Most Rev Emmanuel Chukwuma is the Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and Bishop of Enugu Diocese. He tells RAPHAEL EDE about the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Christendom
You were reported to have said it was wrong for the government to stop worship services and that what they should have done was enforce hygiene. However, another report said you denied saying that. Which should Nigerians believe?
I said you cannot shut down the church because the church is not the building. The church is the people and no government or security can stop people from praying either online or in their houses. You can shut the building but not the people because people who believe in Jesus Christ are the church. I pray with my family at home; you can’t come and shut it down.
The bible says ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be’. When I was in Bauchi, they burnt our church building and we were still worshipping before I built a bigger cathedral. They thought the church was dead; you can burn the church building but you cannot burn the church. The people will rebuild the church.
When you reportedly said the last thing you would do was close down churches, even on Palm Sunday and Easter, people were surprised. How have you been observing worship services?
Now I have a chapel in my compound. My family and I worship in the chapel and put it online. We allow our priests to follow the directive of the state government and cooperate with them to fight this pandemic. I just finished a two-storey building which I am offering as a testing centre in Enugu to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to use temporarily.
What do you think about the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 is a pandemic from China which I think God has brought to the world to teach us a lesson like he did in the time of the Israelites because the whole world was in disarray. We had become very disobedient, proud, arrogant, unruly, and immoral, among others. There is bad governance, cheating and so much injustice in the country and the whole world.
Many a time, we think we are greater than God and God has now made us humble. It is a disease that has come to humble everybody. It has come to also teach that some people’s prophecies can be faulted. All these people who make false prophecies and fake miracle workers or healers; this coronavirus pandemic has come to prove them to be liars and God has come to let us know that He is greater than everybody. It has also sensitised us, particularly Nigerians, to be conscious of our health and know that health is important because when it first started, evidence showed that we were not ready at all. Imagine the capital of Nigeria, Abuja, not having a good isolation centre which made the late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, to be taken to Lagos. Why should somebody at that level be taken to a private hospital and not a government hospital? It means we have failed. Nigerian government has failed to take healthcare delivery in the country seriously.
But what some people believe is that the virus has debunked the beliefs various religions have that there is a supernatural power as clerics and other adherents are afraid…
I have already said people who claim to be miracle workers, why are they not saying they can cure the disease and then go to isolation centres and heal people? This coronavirus has proved that those who call themselves miracle workers are fake. I see no reason why places like Lagos, Abuja and Ogun that have so many of these healers have been recording more and more increase in the number of coronavirus patients.
All of them and even witch doctors, wizards and babalawos cannot come out to say they have an answer to the problem. It is a big disgrace and it has exposed most of these people; we also believe in healing definitely, but we believe in God’s gradual healing. We don’t believe in deceiving or hypnotising people in the name of healing. So this thing has come to expose them and also some professors and scientists who think they know more. Why shouldn’t there be a research within a short time to develop a vaccine that should be able to stop this pandemic? So it has exposed everybody that we are very much vulnerable.