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Irish President Michael Higgins

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AKURE, Nigeria (LifeSiteNews) – A Nigerian bishop decried Ireland’s president linking a recent massacre in the African country to climate change as “rubbing salt” in the wounds of Nigerian terrorism victims.

Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade of the Diocese of Ondo rebuked Irish President Michael D. Higgins for his comments on the June 5 massacre of at least 40 attendees of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Nigeria.

Higgins issued a statement on June 7 in which he condemned the attack, but focused most of his remarks on climate change, which he suggested is the root cause of the attack.

“That such an attack was made in 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,” Higgins stated.

He added, “The neglect of food security issues in Africa for so long has brought us to a point of crisis that is now having internal and regional effects based on struggles, ways of life themselves.”

Arogundade responded June 10, thanking Higgins for his condemnation of the attack but slamming his “reasons for this gruesome massacre” as “incorrect and far-fetched.”

“Terrorists are on free loose slaughtering, massacring, injuring, and installing terror in different parts of Nigeria since over eight years not because of any reasonable thing but because they are evil — period,” he added.

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

A Nigerian government official reported that the insurgent group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) is suspected to be responsible for the massacre. According to Reuters, Interior Minister Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola announced Thursday, “We have been able to see the footprint of ISWAP in the horrendous attack in Owo and we are after them.”

According to watchdog group Open Doors USA, Nigeria ranks as the seventh worst country in the world for persecution of Christians, with Islamic oppression being the main cause. The oppression is of such intensity and frequency such that it is considered by the group to be “extreme.”

“Persecution in Nigeria is, simply put, brutally violent,” the advocacy group explained in their summary of Nigeria’s state of affairs for Christians. “In much of northern Nigeria, Christians live their lives under the constant threat of attack from Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Fulani militants and criminals who kidnap and murder with few consequences.”

The group noted that “the attacks and insecurity have also spread to southern Nigeria,” where the Diocese of Ondo is located.

Catholic News Agency reported that “at least 4,650 Nigerian Christians were killed for their faith in 2021 and nearly 900 in the first three months of 2022.”

British human rights advocate David Alton joined Arogundade in criticizing comments like Higgins’, writing June 12 on his website, “It is striking how quickly politicians and commentators trot out the same discredited banal narrative that the drivers for such carnage are climate change and lack of resources.”

“They say that the causes are ‘complicated,’ with hardly a mention of the jihadist ideology that is behind the endless atrocities of ISIS and Boko Haram,” Alton added.

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