01/13/2014, 00.00
INDIA
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Karnataka High Court authorises visit by evangelist preacher Benny Hinn

by Nirmala Carvalho
The court dismisses petition by a Hindu fundamentalist group to ban famous Christian preacher. "India is a secular country" that needs "tolerance". Christian leader welcomes "the decision of the High Court" to force such groups to respect "the belief and faith of all religious groups."

Bangalore (AsiaNews) - Karnataka's High Court dismissed a petition filed by a Hindu fundamentalist group to ban noted evangelist preacher Benny Hinn from coming to the state.

"India is a secular country. It has so many sects, languages, beliefs and religions as well as social and cultural groups. Tolerance is the need of the hour. We are shocked that the courts are used for these kinds of issues," the court said.

Known for his healing crusades, US-based clergyman Benny Hinn is scheduled to take part in a religious conference in Bangalore on 15-17 January organised by the Bethel Assembly of God Church.

His last visit to India in 2005 sparked protests by Hindu extremists who threatened to resort to violence. As they did then, Hindu fundamentalists tried to prevent Hinn from entering the country this time as well.

However, a Division Bench that included Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice B.V. Nagarathna rejected a petition filed by the local branch of the Sri Rama Sena questioning the Bangalore City Police's inaction against Benny Hinn.

The court said that the petitioners and any other persons should not claim superior right against the fundamental rights of other citizens, including the right to assemble and express their views.

At the same time, the judges expressed appreciation that the petitioners pledged not to create any commotion or disturbance during the prayer conference.

"We welcome the decision of the High Court," said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).

"Unfortunately, a small number of Hindu fundamentalists will stop at nothing to oppose anything that is Christian," George explained. In his view, electoral politics is behind their action.

"The forthcoming parliamentary elections seem to be the main motivating factor for them to create communal disturbance wherever possible in the country in order to garner a few more Hindu votes," the GCIC president noted.

For the Christian activist, these groups "don't seem to care much for the welfare of the nation or constitutional provisions, conveniently forgetting the fact that India is a well-respected democracy in the world." All they do is "crying wolf". Indeed, "it is only a matter of time perhaps before they would become a mere footnote of history" rather a current event item.

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