“Rubbing salt into the injuries’: Nigerian Bishop slams Higgins statement as “incorrect and far-fetched”

The Catholic Bishop of the Ondo diocese, Jude Ayodeji Arogundade, has criticised a statement made by Michael D Higgins where the President suggested climate change played a role in the massacre of 40 mass-goers at the church of St Francis in the Nigerian diocese on June 5th. 

Bishop Arogundade described the assault, which also left 126 people injured, as a “terrorist attack” and a “callous massacre”. In a statement strongly critical of the Irish President’s claims, he described any attempt to link the massacre to climate change as “rubbing salt into the injuries”.

He said that it was “completely inappropriate” of the Irish President to allude to “some form of politics of climate change” in regard to the situation and that the statement by President Higgins was “incorrect and far-fetched.”

“Comments associating banditry, kidnapping and gruesome attacks on innocent and harmless citizens of Nigeria with issues concerning climate change and food securities are deflections from the truth,” the Bishop said.

The deadly attack on the church was believed to have been carried out by supporters of Islamic State, linked to  Boko Harem. Nigeria has seen a sharp rise in terror attacks against Christians in the past three years. Data collected by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project shows 23 separate attacks on Christian churches and people in 2022 so far – with 31 in 2021 and 18 in 2020.

In his statement on the massacre, President Higgins raised eyebrows when he repeatedly brought up the issue of climate change by saying the attack on a place of worship “is a source of particular condemnation, as is any attempt to scapegoat pastoral peoples who are among the foremost victims of the consequences of climate change”.

He also raised “food security issues in Africa” saying it had been neglected “for so long” that the region has been brought “to a point of crisis that is now having internal and regional effects based on struggles, ways of life themselves.”

“The solidarity of us all, as peoples of the world, is owed to all those impacted not only by this horrible event, but in the struggle by the most vulnerable, on whom the consequences of climate change have been inflicted.”

Bishop Arogundade said in a statement that he wanted to “set the record straight”.

“The massacre at St Francis Church, Owo, has nothing to do with climate change and food security issues in Africa,” he wrote.

“To suggest or make a connection between victims of terror and consequences of climate change is not only misleading but also rubbing salt to the injuries of all who have  suffered terrorism in Nigeria,” the Bishop said.

The Nigerian prelate said that the historical connection between the Republic of Ireland and the Diocese of Ondo, the comments of the President of Ireland were important to him as bishop.

“The first two bishops of the Diocese of Ondo were Irish men, the church building in which the attack took place was built by Irish missionaries and some of the people killed were baptized, given the sacraments of Confirmation and Matrimony by many venerable Irish missionaries,” he said.

“Irish men and women laid the foundation of the faith for us in this part of the world,” the Bishop said. “To their eternal memories, we remain grateful.”

Last week, Gript Editor John McGuirk described the statement by President Higgins as an insult to those who had been murdered.

“The number one rule for people who think as the President does is that when Islamic extremists attack, the west must be to blame. And since there is no other available explanation, climate change is the one he’s landed on here. It’s as predictable and tiresome as it is insulting,” he said

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