Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article first appeared on the Gatestone Institute.
Politicians have found a way to kill two birds with one stone: ignore the endemic slaughter of Christians at the hands of Muslims, while over exaggerating the impact of climate change. How? By saying that climate change is the true engine that drives the persecution of Christians.
On Pentecost Sunday, June 5, 2022, Muslims massacred some 50 Christians inside a Nigerian church (see here for several other examples of Muslims massacring Christians worshipping inside their Nigerian churches). Two days later, the president of Ireland, Michael Higgins, issued a statement on the incident.
In it, he links the Nigerian church massacre to “climate change”: three of the statement’s four paragraphs deal with global warming; nowhere does the statement acknowledge, much less condemn, Islamic radicalization and terrorism in the region—even though that is precisely what led to the Pentecost Sunday church massacre.
In fact, although unreported by the so-called “mainstream media,” the Christians of Nigeria are, according to several NGOs, being purged in a genocide. According to an August 2021 report, since the Islamic insurgency began in earnest in July 2009, more than 60,000 Christians have either been murdered during jihadist raids or abducted, never to be seen again. During this same timeframe, approximately 20,000 churches and Christian schools were torched and destroyed by “Allahu Akbar” screaming Muslims. In 2021, Muslims murdered at least 4,650 Nigerian Christians for their faith, and nearly 900 in just the first three months of this year.
Instead of remotely acknowledging any of these disturbing trends, Irish president Michael Higgins “condemned” those who “attempt to scapegoat [Muslim] pastoral peoples who are among the foremost victims of the consequences of climate change.” This is a reference to the Fulani, Islamic herdsmen motivated by jihadist ideology to raid and butcher Christians on what now seems to be a daily basis. As this report indicates, one Christian is killed every two hours in Nigeria—most of them at the hands of Fulani.
On June 10, Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade, of the Christian diocese where the Nigerian Christians were slaughtered on Pentecost Sunday, responded to Higgins’ assertions that climate change is responsible—as well as the Irish president’s obscene portrayal of the Fulani as victims no less than the Christians they slaughter:
While thanking the Honorable Mr. Higgins for joining others to condemn the attack and offering his sympathy to the victims, his reasons for this gruesome massacre are incorrect and far-fetched…. 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. The victims of terrorism are of another category to which nothing can be compared! It is very clear to anyone who has been closely following the events in Nigeria over the past years that the underpinning issues of terror attacks, banditry, and unabated onslaught in Nigeria and in the Sahel Region and climate change have nothing in common…. [A]lluding to some form of politics of climate change in our present situation is completely inappropriate…. [Muslim] terrorists are on free loose slaughtering, massacring, injuring, and installing terror in different parts of Nigeria since over 8 years not because of any reasonable thing but because they are evil—period.
Equally vocal in his condemnation of those who try to shift the focus of Islamic terrorism onto climate change was Lord David Alton of Liverpool, a human rights champion. On June 12, he wrote:
[P]oliticians need to be more honest about what drives the carnage…. Every life lost [during the Pentecost Sunday church attack] represented tragic heartbreak for individual families. … It is striking how little interest mainstream media have had in detailing their stories. Individual lives lost in Nigeria should be no less newsworthy than in any other part of the world. And 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 [Christian and Muslim] 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.
Without writing the words “Islam,” “Islamism,” or “radical Islam,” Alton accurately but diplomatically concluded by writing:
It’s high time the world woke up to the unpalatable truth that the same malign force that has murdered and maimed its way through community after community continues to brutally murder Nigerian people and has been able to do so with impunity.
It’s further interesting to note that, when condemning a nearly identical terrorist attack to the Pentecost Sunday murder of some 50 Nigerian Christians—namely, the 2019 Christchurch massacre, when an Australian man killed 51 Muslims in New Zealand—the president of Ireland then said nothing about climate change. Rather, he highlighted the true cause (which applies to both attacks)—religion. After saying that the New Zealand mosque attacks “appalled people all over the world”—the Nigerian church massacre received no such descriptor in his statement—Higgins continued:
There can be no justification for acts of violence and discrimination based on religion or beliefs … Freedom of religious expression is a cornerstone of any functioning democracy and those rights must be guaranteed for all citizens.
Ireland’s president, incidentally, is hardly the first or only high ranking politician to try to blame Islamic terrorism on climate change. In December, 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “Climate change … is an aggravating factor for instability, conflict and terrorism.”
One comes across this claim in even the unlikeliest places. In his recent book, The Politics of Persecution, Mitri Rehab, a Palestinian academic, insists that whatever persecution Christians may experience in the Middle East has nothing to do with Islam. In his attempt to lay the blame on anything and everything else, he even offers a section in his book on “climate change [which] will take its toll on the Christian community.”
This, then, is the depraved lengths that some politicians, academics, and media are willing to go to. They shamelessly exploit the human suffering of Christians and others by deflecting attention from its true cause—Islamic radicalization and terrorism—and turning it to their particular pet projects, in this case, climate change.