By Maria Famakinwa | The effect of harsh economy is negatively affecting religion centres as attendance at programmes especially weekly ones continue to reduce which by extension affects payment of tithes and offerings. Many families, owing to the rising cost of living occasioned by the removal of petrol subsidy could hardly meet their essential needs. The situation is worsened by the galloping inflation the country is passing through, with value of wages getting diminished every passing day. Clerics who spoke with The Hope bemoaned the hard times and called on the Federal Government to expedite actions in order to ameliorate the suffering of the citizens. In the words of Pastor Sunday Omotayo, of the Shield of Faith Ministry who revealed that the church is most affected by the unbearable economic hardship said that most members are more concerned about meeting their households basic needs than thinking of paying tithes and offerings. He said: “The economic situation is really biting so much, it has affected everything including the church because people are the church. You cannot compare the offerings and tithes now to what we realized in the past. The rich are not left out, but we trust in God that things would be alright. “People are reluctant these days to come to church, they are busy looking for what to eat and how to train their children. Increase in petrol price has affected church attendance which in turn affect the money realized for tithes and offerings. People no longer attend midweek services and Bible studies as before. People are struggling so much for survival. Saying that the harsh economy has affected the church is stating the obvious since the church operate in the same country and what affect the worshippers will definitely affect the church because the people are the church.The government may have a good plan but they lack the right approach to issues. Things should be taken step-by-step and one-by-one. Government should retrace its steps in certain things because change cannot just come overnight.” Another pastor of a local assembly in one of the popular church in the country who simply want to be addressed as Pastor Daniel disclosed that what his assembly remit to the headquarters monthly has really gone down. He added: “The situation is that bad. Apart from our tithes which used to be average of N500,000, we also pay certain percentage as return levies monthly but we cannot meet up with the financial responsibility again because tithes and offerings from members had drastically reduced. We visited some members who have not been coming but they complained about lack of money. One of them said that he had decided to focus on feeding and paying his children school fees which to him are more important. As church, we just have to continue trusting in God for intervention,” he said. A church accountant, Mr Ayo Babawale, who also observed that money realized from offerings and tithes could barely sustain the church said: “The truth is that the economic hardship has affected the church so much. Members no longer come to church regularly as they blamed the situation in the land for their actions. Giving of tithes and offerings in the church has also dropped. In fact, I will say that the religious bodies are the worst hit. The church encourages worshippers not to lose hope but to trust in God. The bible in Psalm 121 encourages us to look up to God where our help comes from. The churches should preach more on people having faith in God and discovering new means of survival. This is the time for people to believe in themselves and adopt the slogan, ‘I can do it’ and explore new opportunities. “The offering these days is nothing to write home about. The offering bowl is filled with N50. I’m talking about the adult section of the church, not the children’s section. The next highest denomination is N500. Seeing N1,000 in the offering bowl nowadays is just by the grace of God. I guess the majority who used to give N1,000 and above as offering have resorted to giving N500. Talking about tithing, the number of tithers has drastically reduced unlike before. Some members are complaining of irregular payment of salaries, high cost of feeding and stuff like that.” On the way forward, the man of God appealed to the citizens to always speak positively to the situation of the country and imbibe the act of praying for our leaders to do the right things as he matained that no matter how bad the situation is, prayers still remains the solution. “People should stop talking evil about our country and leaders. We are killing this country with our tongue because there is power in spoken words. We should have a positive attitude and always pray for our leaders to do the right things. I pray that God will intervene in our situation soon,” he said. Similarly, an Islamic cleric, Alfa Isiaka Abdulganiyu, noted that though, the attendance of regular daily prayers and the weekly Jumat service in mosques have not dropped because the prayers must be observed compulsorily, offering of sadaqah (voluntary alms) has dwindled, while some no longer contribute regularly to fund for mosque maintenance. He admonished Muslims not to lose faith in Allah. He said hunger, dwindling resources and even un¬expected loss of close relations were among experience that Allah had forewarned the Islamic faithful about as tests of their faith and know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and ease with hardship.” A driver, Mr Temitope Olaniran, who disclosed that he has not been regular in church and also stopped paying his tithe blamed his decision on the current economic reality. He said: “Things are really difficult now and as a Christian, I have stopped paying tithe since everything changed. I still give offering and my offerings haven’t changed, but that tithe I can’t pay it because it will solve other domestic problems I have. These days, I don’t get enough trips as I used to, so the tithe will have to wait till things change for better,” he said. “Many families are daily finding it difficult to survive. To eat has become a problem. Many children are out of school, many die every day because of lack of adequate medicare. Naturally, as resources become scarce, there will be scale of preference and opportunity cost. Other wants, especially non essential ones, will suffer. One of the casualties is the church. My first church is my family. “Even the bible condemned a man who cannot provide for his family. As things are, my family is my first priority. Schools will be resuming next month and I need to prepare ahead. I understand that it is good to serve God but you need money to serve God. I pray that things improve because the masses are hungry in the midst of plenty. Drivers are worst hit by the removal of fuel subsidy as our daily sales continue to reduce especially now that students are on holidays. The truth is that one must address his/her needs in order of their importance,” he said.