Easter celebration in Anambra amidst COVID-19

The 2020 edition of Easter in Anambra state may have come and gone but the memories linger especially with Covid-19 pandemonium which altered the mode of its . OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU reports.

Easter, an annual usually observed at the end of lent or 40-day fasting and prayers is a ritual where Christians worldwide commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Although many may argue that the and thrills of Easter are incompatible to Christmas (wherein the birth of Jesus Christ is reminiscence), the feast is never without events and happenings here and there.
In Anambra state, where Catholic and Anglican denominations constitute majority of the population, from Ash Wednesday when the 40-day fasting kicks off to Palm Sunday (when triumphant entry of Biblical Jesus to the Jerusalem is remembered), Holy Week (week preceeding Easter) to the Easter Sunday and Monday, it is usually colourful due to charity works, prayers, marriages, fluctuation in price of goods, meetings, funerals and other ceremonies.

How Covid-19 spoiled the fun

However, the arrival and spread of Corona (COVID-19) pandemic seemed to have foiled the conviviality of the season among Christian faithful in the state as NCDC had on April 10 added Anambra on the list of states with records of COVID-19 cases following its discovery that one out of few blood samples collected from the state tested positive to the deadly disease.
The state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, who had been in self- after having contacts with Bauchi state governor and Abba Kayri, late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, who tested positive to corona , on April 11 extended a state wide lockdown and border closure to two more weeks starting from April 12 when the first one ended, urging the law enforcement agents to clamp down on violators of the order without mercy.

“This time, we are placing a comprehensive lock down on Anambra state. We shall not tolerate any movement across the state by individuals and groups. Only people on essential services are permitted to move around in the delivery of those services to the people. Anambra residents are advised to stay indoors to avoid getting contaminated by this . agencies will enforce the restriction on movement this time and they have my authorisation to make arrests where necessary to keep our dear state safe,” Obiano stated.

The governor in an Easter message further assured that, “The feast of Easter offers hope to mankind. In fact, we have a good opportunity to demonstrate the true meaning of Easter by reaching out to vulnerable people around us with love while maintaining the principles of social distancing. We can still share what we have with people without coming in contact with them.”
As a result, most popular events centres in Awka and its environs including joints and clubs at Arroma junction, Club’s Zone (previously known as Abakaliki street) and Agu Awka like OMA Event centre, Stanel World, Roban stores and others were either completely shut down or partially active. Also, most if not all these ‘happening centres,’ roads and streets were not decorated or bubbling with entertainers as they previous do in the past.

Police enforced

The state police
commissioner, Mr John Abang, had in a release signed on his behalf by the PPRO, Mr Haruna Muhammad, urged residents to comply with the state and national directives, assuring that it would monitor and enforce to the letter.
“While wishing all Anambra residents a happy and peaceful Easter celebration, we also enjoin them to use the period and pray for total victory against the dreaded COVID-19 global pandemic in Nigeria and the world at large. The public is enjoined to strictly adhere to the restriction order and all the safety precautions against Corona virus. The command also assures the public of its to ensure safety and in the state during and after the Easter period, please,” the police added.

Despite this directive, people still cluster around markets in the morning and in beer-parlours as well as eateries in the state mostly at night. Among them are those who believe that Corona virus phenomenon is a scam the government allegedly use in soliciting and diverting . Others erroneously hold the belief that alcohol consumption and smoking kill or prevent the deadly virus. 

Further, the police on April 12, announced a relocation of major food markets in the state to schools fields, village squares, civic centres and motor parks which according to them was an executive order aimed at inculcating social distancing habits among the residents with a view to containing spread of COVID-19. This still did not stop patrons of street markets, shops, beer-parlours and eateries especially at night but usually minimal.

Churches complied 100 percent

Blueprint, however, observed that most churches abided by the rule to an extent as Catholic and Anglican churches including the pentecostal faithful followed the Easter programmes and messages from their clergies and prelates on radio, televisions and social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook. Similarly, few of these churches held masses or services with congregations raging from 50 and below silently without mounting or using microphones, loudspeakers and other air polluting technological devices.

The Anglican bishop of Awka Diocese and Archbishop Province on the Niger, Most Rev Alexander Ibezim, whose church banned several of the church as well as employed traditional and modern media platforms in their services, observing that the 2020 Easter celebration was done in a quite and solemn way owing to COVID-19.

“Who could have imagined such happening? Today, 2020 Easter is celebrated in empty churches and empty markets and in some climes, empty cities. There are no treats but lamentations and complaints in all fronts,” Ibezim queried, urging the faithful to see it as a test of their faith.

“A time of renewal and awakening. Let me reiterate that this Easter brings us hope on the mercies of God. This Easter has renewed our hope for tomorrow. It’s a time to remember that Jesus Christ died that we may live. And, I charge you as a Christians, whatever you do, remember that Jesus Christ died for you. Honour him always by your actions and inactions. Let the world bless His name through your life.

“Let’s repent from our shortcomings and sins as well as prepare ourselves for the returning of Christ Jesus. Let’s not waiver in spreading joy and happiness in our areas of residence and beyond, during this Easter amidst COVID-19 pandemic. “Brethren, I charge you to  love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

“This is what we are expected to do. It’s our main love and priority to bring glory to God in everything we do.”

The Catholic bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, in a video recorded Easter message admonished Christians to use the period to commit themselves to the of God and humanity.

“We have opportunity to see what happened to our brothers and sisters . We have seen what happened in other places; so, we should be able to learn our lessons and do whatever is proper to get over this deadly disease. Heaven helps those who help themselves. Let us not take things for granted. There is this tendency amongst us to say it is not serious.

“COVID-19 is real and serious. We have seen it work. When this is over, things would return to normalcy. Let us not go about saying, we must do things the normal way we have  been doing it. It will not work this time because it is clear. Corona virus is real. Do not take things for granted. God is still in control; therefore, the need for prayers,” he added.

Speaking in an interview, Bro. Chinedu Agu, of one the pentecostal churches, acknowledged that COVID-19 actually affected the celebrants of Easter and the world at large. He therefore urged Christians to embark on what he called fervent prayers to stop the spread of corona virus and return the economy to normalcy.

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