Bangalore, Hindus in uproar against the return of the preacher Benny Hinn
by Nirmala Carvalho
The well-known American evangelical minister set to visit the city for the Conference of Christian prayer scheduled for mid-January. But parties and movements demand he be denied a visa: He "is coming to carry out conversions, and this is forbidden by the Constitution ." Leader of the Global Council of Indian Christians tells AsiaNews: "specious accusations that question the tolerance of our countryā€¯.

Bangalore ( AsiaNews) - The announcement of the return to India of the famous evangelical preacher Benny Hinn has sparked a furious series of protests by the BJP ( Bharatiya Janata Party, the political party of the opposition Hindu mold ), which accuses him of wanting to visit the country to "convert Hindus and violate our Constitution." For Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians , this is a " trumped-up charge" that "casts doubt on the reputation of India as a pluralistic and tolerant nation".

Hinn, an American clergyman, known for what he calls "miraculous healing crusades", is set to attend the Conference of Christian prayer to be held in Bangalore January 15 to 17 , organized by the Bethel Assembly of God Church . His last visit to India, in 2005 , had already sparked protests from the Hindu fringe of national politics : Hindu extremists had threatened the organizers with "heavy retaliation".

The former minister and BJP leader S Sureshkumar has asked the government not to grant a visa to the preacher , "he is coming to convert people , and this goes against our Constitution." Same position taken by Pravin Togadia , general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishat ( VHP movement that seeks to " preserve the Hindu identity of India .) Over 3 thousand members of the extremist group demonstrated in Bangalore January 3 to demand "no entry" for the foreigner.

The church hosting the event is trying to calm tensions: "The conference will not be a ' crusade of healing ' , but there will be a time when the pastors taking part will pray for the sick. That's all ." Sajan George adds: " The general secretary of the VHP is an extremist, well known for his hate campaigns against ' those who convert .' But three consecutive censuses conducted by the government show that the Christian population is slowly declining: to date there has not been a single case of conversion contrary to the Constitution which has been tested in court".

For the Christian leader , also, "foreign Hindu preachers and holy men are welcome in India during the celebration of religious holidays. Moreover, ours can go to America and Europe also to proselytize openly in favor of Hinduism. How do we return this custom? Blocking the entry of Benny Hinn will only worsen the perception of religious minorities and increase the violence. We are putting into question the reputation of India as a pluralistic and tolerant nation".