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World News

Irish President criticised over connecting attacks on Nigerian Christians with climate change

by Donna Birrell

The Irish President has been criticised by a Nigerian bishop, for appearing to connect the massacre of Christians at a church in Nigeria earlier this month with the effects of climate change.  

In a statement, after the killings, at St Francis Church in Ondo State, Michael D Higgins said the attack was an attempt to "scapegoat people who are among the victims of the consequences of climate change."

The Bishop of Ondo said the statement was "incorrect and far-fetched" and "rubbed salt into the injuries of all who have suffered terrorism in Nigeria."

Nigerian security sources suspect an insurgent group, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) carried out the attack on Pentecost Sunday in which 87 people were also injured.

In a statement expressing his condolences after the attack, President Higgins said that such an attack 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.

"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." 

Responding to the comments, the Bishop of Ondo, Jude Ayodeji Arogundade said: "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.

"Alluding to some form of politics, of climate change in our situation is completely inappropriate.

"Such 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."

President Higgins’ remarks have also been criticised by the Catholic peer Lord Alton.

A post on his blog reads: “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.”

“And then they say that everyone suffers and there is a sort of equivalence with victims coming from varied religious backgrounds.”

“They should tell that to the families, whose loved ones are targeted, day in and day out, and see what sort of response they receive.”

Attacks on Christians in Nigeria by Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram and other militia have been increasing in recent months.

In separate incidents on Pentecost Sunday, 32 people were killed when militia stormed villages and a church in Kaduna state.

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