A celebrity pastor in Nigeria is coming under fire after a deadly stampede at his church last Sunday left four people dead and at least 30 injured.
Temitope Balogun Joshua, popularly known as TB Johsua, has his own 24-hour television channel, Emmanuel TV, and regularly draws thousands to his weekly Sunday services.
Joshua had an especially large crowd on Sunday after Emmanuel TV announced that “holy water,” which usually costs money, was going to be given out for free.
“The anointing water usually costs 80 cedis, but we learned that on Sunday it would be given out for free,” said Joseph Adanvor, 52, who witnessed the fatal stampede. “I have never seen anything like it before. People had come from Togo, Benin, even from Kenya. They tried to close the church but people were climbing over the walls and breaking in. The police and army were there but they couldn’t control the crowds.”
Adanvor believes in the power of the water. “I myself have bought the anointing water, and I have seen the miracles it performs,” he said. “My father was suffering from pain in his leg. When I sprayed the water, and after praying, the pain went away.”
Police in Nigeria were shocked by how many people showed up. “All of us were caught by surprise,” police spokesman Freeman Tetteh said. “No one knew the crowd will be so huge.”
The church has announced that it will pay the medical expenses for the injured church-goers. It sounds as if can afford to. Forbes magazine estimated that Joshua is worth up to $15 million. Since he is believed to be so wealthy and popular, many have questioned why he sells things like bumper stickers and holy water, Raw Story reported.
“I personally believe there is a level of exploitation going on here, with churches selling things like anointing water and car stickers,” said Apostle Samuel Yaw Antwi, General Secretary of the Ghana Charismatic and Pentecostal Council. “Jesus Christ never sold any of these things.”