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Some Nigerian evangelical pastors have had a go for false information and coronaviruses. As disinformation providers, several pastors have rejected government-imposed closures that would affect churches.
As of May 13, Nigeria had 4,971 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 164 deaths and 1,070 recovery.
Conspiracy theories and disinformation
Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of LoveWorld Incorporated Church (also known as the Embassy of Christ) in Lagos, Nigeria, has made some fierce comments since the start of the pandemic in the country.
The flamboyant pastor of prosperity preaches the prosperity theology or gospel – a belief held by some evangelical Christians that financial blessings are manifestations of God's will for them. Oyakhilome is worth 30 to 50 million US dollars and his church has some 13 million members inside and outside Nigeria.
On April 8, Oyakhilome delivered a sermon with over 12,000 views on YouTube, claiming that the introduction of 5G technology is responsible for the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. He also alleged that the supply of the COVID-19 vaccine will be used as a ploy to establish “a new world order” led by the antichrist.
5G is a fifth generation wireless communication technology that works on cellular data networks.
Two other Nigerian pastors, Sam Adeyemi and Matthew Ashimolowo, denied their claims.
Ashimolowo dismissed the claims as “conspiracy theories that had nothing to do with the antichrist” according to the Premium Times, Nigeria's online newspaper. “It has always been the nature of Christian leaders to spread fear in their members” in the face of a “major world event,” Ashimolowo said.
Pastor Sam Adeyemi killing ignorance and powerpoints and misinformation in just over 2 minutes with a simple internet search and reading about a previous pandemic. If only people did their own research before jumping on conspiracy theories… 💭 pic.twitter.com/9Aq88IlaeX
– ✨👑 DaddyMO👑✨ (@ therealdaddymo1) April 8, 2020
This is the benefit of historical records and systematic research.
My brother Edo fell from my hands. Do you see sensible logic instead of crazy theories?
Pastor Sam Adeyemi killing ignorance and digital presentations and misinformation in just over two minutes with a simple internet search and reading about a previous pandemic. If people did their own searching before jumping into conspiracy theories .. 💭
Adeyemi, senior pastor of the Daystar Christian Center, noted that the 1918 Spanish flu also negatively affected Nigeria, causing churches, mosques, schools and markets to close.
A week later, Oyakhilome rectified itself, stating that it was only opposed to the “health risks” of the 5G network.
The public health impact of the spread of these conspiracy theories has important consequences. The Nigerian Senate has already begun an investigation into the status of 5G and its potential impact on citizens' health.
Unfortunately, with most COVID-19 theories related to 5G there is simply “no hierarchy of plausibility,” writes journalist Amy Davidson Sorkin of The New Yorker. Coronavirus is a virus that is transmitted from human to human through droplets, such as saliva.
The radio waves used in 5G are non-ionizing radiation, which, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, have “enough energy to move atoms and make them vibrate” but they do not have enough energy “to remove electrons. of the atoms ”.
Consequently, 5G radio waves cannot generate enough energy to heat the human body and weaken the immune system. “The idea that 5G weakens your immune system does not stand up to an examination,” Simon Clarke, an associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, told the BBC.
But fans like Oyakhliome keep recycling these fallacies:
Chris Oyakhilome has been all kinds of messy this Covid-19 season. Irresponsible to the point of deranged. A train wreck. An absolute disgrace. For those still programmed or deluded enough to worship his talcumed face, his affected accent, we present to you – the demystification. https://t.co/tlXn5rsM6b
– Molara Wood (@molarawood) May 7, 2020
# COVID19: wearing face masks is an embarrassment to science. They are dangerous to our health – Pastor Chris Oyakhilome.
Chris Oyakhilome has generated a lot of confusion during this COVID-19 season. Irresponsible to the point of being deranged. A derailed train. An absolute disgrace. For those who are still programmed or delusional enough to love his talcum face, his affected accent, we present – demystification.
Apparently, the coronavirus, 5G and the antichrist conspiracy did not discourage Oyakhilome from further increasing disinformation.
In the video above, Oyakhilome described the use of masks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as “embracing the science.” At the beginning of the outbreak, he reminded his followers that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control said that “masks will not work.” He believes that “wearing (masks) is political, that's fine. But nobody should lie to us (that) it is science … Actually, scientifically, it is dangerous to health. This is the truth”.
