Nigerian pastor Benjamin Ojobu and his wife, Patience, were arrested in May for allegedly using a human head in rituals for church members. The practice of using severed body parts to ensure prosperity—whether material, emotional, or spiritual—is not uncommon in West Africa. In a region where voodoo is culturally acceptable, nearly all Christians engage in some form of occult practice, according to some experts.
"One out of 10 self-named Christians in this region practices only Christianity," says Benjamin-Lee Hegeman, a former missionary in West Africa who now teaches at Houghton College. "Some people call it syncretism, but it may be more like dual religious allegiance, where Christianity is practiced in the daytime and occult [practice] is done at night. Many of the pastors will preach from the pulpit that this type of thing is wrong, but secretly take part in it at night. There is the mentality, especially in African Initiated Churches, where the prosperity gospel is preached, that you do what you've got to do to get ahead. You rely on the powers available to you. You are hopeful that Christ will help, but when he can't come through on Sunday, you may take out a different insurance policy at night."
According to the Vanguard newspaper, Ojobu and his wife purchased the head of a recently deceased young woman for N3,000 (the equivalent of $25) from a man working at a local cemetery. Ojobu explained that they were using the head to prepare charms for fighting witchcraft and for offering special prosperity prayers. The couple is now being detained in a jail in Benin City, Nigeria.
"Yes, I am a man of God. But I do this outside church hours," Ojobu told the paper. "I am both a native doctor and a man of God. This ...