The National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) should caution the founder of Omega Ministries, Apostle Suleman over his recent utterance urging the government to allow pastors into isolation centers so that they could pray for COVID19 patients.
At a time that the death toll due to COVID19 is rising locally and the pandemic is expected to spike in Nigeria in the coming weeks, Suleman’s declaration is very unfortunate.
In a video that is circulating on social media, Suleman asked the government “to permit us, let us go there”-referring to the isolation centers. He noted that persons with the gift of healing existed and ‘two, three’ of them should be allowed to go and pray for the sick at these places.
Apostle Suleman’s prophetic statement is utterly insensitive and irresponsible and has the potential of undermining the efforts by the government to contain the spread of the virus. It is difficult to imagine that any reputable pastor could utter such words at this time. As one of the leading Pentecostal pastors in the country, Suleman should know that many pastors and Christians in Nigeria and beyond look up to him for guidance and direction. He should know that his pronouncements have weight, implications, and consequences on public life and public health especially at this time that COVID19 is ravaging the world.
Suleman’s statement is misleading because he implied that prayer could heal a COVID19 patient. Unfortunately, this is not the case. If prayer could heal a person with the coronavirus, the WHO would have said so. Instead the global health institution has made it clear that there is no cure for the coronavirus at the moment. It has advised people to practice social distancing, washing of hands, and wearing face masks to reduce the infection. Allowing pastors into the isolation centers will contravene the WHO guidelines and contribute to the spread of the disease. The WHO has urged against touching infected individuals or having close contact with patients.
Even if the government denies pastors access to these isolation centers as one expects, such reckless utterances could still jeopardize efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Suleman’s statements could get some pastors or believers to try praying or laying hands on COVID19 patients privately at their homes or churches. Such a move could accelerate the infection as it did in South Korea.
So, NCDC should sanction Apostle Suleman and send a strong warning to other pastors and clerics who could still be under the illusion that prayer could heal COVID19 patients.