones, provide state of the art medical equipment, recruitment of more medical staff as well as training and retraining of health personnel.
We further call on Christians to bear the pains induced by governments’ measures to contain Covid-19 pandemic with the same exceptional equanimity, patience and perseverance that Jesus Christ bore his suffering before his crucifixion and should have faith that the disease will be defeated just as Christ resurrected on the third day after his death.
The faithful are further enjoined to shun all sins and continue to uphold the virtues of Christianity such as honesty, justice, integrity, accountability, compassion, selflessness, be their brother’s keeper, the pursuit of the common good as well as pray for the country to overcome her current socio-economic challenges in order for God to heal Nigeria and the world of the rampaging COVID-19.
For a better society