Depreciating Value of Naira Can Affect Christian Pilgrimage Adversely - Oyo State Pilgrims Welfare Board

The Oyo State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Christian Wing, on Monday in Ibadan said the depreciating value of the Naira could adversely affect the 2015 pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Mr David Ishola, Secretary to the board, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the exchange rate of the Naira to the dollar was a major determinant of the cost of pilgrimage.

He said, "the exchange rate of Naira to the dollar is a major determinant of the cost of pilgrimage.

"Last year, the Federal Government gave concessional exchange rate of one dollar to N150 but as we speak now a dollar is over N200.

"This means that this year, pilgrimage's cost will be higher and very few will be able to afford going on self-sponsored pilgrimage unless the Naira appreciates in value".

Ishola said that in 2014, only 566 Christian Pilgrims from the state journeyed to the Holy Land out of the 1,000 target the board had.

He appealed to the government not to discontinue the sponsorship of pilgrimage.
According to him, many of those who went on pilgrimage in the previous year were sponsored by the state government.

"Out of the 566, only 143 were self-sponsored, while others were sponsored either by the state government or local governments. 

"This year, only 12 people have gone on pilgrimage so far in Oyo State

"Government's sponsorship of holy pilgrimages helps to support those who can't afford it," he said.

Ishola said that pilgrimage was important to the Christian faith.

"Pilgrimage is walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ; it strengthens our faith and makes the bible to become real.

"Christians who have the wherewithal should sponsor the less financially buoyant but who are spiritually rich to go on pilgrimage.

"It is a life experience and anybody who goes there is transformed positively.

"The multiplier effect is enormous; if you have been there you are able to tell the story and impact the lives of people around you positively," he said.

The secretary said that the minimum age for going on pilgrimage was 30 years.

According to Ishola, the board is responsible for organising a hitch-free pilgrimage to the holy land and to ensure the welfare and conveyance of the pilgrims to historical places in the bible.

"Pilgrimage used to be once in a year; a general one between October and December.

"However, recently there is Easter Pilgrimage and family pilgrimage between March and April and between July and August respectively," he said.

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