By Levinus Nwabughiogu

ABUJA – Executive Secretary, Nigerian Christain Pilgrims Commission, NCPC, Mr. Kennedy Opara has said that it was extremely necessary for every practicing Christian to visit Isreal on pilgrimage.

According him, praying in one’s country would not give the same spiritual results as carrying out the exercise at the holy sites in Isreal where Jesus was born, amongst others.

To this end, the Executive Secretary has encouraged prospective Christain pilgrims to Isreal to embrace the ‘Win-a-trip-to-Isreal’ Programme set up by the body to generate funding for the pilgrimage.

Speaking to Journalists in Abuja, Opara explained that the idea was conceived in view of the sponsorship withdrawal by the government to enable pilgrims raise money to fulfill their religious obligations.

He further explained that the Programme which takes the form of lottery does not in a way connote gambling, stressing that it was a noble innovation to make pilgrimages affordable.

Emphasizing the importance of the exercise, he added that it will enable the youth to attend the skills acquisition programme organized by the NCPC at no extra charge, revealing that already those trained were making exploits.

He said: “We just finished a summit of all stakeholders in the pilgrimage industry, including heads of churches in Nigeria and who is who in Church in Nigeria, headed by the president of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) who will be able to enlighten Nigerians on winning a trip to Israel.

“Win-a-trip-to-Israel” is not gambling, it is an idea, innovation of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission to make pilgrimage more affordable for Christians from all walks of life in view of the fact that the Federal Government and state governments are withdrawing from sponsorship of pilgrimage; not because it wants to, but because of the economic situation of the country. It is no longer sustainable. It is not something that is viable now. So, we have to devise a means to make sure that Christians continue to enjoy pilgrimages.

“So we signed an MOU with three operators in the lottery industry and the Nigerian Lottery Commission. The whole idea is that tickets will be sold in all the churches and the pool of funds from these tickets will now be used in sponsoring Christians to the Holy Land at no cost to the state, local or federal governments. Any one who wins the opportunity goes on a trip to Israel. This will also help them, especially for the youths who have the opportunity to go on this trip, to attend the skills acquisition programme organized by the NCPC at no extra charge.

“We are happy to inform the public that as at today, over 200 people that we trained from Delta State alone have opened their own farms, fish farms, snail farms, poultry farms from what they gained from the training. From what one of them said at the summit, she makes minimum of 400, 000 naira every month, at least apart from the number of people she has employed.

“So ‘Win-a-trip-to-Israel’ is a dual package that enables people to take a trip to Israel and also undergo the skills acquisition and leadership programmes. In no distant time, millions of Nigerian will be employed or engaged directly and will be able to add value to the system and help us sustain pilgrimages in Nigeria.”

Explaining how the Programme works, the Executive Secretary said that the it was a pool which was expected to generate money to sponsor at least 200,000 pilgrims on yearly basis.

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