Christ Embassy – a Christian religious centre, last Sunday flauted Christian Association of Nigeria’s (CAN), Akwa Ibom State Chapter, guidelines on reopening of churches and barred monitoring team from gaining access into the auditorium.
When the COVID 19 pandemic hit a global status about four months ago, there were rising cases of the virus spread across continents on a daily basis.
Challenges of Reopening of Churhes In Akwa Ibom State
In Nigeria, the country has been on a lockdown in almost all the States of the Federation with the directive by some state governments to reappraise the challenge of re-opening Churches despite the spread.
Churches – both Orthodox and Pentecostal where Chirst Embassy is inclusive had hinged their calls for re-opening on the need to bring members together in worship especially as markets were open to public despite the rising cases of the pandemic.
In Akwa Ibom State, the Governor, His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel had stated during a media interactive session that re-opening Churches would be on the guidelines of the State Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN)
Governor Emmanuel had said he would meet with the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria and if satisfied with the guidelines,would approve the commencement of Church activities across the State.
After several deliberations, the Akwa Ibom State Government directed churches to re-open on Sunday, June 7,2020 with strict adherence to the Christian Association of Nigeria approved guidelines.
The State Government further set up Monitoring Committees across the three Senatorial Districts to ensure the full compliance by churches across the State.
The leadership of the Committees were Hon. Eric Akpan, Uyo Senatorial District, Hon.Unyime Etim, Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District and Hon. Frank Archibong for Eket Senatorial District. All three leaders are Executive Chairmen of Nsit Ibom, Ikot Ekpene and Eket Local Government Areas.
Prince Enobong Uwah Executive Chairman of Uyo Capital City Development Authority was to take charge of the exercise in Uyo Local Government Area.
The exercise which has been going on in the last three weeks has witnessed mixed compliance across the State especially in rural areas.
Uyo Capital City Church Monitoring Team Visits Christ Embassy
However, trouble reared its ugly head more than a week ago where a prominent Church in the State, Christ Embassy started the collision course with the State Christian Association of Nigeria.
The Christ Embassy stated in a media interactive session with Journalists last week that the CAN guidelines were not binding on the church and members as they did not believe in being in the Union to promote the activities of the Church.
Christ Embassy is not a Member of Christian Association of Nigeria
The resident Pastor of the Church, Emmanuel Effiong had disagreed with the Christian Association of Nigeria Chairman, Ndueso Ekwere emphasing that such guidelines cannot be binding on the Church as they are not members of Christian Association of Nigeria.
He stated that the Christian Association of Nigeria leadership acted within the limits of knowledge and that the State Government failed to consult widely before issuing the guidelines..
The Use of Face Masks Constitutes Health Hazards
The Pastor had stated that the use offace masks in worship constitutes health hazards to the individual while the sitting arrangements of not more than 200members was an attempt to gag the Church.
He further said such guidelines derogates the fundamental principles of Human Rights to worship and makes it difficult to exercise one’s Christian faith.
Christ Embassy is a Universal Church
“While we do not question the right of anybody or churches forming association nor are we against CAN or any association setting up guidelines for their members, it is unacceptable to believe that such guidelines will be binding on non-members of their groups.
“The use of face masks for the entire duration of congregational worship is an act, which has been scientifically proven to be hazardous to the health as uninterrupted use of face masks over a long period of time may cause hypoxia-the absence of oxygen to sustain bodily functions.
“Also, we are expected not to sit more than 200 worshippers during each church service, among others. This is a clear attempt to gag the church.”
Uyo Capital City Church Monitoring Team Barred From Entering Christ Embassy
Last Sunday, the Monitoring Committee for Uyo Local Government Area led by Prince Enobong Uwah were allegedly barred from entering the Church by hired security personnel of the church which led to some arguments according to media reports.
The team had to leave in order to avoid a public scene and made a report to the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem who heads the COVID 19 pandemic team in Akwa Ibom State.
In a press release, signed by Dr. Ekuwem it stated the decision of the Government was due to the defiance of the church in complying to the guidelines approved by the State Government.
The press release stated that “Sunday 21 June, 2020, the Akwa Ibom State Government and Christian Association of Nigeria ( CAN) Monitoring Team, while on a routine compliance/inspection visit to the Christ Embassy Church, Nung Akpa Ime branch, State House of Assembly Road, off Nsikak Eduok Avenue to enforce the Akwa Ibom State government/Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)/World Health Organisation ( WHO)/Christian Association( CAN) Guidelines and Protocols adopted to prevent community spreading of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic in Akwa Ibom State, were obstructed, attacked and brutalized by the Pastors and some members of the church.
In response to this act of lawlessness by that church and in order to avoid the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 in Akwa Ibom State, the Christ Embassy Church building and premises are hereby sealed up with immediate effect till further notice.
The suspected Pastors and relevant members of the church will be made to face the wrath of the law. Christ Embassy has been on a running battle with churches and the Federal Government after allegations on 5G telecommunications facility aiding health challenges in the present COVID 19 pandemic. The criticisms on the church has been widely publicised .
Also, the recent hammer on the church in Akwa Ibom State will not come as a surprise as the Secretary to the State Government had in her last press conference after the monitoring exercise of week two that churches who fail to comply will be sanctioned.
Christ Embassy: The First Church to be Axed by Akwa Ibom State Government
Christ Embassy has become the first church to be axed by the State Government even as cases of COVID 19 continues to rise in the state. Just last week, the State recorded 17 new cases.
Already the Church and CAN in Akwa Ibom State are in a running battle with no end in sight