Bangalore, Jan 24 : A three-day faith show here by American evangelist Benny Hinn may have concluded without any major trouble, but it has left behind a trail of controversies.
With the Karnataka government going all out to provide the logistics support for the Festival of Blessings that concluded here Sunday night, the high-tech show attracted nearly a million people from all over India and some from abroad.
Though massive protests, a 12-hour shutdown and stray incidents of violence in the city overshadowed the inaugural day, the congregation passed off peacefully during the weekend much to the relief of the organisers and the state government.
While prayers and high-decibel choir sessions under dazzling lights and special effects drew applause, the healing sessions at the end drew protests and questions by rationalists and rightwing Hindu activists on the “miracle powers” of the Israeli-born Hinn.
In fact, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has demanded the resignation of Dharam Singh for permitting Hinn to conduct the festival and “mislead” the people with his healing powers to cure the sick and terminal patients.
Challenging Hinn’s claims that several people got cured of their diseases by participating in the prayer-cum-healing sessions with the blessings of Jesus Christ, Hindu activists said an equal number of sick went home disappointed with no change in their health condition.
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Taking a break?
Refuting the charges, Hinn told the gathering that god alone was the healer and he simply prayed to invoke the lord’s blessings to cure the sick and help the poor as Jesus Christ did over 2,000 years ago.
“I want to dispel apprehensions that I have come here to convert people. It is not true. I am only a servant of Jesus. I came here because people in India also need healing, just like anywhere in the world. God wants to heal. That is why millions of people have come to attend the festival and not for me,” Hinn asserted.
Thanking the state government, the city police and the Indian organisers for the peaceful conduct of the festival, Hinn told the gathering that he would return to India in February 2006 to hold a similar congregation at Hyderabad.
Apart from thousands of Hinn’s followers making a beeline to the venue on the outskirts of the city, a galaxy of political leaders and other VIPs made their presence felt with special prayers and blessings from the controversial evangelist.
Among the prominent leaders who graced the occasion with their families included former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, central minister Oscar Fernandes, Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh and scores of Congress leaders like Margaret Alva.
State Deputy Chief Minister Siddaramaiah declined to attend the meeting though some of his cabinet colleagues in the coalition government were present.