01/17/2005, 00.00
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Hindu fundamentalists threaten prayer meeting

by Nirmala Carvalho
Rightwing groups oppose prayer meeting by Pastor Benny Hinn, whom they accuse of coming to India to convert.

Bangalore (AsiaNews) – Hindu extremist groups have threatened the Prayer for India Meeting. Representatives of the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) accuse US preacher Benny Hinn of planning to convert Hindus and threaten the government that they will send their own activists if the meeting is not stopped.

Pramod Mutalik, the VHP's regional secretary, said "the VHP and Bajrang Dal have given the government an ultimatum that ends today to impose a ban on the event. If not, activists from across the state will come to protest on January 21."

"The event is expected to draw three million people," Mr Mutalik explained. "There are only 1.2 million Christians in Karnataka and the remaining 1.8 are Hindus, whom Hinn plans to convert."

An activist with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) told AsiaNews that "Benny Hinn is freely and openly calling this a 'crusade'. A crusade is a holy war and if he wants a war, we are prepared to fight it".

Benny Hinn's Festival of Blessings is scheduled to take place on January 21-23. Important Indian political leaders are expected to attend such as the Union Human Resources Minister Arjun Singh and the Chief Ministers of Maharastra, Kerala, Andra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Ironically, H. T. Sangliana, a Bharatiya Janata Party MP, has confirmed his participation despite strong opposition from his own party.

Viaji Lazarus, president of Indian Music Industries and organiser of the event, told AsiaNews that "the Indian government has been informed of the purpose of the visit. He stressed that "[Mr Hinn] has a valid visa [. . .] clearly indicating that the purpose his visit to India is preaching" adding: "We respect the laws of [. . .] India [. . .] Preaching is not violating any laws. The BJP government last year also gave Benny Hinn a visa to come to India specifically for the purpose of preaching at the 'Prayer for India' meeting. People in this country should be free to attend meetings without any fear; they should be given the choice to decide things and matters for themselves. Benny Hinn is no threat to anyone."

Organisers have built a stage large enough to accommodate 2,400 people. Hundreds of thousands of people from across the country are expected to participate.

Special buses and trains will take people to Bangalore from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

Police Commissioner S. Mariswamy, who visited the venue on Wednesday, said: "We expect unprecedented crowds and we'll have adequate numbers of policemen," he said.

There will be additional Home Guards, not to mention a 25-bed hospital complete with 50 doctors, 100 nurses and 15,000 volunteers.

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See also
Priest seriously injured in attack against Catholic Church
India: Hindu extremists attack a Christian gathering
A national anti-conversion law to "save" India's Hindus
Hindu extremists slander the Church but send their children to Church-run schools
Karnataka High Court authorises visit by evangelist preacher Benny Hinn


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