by Christiana Gokyo, Jos
About 2,500 Christians in Nigeria are to perform the 2020 Christian Pilgrimage, which was not performed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secretary of the Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) Abuja, Rev. Dr. Yakubu Pam, disclosed this during the official flagging-off of the 2020 Christian Pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Jordan.
He said the number of the intending pilgrims nationwide went through thorough screening, adding that airlifting, which is expected to start immediately after the groundbreaking ceremony, will be treated in batches.
According to him, in line with the COVID-19 pandemic, all pilgrims embarking on this exercise have been well vaccinated, adding that, their medical team and the ICT unit have been detailed to capture the personal biometrics of all pilgrims traveling, both in Nigeria and Jordan.
He reminded the pilgrims that, pilgrimage is not a tourist attraction as many view it, but is a spiritual exercise, and urged those embarking on the pilgrimage to know that, they should be engaged in praying not only for ourselves but for the nation.
Flagging the 2020 Christian Pilgrimage at the Yakubu Gowon Airport Heipang, Governor Simon Lalong said, the significance of the flag-off exercise in the State is inestimable because of many factors.
According to him, it reaffirms the fact that Plateau State is back to its pride of place as the Home of Peace and Tourism, and it shows that the efforts of their Rescue Administration in restoring peace, confidence and stability are yielding the desired results.
He said, “Besides, the initial plan for direct airlift of pilgrims from Jos was to save our intending pilgrims the rigours of traveling by road to Abuja and other designated take-off points. Even as this plan could not be actualized, we are optimistic that this development takes the Yakubu Gowon Airport closer to international service, considering that the Federal Government has designated it as one of the Cargo Airports in the country.
“Hopefully, all the outstanding issues should be sorted out before the next exercise to make the dream of direct flight come true,” he noted.
The governor said, a total of 617 intending pilgrims will be performing the pilgrimage during this exercise. Out of this number, 200 were carried over from those that were not airlifted to the Holy Land to participate in the 2019 pilgrimage as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
He urged them to, therefore, see this as an opportunity to develop themselves spiritually and draw closer to God, adding that, “Pilgrimage is not a jamboree or an exercise for frivolity; it is a deeply spiritual exercise that connects people to the Christian faith by offering them an opportunity to see, feel and touch some of the accounts rendered in the Holy Bible.
“It also enables them appreciate the spirit and letter of the Word of God from historical perspective to present age. Unlike previous Pilgrimage exercises, which were mainly carried out to the State of Israel only, this year’s exercise will be to the Kingdom of Jordan on account of COVID-19 restrictions, safety concerns and the desire to widen the scope of pilgrimage to other Biblical sides around the world,” he stressed.
“However, we have been assured by the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission that government carefully chose Jordan in view of the presence of several historic religious sites and phenomena that will inarguably and equally enrich pilgrims’ spiritual experiences.
“You should, therefore, count yourselves favoured to have this fresh experience that brings another perspective to Pilgrimage and the Bible. And I hope that you will come back with fond memories and experiences that widen your horizon to the truth of the Word of God and universality of His love,” the governor stated.
Governor Lalong reminded them that, as they are embarking on this exercise at a time when the world is passionately fighting the Corona Virus Pandemic, which disrupted the exercise in 2019 and 2020, they should be assured that, government has done a lot to enhance the safety of intending pilgrims through comprehensive vaccination and sensitization.
He urged them to be mindful that their conduct will either open more doors for others to also visit the Holy Land or close it, saying, “In this era of COVID-19, you must adhere strictly to the guidelines outlined by the NCPC and the host country.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is still prevalent and every caution must be taken to safeguard lives. We have also put in place stringent measures to check unwholesome conducts such as abscondment by some pilgrims, who use the exercise as a cover for irregular migration,” he said.
The governor warned that any pilgrim that is caught trying to abscond will be made to face the full wrath of the law, and shall not take it lightly with those, who attempt to bring the name of the State and country to disrepute.
Speaking on sponsorship, he commended those on self-sponsorship for devoting their resources for this all-important spiritual exercise, stressing that, because of the current economic situation, the government cannot always bear the huge burden of sponsoring pilgrims to the Holy Land.
According to him, “That is why we encourage intending pilgrims to save for this spiritual experience and for people, who are privileged to sponsor others. Already, the National Christian Pilgrims Commission has created avenues and products that make it easy for self-sponsorship and other forms of assistance to intending pilgrims.
“It is very important that you present our nation before God and solemnly reflect on your role as believers in building a better Nigeria. Indeed, when we turn to God with a sincere heart, our land will be healed. Please, pray earnestly for Plateau and Nigeria, while you are there,” Lalong charged.