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Priests call off protests against US evangelist’s meeting

Indo-Asian News Service, India
Jan. 19, 2005 • Wednesday January 19, 2005

Bangalore, Jan 19 (IANS) Karnataka’s Hindu priests Wednesday called off protests against a prayer meeting here by American evangelist Benny Hinn after the state government assured there would be no conversions or healing sessions during the event.

The government, however, declined to ban the Festival of Blessings by Hinn Jan 21-23 on the outskirts of this state capital.

After receiving a representation from Karnataka’s Hindu priests, who sought a ban on the prayer meeting, Revenue Minister M.P. Prakash said the government would take into consideration apprehensions of the seers and ensure the event was conducted in an orderly manner.

“The government has requested the priests to call off their ‘dharna’ (sit-in demonstration). We have explained to them our position. There is a provision in the constitution for holding such prayer meetings,” Prakash said.

In a memorandum, the priests said they were not against the prayers and preaching of Hinn, but were only against attempts to use the meeting for conversions and healing of the sick.

“Even as a coalition government, we are committed to uphold the constitution and maintain the rule of law. We are allowing the organisers to hold the prayer meetings,” Prakash said.

“They (organisers) have assured us there would be no conversions or healing sessions during the event.”

The state government agreed to consider the request of the priests to permit them to hold a ‘yagna’ (sacred fire ritual) and a congregation at the same venue as Hinn’s meeting in the next two months for world peace.

Following the government’s assurance, the priests agreed to stop their protest.

“We are withdrawing the protest on the assurances of the government that it would not allow the organisers to misuse the occasion for matters other than prayers,” said Swami Raghunath Guruji of the Temple of Success here.

Sadhu Ranganatha of the Bharata Mata Gurukulam here claimed Hinn’s programme was an international conspiracy sponsored by US agencies, which he said had invested Rs.1.4 billion for conversions in Asia.

“Hinn’s visit is part of the programme for conversions. We have sufficient information that CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) agents are accompanying Hinn as his followers,” Ranganatha said.

“It is a deliberate attempt to run down Hindu culture and heritage and our gods and goddesses.”

Meanwhile, the Karnataka High Court granted an interim stay on the order of a city metropolitan magistrate and directed the issue of a search warrant for seizure of the publicity material on Hinn’s three-day programme.

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