UK/NIGERIA: Peer demands justice for Christians killed by extremists

Margaret and Dominic Attah with Lord Alton and other parliamentarians on #RedWednsday 2023.
Margaret and Dominic Attah with Lord Alton and other parliamentarians on #RedWednsday 2023.

Lord Alton of Liverpool has made an impassioned plea in the UK Parliament calling on government to take action to address jihadist extremism which is driving terrorist attacks across Nigeria.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Westminster, Lord Alton asked Lord Benyon, the UK Minister of State for Climate, Environment and Energy and others in the chamber: “Who is being brought to justice for the further 200 killings in Plateau State in Nigeria just two weeks ago, over Christmas?”

He demanded urgent action to identify and bring to trial the perpetrators of this and other extremist atrocities – including the 2022 Pentecost Sunday church massacre in Owo, Ondo State.

Speaking at a debate in the House of Lords last Thursday (11th January), Lord Alton recalled meeting Dominic and Margaret Attah – survivors of the Owo attack – who visited the UK for ACN #RedWednesday events last year.

Lord Alton said: “Margaret’s legs were so badly damaged by the jihadist bomb that they had to be amputated.

“The couple wanted to know – and so do I – why no one has been brought to justice in this culture of impunity.”

He added: “Why is Leah Sharibu – whose case I have raised regularly in your Lordships’ House and whose mother, Rebecca, I escorted to the Palace of Westminster so that she could meet Members of both Houses – still in captivity, having been abducted, raped and forcibly converted at the age of 14?”

Addressing Lord Benyon, Lord Alton said: “I would like him to look particularly at the situation in Nigeria and the absurd suggestion – made, I might add, by a Head of State [Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland] – that climate change was the cause of 40 people being murdered in a church in Ondo on Pentecost Sunday.

“That claim was strongly contested here, at a meeting I chaired for the Bishop of Ondo, Jude Arogundade.”

Lord Alton added: “Climate change and cuts to aid certainly impact development, but so does jihadist ideology, and we should not be frightened in saying so.”

The peer went on to say: “Persecution and conflict are major drivers in the displacement of 110 million people worldwide.

“These drivers destroy lives, such as those that I have just mentioned, and set back development.”

In response, Lord Benyon said: “The noble Lord, Lord Alton, was right to remind us that linked to this is the whole humanitarian piece.

“The Pentagon first described climate change as the great risk multiplier, and, with that risk to security, systems of governance collapse. With that comes increased authoritarianism.”

Lord Alton also mentioned #RedWednesday, Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need’s (ACN) annual initiative shining a light on Christian persecution around the world.

#RedWednesday 2023 focused on the growing problems in Africa where there has been a dramatic rise in violent conflict and persecution.