The UN Secretary-General has condemned “in the strongest terms” a brutal attack on a Catholic church in southwest Nigeria at the weekend, which left at least 50 people dead and wounded dozens more.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, António Guterres described the attack in the St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, as “heinous”, as worshippers gathered on Sunday to celebrate Pentecost – an important date in the Christian calendar.
According to reports, attackers infiltrated the congregation before shooting at people who had gathered for mass inside the church. Attacks on places of worship are “abhorrent”, continued Mr. Guterres, who also urged the Nigerian authorities to spare no effort in bringing those responsible to justice.
To date, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which is considered unusual for southwest Nigeria.
It is a more peaceful region than the country’s north, where there have been numerous kidnappings for ransom by bandits, and past attacks on churches by separatists.
Echoing Mr. Guterres’s condemnation of the killings, the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) called for the mutual respect of all religions and faiths, and for greater communal efforts to foster peace.
The UN agency is behind a plan of action to keep places of worship safe, and to allow people of all faiths to practise their religions in peace. Considering the attack, UNAOC High Representative Miguel Moratinos urged all governments to support the plan’s implementation.