A few days back, the founder and senior Pastor of KICC Global, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo was our Guest on CityPeople TV Instagram Live Chat. And he made a very powerful presentation on how to cope with Covid-19.
He also spoke about how church leaders, should cope with the situation. Below are excerpts of the interview
How do you see the way we have been able to react to Covid-19 pandemic as a nation?
Let me say as a man who for 6 months before the pandemic, I was leaving London every Saturday to come to Lagos for Sunday Services, then leaving London at Sunday night back to Lagos because I had some things here to do, I have seen the 2 sides. Amazingly, Africa was more prepared for Covid-19 than Europe. I give kudos to Nigeria. I give kudos particularly more to Ghana.
One month before anybody reacted to the pandemic abroad, Nigeria had already put all the measuring gadgets in place, to measure people’s temperature. As you are coming in from the Airport they are measuring your temperature. In Ghana, they have their medical practitioners already at alert, any little discovery they already whisk you away to their isolation centre, once you measure beyond 37.5 or thereabout. In fact, one British guy, who went through that system in Ghana landed in London.
He saw nobody stopping him, he went on radio in Ghana and lashed everybody in the United Kingdom, that when the result of this thing comes, it’s going to be disastrous, and truly it was. Until last week the U.K. was No 2 in death rate. So, to be fair on this occasion, Nigeria was very good, very smart, close it’s border on time and beyond closing the borders they put a system in place.
No 2 is the fact that I think God was on our side. That is why some people were saying there is no Coro anywhere. They had not been in Europe to see how people are dying. I do not know anyone in the U.K. who does not know someone who passed. So we should thank God for that because our health system is not strong, it has a very major weakness, and that may increase the number of casualty in the days to come. The United Kingdom when they eventually woke up, wrote everybody on the computers who had shown certain health matters to stay at home, not to go out. They were even more or less like commanded not to go out. We don’t have coordinated records in Nigeria. Nobody is asking any doctor or any hospital for any records. In the U.K GPs, they will have to let a central system know about everyone on their record, so they know who has issue anywhere.
I think that maybe a weakness, but apart from that, Nigeria has really tried very very much. The challenge again is because we have a weak system. It became necessary to stop the lockdown and make people go to market which becomes a terrible place to get infected but what can you do, you have to look for a way to balance it.
But in general, I think our government tried. They may not have enough resources. The number of people tested is very small compared to our population but their reaction is better. Brazil said it’s an ordinary flu but suddenly now they are like no 2 in the rate of death and infection. So, Nigeria on there own in my opinion really tried, we must be fair.
How do you see the way churches reacted to it and what do you think The Church should do at a time like this?
I think on the whole there are so many different opinions; there is a whirlwind, on one hand, that’s the conspiracy theory, some people said it’s anti-Christ. There is another group who look at it as a way of government trying to control us. And there is a group who look at it and combines fact and faith. I would rather combine fact and faith, and I will even argue by saying there is a lockdown in the Bible, there is isolation in the Bible. In the old testament, in the book of Leviticus, because there is no cure for leprosy God gave them instruction on how to manage leprosy. He said once a man has leprosy, he must be isolated from society and even his house must be sanitised, and the job was made difficult because it was the priest, the pastor who had to go and isolate the man, which is very tough for him to tell the king. We need to confirm fact and faith, it’s in the Bible that when you don’t have a cure for a thing do not assume, don’t say we are men of faith, even God himself gave them instruction that they should separate a leper to a colony.
And when Jesus came he did not invalidate that action. When he prayed for the leprosy man he told the man to follow the procedure laid down in the Leviticus. The procedure said a leper who is clean must go and show himself to the priest. The priest must check to be sure truly that leprosy has gone before he can come back into the church. According to a Yoruba proverb that says “Onile ni lowo, alejo di meru”. The government itself should have used a Scientific as well as Societal approach. Many of the people need counselling. They need prayer. They need help for you to open the market but close the church. There is an oxymoron, a contradiction. And the way the African market runs it’s difficult for you to not contact people. The markets are open for 4 hours but the church can’t open for 1hr, so there is a challenge here. When finally they said the church should open they should have given guidelines. Like today the Prime Minister of U.K. gave guideline on sanitisation. I think the church finds itself in a tough place because the decision of the Nigerian government did not show balance. You can not close the market because you don’t want people to die of hunger and keep the church shut. Everywhere is open in Nigeria except sport places and churches.
Yes! The church has large gatherings. Give them conditions. Tell them to sit, whether I metre or 2metres apart. Come in one way, go out one way, no social contact, no hug. We have told our members all these rules because we are opening on the 12th of July to the crowd; on the 5th of July to workers and 12th of July to the whole congregation. We told them they can come for only 3 services and each service is 1hr. We must finish everything in 1hr, after that 1hr we prepare the place for sat next service. And they must book their seats online already because God forbid if we have any issue we would be able to know who was next to him in contact tracing. I want to say kudos to the pastors in Nigeria. 90% of the great churches in Nigeria are pastored by men who have University degrees, who are distinguished in one thing or the other before they started pastoring. We are smart people, the government should honour and respect that. Let them give us the Guidelines and we would obey it. I also want this to be on the record, that, bursting into a church service to shame the pastor is so wrong. You could have waited and at the end of the service you treat the issue. For you to devalue a man in front of his congregation and the guy that you came to arrest was preaching in front of the congregation; it is not right. You don’t devalue people, this is the man they look up to as their pastor. I think some of the task force officers were not acting in wisdom. I saw a video of a Muslim Cleric being flogged in the North. It is wrong. Everything must be balanced.