At first, there was confusion about the benefits of wearing face masks in public. However, that period was short-lived.
Several leading scientists, such as Camilla Rothe and associates from LMU University Hospital in Monaco, Germany, and Lirong Zou and others from the Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Guangdong, Guangzhou, China, all recommend the use of masks or cloth covers for limit the spread of the virus.
On April 13, the Center for Disease Control, based on this scientific evidence, recommended the use of face masks or “cloth covers for the face in public settings where it is difficult to maintain other measures of social distancing (eg, markets and pharmacies). –especially in areas of significant transmission in the community. ” (emphasis on Center for Disease Control).
Similarly in Nigeria, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control encouraged the use of cloth covers as an “additional layer” of prevention against coronavirus transmission.
Oyakhilome omitted all those tips from his story.
Furthermore, he contradicts himself by saying that “if (the use of masks) is science, then it is open to debate.” A rather irresponsible interference, as if the scientific evidence were mere opinions and therefore questionable.
Not entirely surprising – his inconsistent claims are nothing new.
In 2004, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation banned the broadcasting of unverified “miracles” on national networks. Two years later, Oyakhilome reformulated the ban as a “plot of Almighty God and his angels” that blocked his efforts to get verification of his miracles.
Rejection of church closings
On March 30, the Nigerian government issued orders to stay home for 14 days in two key states, Lagos and Ogun, and in the capital Abuja – on April 13 it was extended for two more weeks. In addition, large religious and social assemblies in Nigeria were also restricted.
On May 4, President Buhari announced a relaxation of the Lagos, Ogun and Abuja closings. However, the places of worship remain closed.
On April 30, Oyakhilome spoke out against continuing the closure as the church is “a place of healing”:
So, those of you who love to run around government officials to get your validation, come and get COVID-19 compliant registration for your church. That is the last day Jesus will be in that church. But that is coming.
So those who love to run around government officials to get their validation, come and get COVID-19 compliant registration for your church. That is the last day that Jesus will be in that church. But that is to come.
However, Oyakhilome is not alone. David Oyedepo, presiding bishop of Living Faith Worldwide church, also questioned why markets were open while churches remained closed.
Bishop Oyedepo sharing some thoughts on the recent partial relaxation of the Lockdown.
What say you? pic.twitter.com/UdZNfX1mxI
– Naija (@Naija_PR) May 6, 2020
Bishop Oyedepo gives some thoughts on the recent partial relaxation of the closure.
What do you say?
In the video, Oyedepo describes how continuing the church closure is a demonic attack: “I can suspect something. The forces of darkness are influencing people at various levels because church growth is the devil's greatest headache, “he said.
Winners Chapel de Oyedepo has branches in more than 300 cities in the country. The church's headquarters are in Otta, in the Ogun state in southwestern Nigeria, with a capacity of 50,000 seats, and it is considered the largest church auditorium in the world.
Considered one of the richest pastors in Nigeria, Oyedepo is the founder of the Convent University based on his faith.
It is important to note that not all economic activities have been restored.
Furthermore, the claim that the closure is aimed at churches is not exactly true. Social assemblies and schools – which also attract many people – remain suspended.
Meanwhile, many Christians in Nigeria have been able to meet their spiritual needs through online services. It is more reasonable than exposing people to unnecessary risks.
Preachers that should be working with the local, state and federal governments to make sure people are complying with government orders are moving mad? What is their problem?
– Jola (@Jollz) May 7, 2020
Are preachers who should work with local, state and federal governments to make sure people follow government orders, are they going crazy? What's your problem?
It seems that these pastors need this wise advice from their colleague, Ignatius Kaigama, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, who emphasized that pastors should lead their flock to heaven “whether or not the coronavirus is active.”
Elsewhere, church leaders have expressed Christian love for the most vulnerable and dying in different ways. For example, the Catholic Church donated 425 hospitals and an evangelical church in Lagos offered its auditorium to the Government to use it as a center of isolation.
This is more worthy of emulation than selling conspiracy, disinformation and confusion theories during a global health crisis.