Christianity and Tourism Development in Nigeria: A Socio-Economic Discourse

Christianity and Tourism Development in Nigeria: A Socio-Economic Discourse

Floribert Patrick C. Endong (University of Calabar, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8494-0.ch011
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Most of the spiritual programs organized by mega Pentecostal and charismatic churches in Nigeria constitute serious touristic attractions, which over the years, have immensely been contributing to socio-economic development in the country. These programs pull a multitude of national and international expectant tourists, who in the course of satisfying their various spiritual pursuits, often get involved in many other cultural and recreational activities. Hinging on empirical understandings, this chapter examines the extent to which these religious programs contribute—or may contribute—to tourism and socio-cultural development in Nigeria, particularly in host communities. The chapter equally explores some of the challenges of religious tourism in Nigeria. It is specifically anchored on the three following questions: (1) Which are the major religious activities attracting tourists in Nigeria? (2) To what extent foreign tourists' attendance at these programs does not only benefit the churches? and (3) How could these programs further contribute to tourism development in Nigeria?
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According to many exocentric observers, Nigeria is not only a very religious nation, but the cradle and centre of many transnational African Christianities. This myth is not unconnected to the fact that many Pentecostal and charismatic spiritualities – which have successfully proliferated across the Black Continent and other parts of the world – are founded or headed by Nigerians. In other words, they have Nigerians as their originators and overseers. Egregious examples of such Nigerian-born transnational Churches include A. Adeboye Eunoch’s Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Odeyepo’s Living Fountain Church, Chris Oyakhilome’s Christ Embassy, Kumuyi’s Deeper Christian Life Ministry and Timotope B. Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) among others. These mega churches have spread their tentacles to most parts of Black Africa and in some climes in the west, engulfing an international pool of both nominal and fervent followers.

The above mentioned Nigerian born churches have, these last years, embarked on the tradition of organizing giant annual or seasonal programs as well as transnational religious services which attract myriads of foreign and national publics to various locales in Nigeria. Though it may be herculean to find credible statistics to describe or measure the social and economic implications of these spiritual activities, one easily observes that events such as Redeemed Christian Church of God’s Holy Ghost Congress have been attracting thousands, if not millions of religious tourists to Nigeria. So too have the end of year conventions organized by churches such as Kumuyi’s Deeper Christian Life Ministry and Chris Oyakhilome’s Christ Embassy, pulled considerable amounts of foreign publics to Nigerian cities. Besides these examples, one notices that the spiritual temples of some of these Nigerian based churches have quickly become kinds of sanctuaries and solution centres to many local and foreign tourists. Indeed, thousands of tourists daily converge to many of these spiritual temples in search for healings, prophecies, miracles, spiritual guidance, spiritual relics/talismans and multiform esoteric fortifications among others. It is for instance believed that SCOAN’s Ikotun spiritual temple1 in Lagos State has these last years, become a prime destination and a last resort to both nationals and foreign publics in ardent search for the elixirs of their spiritual dilemmas. At present, the temple is the major touristic attraction in the country and the most visited in the whole of West Africa.

Religious tourists irrespective or race, nationality, social classes and age have, these last years, become visitors to the temple for reasons which even go beyond the spiritual to include the political. According to an article published in the British tabloid The Guardian, SCOAN’s spiritual temple attracts more weekly attendees than the combined number of visitors to the Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London (Mark 2013). The Sunday service held at its Ikotun temple in Lagos State (of Nigeria) is said to attract a minimum of 150 000 attendees every week. Among these attendees, thousands are foreign tourists including high profile entities (SCOAN, 2016; Opara & Onoriode, 2017).

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