In almost three decades, the Synagogue Church of All nations [SCOAN], has dominated gradually the religious tourism sector in Nigeria.
Though, it was not a conscious or deliberate occurrence by the church itself, but a phenomenon that has been in human since time immemorial not just with Christianity and Islamic religions, but even the major Asian religions that have existed for years.
This writer cannot say specifically when pilgrims started pouring into Synagogue, but observers are of the opinion that the influx perhaps started in the late 90s when the church has barely have a building standing as it is today.
However, information at the church’s website noted that the physical structure of The SCOAN has gone through different stages, and that each stage served a purpose; as well as moving to its present position.
The website reveals that SCOAN has had three previous locations, with the roof of the first church blown off by storm; the second church was washed away by flood and the third collapsed due to severe weather conditions.
Today, the SCOAN headquarters is an architectural masterpiece located in the heart of Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos, Nigeria.
For many years though, the travel and tourism industry in the country’s landscape has been dominated by aviation and hospitality; and not until recently that international visits or what is better known as inbound, came into our lexicon because Nigeria was never a destination for mass holiday destination, except for business.
Religion tourism or as some would call it, ‘faith tourism’, is not new to Nigeria, but its impact has seen many Nigerians travelling abroad for it, rather than other people coming into the country, thereby taking away billions of cash from the economy.
Today, the trend is changing as people have started coming into Nigeria for similar exercise, though the figure is insignificant compared to those jostling to travel to either Israel or Mecca annually.
Like most other churches in the country, SCOAN appeals to lots of foreigners from different parts of the world than through information; mostly, first timers are coming to Nigeria for religious purpose.
Whilst Synagogue is indisputably in the forefront of this, scholars and students are yet to come to terms with this new phenomenon. Activities of the church is still logically and conclusively spiritualism, and not for economic and public relations benefits.
Though, this writer cannot ascertain as to how many foreigners have visited SCOAN over the years, but observers are of the opinion that the figure would be in their hundredth of thousands with significant economic benefits to several sub-sectors of the travel and tourism industry.
From international airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, Kenyan Airways, South African Airways, and even now Rwand Air because of the large East and South followership of the church.
Airlines such as British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France/KLM are all benefiting from the long distant hull passengers from the Americas as well as Europe in general.
Back here in Nigeria, the car hire services, hotels, and food vendors’ benefit more from visitors trouping to SCOAN weekly.
Moving forward, the church has to understand now that its activities is far and wide attracting interest from not just those looking for spiritual solutions to their problems or visiting it as pilgrims, but from the academics and educational institutions for research purposes.
This new interest is not just from abroad alone, but within Nigeria. Many higher institutions now have tourism departments, and students and researchers are becoming more consciously engaged in the debate of religious or faith tourism in their various course work.
Without doubt, it would be to the interest of SCOAN to make its information more accessible by establishing a mini library within the church that can be readily opened to the public, students and researchers alike from home and abroad willing to learn more about the church.
Officials of SCOAN should know that Synagogue has grown beyond a church that people can merely be referred to its website for certain information, efforts should be made for a library with a curator that can relate history and general knowledge of the church and the general overseer to enquirers.
The above is no doubt a must and deliberate way of making accurate and precise information available to the discerning public.
[By Lucky Onoriode George]