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Irresponsible COVID-19 faith-healing claims

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Sir: A recent statement by a popular cleric and preacher that he could lay hands and pray for COVID-19 patients calls for concern. His claim has the potential of undermining efforts to tackle and defeat this vicious virus. The preacher has reportedly said during his sermon on Saturday, August 29: “Can you imagine anyone bringing a coronavirus patient to me and I won’t lay hands on him? Will I wear gloves to lay hands on them?” Then, he went further to state: “I will lay hands on them; breathe into them; embrace them. What you carry is eternal life. It’s not human life. You should know that.” Unfortunately, the cleric has made similar reckless remarks in the past. For instance, in June, this Pentecostal preacher and witchcraft exorcist said that his church had recorded over 114 COVID-19 healing testimonies. These faith-healing claims fly in the face of facts and figures regarding the management and containment of COVID-19 in Nigeria and beyond. The Nigerian health authorities should call the preacher to order. They should sanction him because he is a pastor, not a public health expert.

The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to the faith-healing industry. And Pentecostal pastors are desperate to get back into the business of mining the gullibility of Nigerians. The virus has succeeded in exposing the fakery and inefficacy of faith-healing practices. COVID-19 is a global pandemic and a public health emergency that has no cure yet. There is no evidence that coronavirus patients could be healed through prayer or laying of hands. Instead, evidence abounds that such practices contribute to the spread of the infection. Some pastors reportedly contracted the virus and subsequently died after praying and laying hands on patients. So, the preacher’s statement is a proposition that could lead to a spike in the infection, or death. Members of the public should disregard this misleading proposition and continue to follow the World Health Organisation (WHO) evidence-based guidelines for the management of the pandemic. 

By Leo Igwe

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