Nigerian bishop criticises President Higgins’ linking of church shooting with climate change as ‘inappropriate’


A bishop in Nigeria has criticised President Michael D Higgins for comments he made in relation to a shooting where up to 50 parishioners were killed earlier this month.

t least 50 people including children were killed during the attack on St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo, which took place during Sunday mass as worshippers were celebrating the Christian holiday of Pentecost. Police have yet to release a death toll.

Last Tuesday, President Higgins released a statement expressing his condolences and condemning the attacks, but also linking the violent massacre to the consequences of climate change.

However the Catholic bishop of the diocese of Ondo, Jude Ayodeji Arogundade has now described a statement by President Higgins as “incorrect and far-fetched”.

Authorities suspect insurgent group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) carried out the massacre, however no group has as yet claimed responsibility.

Assailants wielding AK-47 rifles and explosives attacked the congregation at the church, in southwestern Ondo State, during mass, leaving behind a scene of carnage as they escaped.

Spokesman for the Ondo State governor’s office Richard Olatunde told AFP that before the gunmen opened fire, they detonated explosives inside the church.

“They did not even enter the church, they were shooting through the windows,” he said.

Abayomi, a witness, said that he saw at least five gunmen, “I was passing through the area when I heard a loud explosion and gunshots inside the church”.

A seven day mourning period for the victims was declared by the state government.

Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of the “unspeakable violence”.

In a statement, President Higgins said 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”.

“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,” President Higgins said.

However, in a statement released on Facebook, Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade described the statement as “misleading”.

“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.”

The bishop admitted that Ireland’s comments on the situation held value to him due to the role Irish Catholic missionaries played in spreading Catholicism in Nigeria.

“Irish men and women laid the foundation of the faith for us in this part of the world,” he said.

The bishop said that it is “the responsibility of every one of us to take case of our earthly home,” but added that he appeals to “those who are trying to take advantage of this horrific event to project any form of ideological agenda to desist from such opportunism”.

A fundraiser has been started on GoFundMe for those that wish to offer financial assistance to the families affected by the attack.

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