Religion

Residents react to proliferation of prayer mountains springing up

 

Residents react to proliferation of prayer mountains springing up

Religious leaders and residents of Ibadan have analysed the perceived advantages and disadvantages of praying mountains and camps spreading across the town.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports in Ibadan on Sunday that the proliferation, as found in both Christian and Islamic religions, is generating curiosity in the hearts of residents.

While some argued in favour of the development, others decried it, describing it as an abuse of the constitutional rights regarding the freedom of religious worship.


Other observers noted that the upsurge has no positive impact on societal value as evident in the increase of social vices, immorality and all forms of criminality in society.

For instance, not less than 20 of such centres are on Egbeda-Asejire Road, along the Ibadan-Ife highway.

A similar situation characterised the Moniya-Oyo Road, along the Ibadan-Oyo highway; Ologuneru-Eruwa Road; and Apata-Abeokuta Road amongst others.

A sociologist, Ibrahim Oladapo, attributed the situation to “partly economic hardship and unemployment facing millions of Nigerians who now seek miraculous breakthroughs.”

However, Oladapo, Proprietor of IDPO Educational Consultancy, said activities within the worship centres and payment of tax to the government by their owners, contribute to the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

“In addition, petty traders around the communities where prayer centres/camps are situated sell and make gains,” he said.

Chief Adebisi Awofolaju, a mechanised farmer at Olope Village, near the Coca-Cola plant, Asejire, expressed concern over the development.

According to Awofolaju, the 10 hectares of farmland leased to him about 15 years ago had just been sold to a popular pastor for prayer mountain use.

He said efforts to persuade the landowner to sell the land to him proved abortive as the pastor had already paid the owner twice what he was offering.

“I’m not against the idea of building churches but landowners shouldn’t give priority to pastors over those of us farming to feed our nation.

“I have tried to look elsewhere around here for another land to farm but there is no available land; all have been turned to prayer mountains,” he lamented.

On this development, the Oyo State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Apostle Joshua Akinyemiju, said cautious steps and enlightenment must be taken.

According to him, if such actions are not taken, the effect will be detrimental to the faith and well-being of all.

He said while the accessibility of worshippers to the centres must be considered, the centres should not constitute a nuisance or disturbance to the peace of others by violating government and ethical regulations.

“Praying on the mountain is a Bible-based practice.

“Jesus prayed on the mountain and went to mountains with His disciples to pray. Prayer Mountain is a secluded place where one separates from distractions to meet and fellowship with God.

“The topography and geographical situation of the town Jesus lived was rocky and mountainous, so, whenever he needed a solitary and conducive environment to pray, he went alone to the mountainside without disturbing his disciples.

“Going to the mountain to pray is not mandatory or a criterion for God to answer prayers. What one should focus more on is the purpose behind going to the mountain.

“God can answer prayers anywhere at any time depending on one’s faith and background.

“People raised from physical mountain prayer consciousness will never see any other place as conducive to receiving from the Lord,” he said.

According to him, many see mountainous environments as good spiritual climates to receive God’s attention but this is not a subject of controversy in the Body of Christ.

“Judging from the various backgrounds of ministry, many can’t do without mountain prayers. In that case, we leave them to their faith.

“The truth, however, remains that God can hear and answer your prayers even in your bathroom, as long as it offers you the spiritual climate you need to seek the face of God.

“The first step to prayer is a renewed relationship with God.

“The first mountain is the mountain in our hearts. Our hearts must be right with God and be ready to worship in truth and spirit. We must understand that God is a Spirit and He only answers to the spirits of the faithful ones,” he said.

The Christian faith leader said motives behind the creation of the centres must be checked and the right questions asked to curb their negative impacts.

“Honestly, prayer and worship centres should not be distractive.

“They must be safe and not to be seen as constituting any environmental or community nuisance; they must also not violate government rules.

“If not, it might lead to unhealthy competition, rivalry, self-promotion, commercialisation of the gospel, physical distraction and environmental hazards,” Akinyemiju said.

He described places of worship by the roadsides, close to train tracks and bridges as risky and unsafe.

According to him, faulty vehicles and careless drivers can lose control and run into the freely-paying congregation.

“Even, the lives of people, including the Children crossing the road to praying centres, are at risk,” he said.

He said if the situation would be corrected, besides governmental and communal efforts, religious leaders and their members must take the lead.

“Every religious leader must be encouraged to acquire sound theological training and education.

“They must apply and contextualise sound biblical truths in church administration. Education, awareness and sound biblical teaching must be given to the congregation, and they must be advised to abide by them.

“Besides, siting prayer and worship locations in illegal, disturbing, distracting, and restricted places should be discouraged. The construction must also comply with approved rules and regulations.

“As the Body of Christ, we support praying and the construction of worship centres, but they must not violate rules, not distract or disturb, but must be safe and Jesus-centred,” Akinyemiju stressed.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Lagos West, Rt. Rev. Oluyinka Akande, said centres particularly on the highways could have positive and negative implications.

Akande said, on the one hand, it might provide spiritual solace to travellers and locals alike, fostering a sense of community and connection.

On the other hand, the Methodist bishop remarked that it could pose safety hazards and disrupt traffic flow if not properly planned.

“Additionally, it may raise questions about the separation of religion and public infrastructure.

“It’s important for religious leaders to consider the balance between spiritual needs and practical considerations for road usage and safety,” Akande said.

Meanwhile, Pastor Francis Oghuma of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Jesus Place, saw the situation as fulfilling the signs of the end time as stated in the scriptures.

According to Oghuma, the situation is not far from the silence and failure of the government to meet a common dividend of democracy as it affects the security and basic needs of its subjects.

“A society where strong and dynamic brains, armed with credentials but remain perpetually at the mercy of who you know or void gainful engagement, is regrettable.

“It’s a pity that we are in a vain society where men have adopted false lifestyles and thieves are chiefs.

“The springing up of prayer mountains is man resorting to his creator to pray for everything including food, water, light, security and social amenities.

“It is not until prayer mountains are conducted on our roads that makes our worship centres complete. A road hindered today is an economic sabotage and menace to society, giving room to societal differences and religious bigotry.

“Our God is never an author of confusion. Therefore, we don’t seek the face of the Almighty by chocking our roads and causing pain to commuters,” he said.

The RCCG pastor recommended that worship centres be established far from the roads and with enough space for worshippers and car parks.

This, he added, would not only remove such man-made menace but also give worship a meaning to easy answers to supplications.

From the Islamic perspective, Mallam Kabir Akewusola says the surge in Islamic organisations and Asalatu groups has advantages and disadvantages.

According to Akewusola, some centres have positively impacted their followers by teaching them things they need to know in Islam.

This, he said, had in turn made them closer to God and abstain from wrongdoing.

He, however, said that some overdo things by bringing innovations not in the teaching of the Holy Quran and Hadith of Prophet Muhammad.

“Can you imagine some of them will ask their followers to bring them water, fruits, eggs, and other things to pray on for their prayers to be answered?

“All these are not in the teaching of Islam,” he said.

He, therefore, called on Muslims to be careful and to check properly before joining any Islamic group to avoid falling into the wrong hands. (NAN)

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