Nigerian bishop, ex-New Yorker, calls church massacre ‘my own 9/11’

Even amidst this wave of bloodshed, the Pentecost Sunday massacre comes across as a disturbing aberration as it took place in the relatively peaceful southwestern part of the country that has so far been spared. by the violence destabilizing the north. Arogundade believes the attack is part of a larger move to establish an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria, which is roughly half-Muslim.

As with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the church killings called for swift action, deep reserves of compassion, and tireless pastoral leadership in the face of overwhelming human tragedy.

“Immediately I saw a mission given to me,” Arogundade, 60, told CNA. “My first thought was, ‘I can really do something about this. I can really bring a greater awareness to this. I can reach out to many places, and at that point I was ready to talk to anyone who wanted to listen. .”

He acknowledged that as a naturalized American citizen with years of experience and extensive contacts in the United States, he was in a good position to raise awareness of the genocide he says is taking place in Nigeria, in hopes of get help from the US government to stop him. before it is too late. Among the first to offer support to Arogundade was the head of his former archdiocese, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

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The climate claim is “outlandish”

Last week, that mission brought Arogundade to Washington, D.C., where he was a guest of the Catholic nonprofit Aid to the Church in Need and a guest speaker at International Religious Freedom Summit. The three-day event brought to light the cases of religious persecution taking place across the world.

The soft-spoken bishop delivered a direct and sobering message. “What is happening now is genocide,” he told CNA. “It’s pure ethno-religious cleansing. It is what it is. And it gets worse. »

Arogundade said the Buhari government must do more to protect innocent civilians. He said he hoped his talks with lawmakers in Washington would increase pressure on Nigerian leaders “to be proactive and even ask for help if they cannot handle the situation.”

Nigerian authorities said the church attack bore the marks of a Nigerian Islamic State affiliate, not Fulani herdsmen. Security experts are skeptical, noting however that the group did not claim responsibility for the attack. No arrests were made.

Whoever the culprits are, the attack underscores the fact that Nigeria is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a Christian. More than 4,650 Christians were killed there last year, about 13 a day, or about one murder every two hours, according to a report by watchdog group Open Doors. That number represented 80% of those deaths the group recorded globally over a 12-month reporting period.

Yet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, without explanation, last year removed Nigeria from the list of Countries of particular concern (CCP) so designated because of serious violations of religious freedom. The current list includes Burma, People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The 2022 list is currently under review.

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Arogundade also spoke out against attempts to explain these attacks as being rooted in a clash over dwindling resources due to the effects of climate change, or a combination of complex factors. Irish President Michael D. Higgins seemed to suggest like many when he said after the Whit Sunday Massacre “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 first victims of the consequences of climate change”.

Alerted by Higgins’ statement, Arogundade fired one of his own.

“While thanking the Honorable Mr. Higgins for joining others in condemning the attack and offering his sympathy to the victims, his reasons for this horrific massacre are incorrect and far-fetched,” Arogundade said in a message dated June 10.

“To suggest or draw a link between the victims of terrorism and the consequences of climate change is not only misleading, but it also puts salt on the wounds of all those who have suffered terrorism in Nigeria”, he said. -he declares.

“Victims of terrorism are another category to which nothing can be compared! It is abundantly clear to anyone who has closely followed events in Nigeria over the past few years that the underlying issues of terrorist attacks, banditry and relentless assaults in Nigeria and the Sahel region and climate change have not nothing in common.

‘Do the right thing’

Jerry B. Hatch