'We will kill you like goats': Pastor, family receive death threat as he helps Christians flee Fulani

Residents attend a mass burial for 17 people killed in an overnight attack on the Gonan Rogo village of Nigeria's Kaduna state on May 12, 2020.
Residents attend a mass burial for 17 people killed in an overnight attack on the Gonan Rogo village of Nigeria's Kaduna state on May 12, 2020. | Usman Stingo

A pastor and humanitarian worker in Nigeria’s Kaduna state has reportedly received a handwritten death threat for “insulting” the Islamic Fulani tribe. The threat warns that “We will kill you like goats and your family. We know your house, your church and even your family.”

Pastor Gideon Agwom Mutum found a two-page letter near his car parked at his house at about noon last Monday, the United Kingdom-based persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported.

The anonymous letter alleges that Mutum, who assists villagers displaced by armed Fulani assailants’ increasing attacks on farming communities in Kaduna State, “insulted” the Fulani tribe in the media.

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The letter threatens to destroy a school the pastor constructed in Pasakori village in Kaura local government and hunt Kaduna journalist and activist Steven Kefas, who was arbitrarily detained for 150 days in 2019.

“We are coming. Nigeria is our land. Southern Kaduna is our land,” the letter reads.

The day the letter was sent, armed assailants targeted communities in Zangon Kataf local government area for the sixth day in a row, left 33 people dead, 215 homes destroyed and four churches razed to the ground, according to the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union.

According to the Relief and Intervention Committee of the Southern Kaduna People’s Union, the assailants were “identified as Fulani herdsmen by victims.”

Mutum is the founder and director of Nehemiah Camp in Kafanchan in the Jema’a local government area.

CSW Founder Mervyn Thomas said it is “unacceptable and inexcusable that attacks on Zangon Kataf LGA continued for six consecutive days without interception, indicating a comprehensive failure of both security and governance.”

“The security crisis in Nigeria, and particularly in southern Kaduna, has gone on for so long that stemming it now seems beyond the capabilities of the state and federal authorities," Thomas warned. "It urgently requires concerted efforts by the international community to assist Nigeria in combatting it wherever possible, whilst also holding the government to account for its failure to assist targeted communities.”

The U.S.-based persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern designates Fulani radicals as the fourth-deadliest terror group globally, which has surpassed the Boko Haram terrorist group as the greatest threat to Nigerian Christians.

“Many believe that the attacks are motivated by jihadist Fulani’s desire to take over farmland and impose Islam on the population and are frustrated with the Muslim-dominated government that is believed to be enabling such atrocities,” ICC warned in May.

The Anambra-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law estimated in May that as many as 1,470 Christians were killed in Nigeria during the first four months of 2021, the highest estimate in the first four months of a year since 2014. The number also surpasses the estimated number of Christians killed in 2019. The report estimated that as many as 300 people had been killed in Kaduna in the first four months of 2021. 

In the first four months of this year, the organization estimates that at least 2,200 Christians were abducted. Kaduna state recorded the highest number of abductions (800).

The Global Terrorism Index ranked Nigeria as the third-most affected country by terrorism and reported over 22,000 deaths by acts of terror from 2001 to 2019.

Advocates, including U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Commissioner Gay Bauer, have warned that Nigeria “will move relentlessly toward a Christian genocide” if action is not taken. The U.S. State Department recognizes Nigeria as a "country of particular concern" for tolerating or engaging in severe violations of religious freedom. 

Islamic extremism, notably carried out by groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province in northeast Nigeria, has led to thousands of deaths and millions displaced in recent years. 

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