Nigeria: This Year's Easter Pilgrims Will Be Last Year's Leftovers
Organizers of Nigeria's state-sponsored pilgrimages for Christians are patting themselves on the back for a smooth year in which not one pilgrim absconded to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Rome, or other destinations.
However, they also announced that no new slots are available for this year's Easter pilgrimages.
The Nigerian Christian Pilgrims' Commission (NCPC) has announced that it sent approximately 20,000 Nigerians on religious pilgrimages in 2012, and expects to send almost 2,700 Christians on Easter pilgrimages to Rome this year; however, the available Easter slots will all be filled by the backlog caused by last-minute flooding last year.
"Last year was very unique because for the first time, the flood affected our operation," said NCPC executive Secretary John Kennedy Opara at a press conference, according to This Day. "Most states were unable to pay, and in fact most of those states are going to form the bulk of pilgrims that we are going to carry from February to March as part of the Easter pilgrimage package. At that time the flood covered most of these states, and so the Christians that would have loved to be on pilgrimage were unable to go."
Meanwhile, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan reminded states of their obligation to equally sponsor Muslims and Christians on pilgrimages after the Christian Association of Nigeria reported that several northwestern states did not send any Christians last year.
Nigeria made world headlines last fall after Saudi Arabia deported more than 1,000 Nigerian Muslim women for attending the annual Hajj without male chaperones. However, CT reported the overlooked story of how a third of the nation's 90,000 state-sponsored pilgrims last year were Christians, though such pilgrimages are currently under review. CT also recently rounded up news on Christmas pilgrimages to Bethlehem, including 300 Nigerian pilgrims stranded at the Jerusalem airport.
CT has regularly reported on pilgrimage and travel, including a 2009 cover package on the surprising rewards of Christian travel and why CT managing editor Katelyn Beaty, after visiting Israel, no longer believes in a spiritual Jesus.