Trinidad: No IRO call for Benny Hinn ban

Maha Sabha stands alone

A lack of consensus among members of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) prevented the group of 24 religious bodies from calling for a ban on the May 19-21 visit by US evangelist Benny Hinn.

The IRO held its monthly meeting yesterday at Archbishop’s House and the visit by Hinn and statements made by Catholic Archbishop Edward Gilbert were among the issues discussed.

While the Maha Sabha Secretary General Satnarayan Maharaj has been lobbying against the visit, Head of the IRO Rev Cyril Paul said during the meeting other religious bodies voiced concerns about the visit.

“It was not only the Maha Sabha which felt that comments made by him were insensitive and hurtful to them. There were a couple other groups who felt that way and we noted that,” Paul said.

However, the IRO will not join the Maha Sabha in calling for a ban on Hinn’s visit. Paul said the Anglicans and ASJA indicated they have no objections. “On the IRO before you can take a decision like that we must have complete agreement across the board. We did not even vote on it. Once one or two members indicate disagreement we knew we could not go forward with that,” Paul said.

Benny Hinn

Evangelist Benny Hinn is controversial for his frequently aberrant – and at times heretical – theology, his unorthodox practices, and his false claims. Nevertheless, large numbers of people who indentify themselves as Christians follow – and, often, appear to worship – this preacher.

He said the Maha Sabha representative understood this.

Despite this, the IRO members agreed for a small committee to be appointed to have discussions with the Maha Sabha. Paul said today he would try to call Maharaj about arranging a meeting.

The committee will also try to meet with the sponsoring body “to bring to their attention our plural society just in case they are not aware.”

Paul said the committee is willing to provide “guidelines” to the organisers. He said many members of the IRO did not appreciate Hinn’s comments about TT being a land of “voodoo.”

He also suggested that any attempt to ban Hinn may have the opposite effect.

“Let Mr Benny Hinn come and preach his gospel and we will provide guidelines and we hope he will show some respect to how we live here,” Paul said.

After leaving the IRO meeting, Devant Maharaj of the Maha Sabha told media that correspondences were sent to the Prime Minister Patrick Manning and Minister of National Security Martin Joseph. Maharaj said Hinn’s comments about TT did not project the country in a “correct light.” The Maha Sabha also cited the Summary Offences Act under which they believe action can be taken. “We will be demanding the Commissioner of Police to take appropriate measures when such statements are made,” Maharaj said.

Paul said the Archbishop explained to the IRO about his statements made over the weekend in Siparia and disclosed that a member of the religious group had contacted him from abroad yesterday. Gilbert suggested to him that discussions would take place with the Bishop of Grenada. It was the Grenadian Bishop who raised the issue of a member of a Christian religious group in Grenada saying that religion would take over the Caribbean.

Newsday attempted to contact The Benny Hinn Trinidad Miracle Event Organisation about the visit but vice-chairman and event coordinator Rev Kris Maharaj could not be reached for comment. At Hinn’s website information is available on his overseas travels. For TT there is an article headlined “Multitudes Expected at Trinidad and Tobago Crusade.”

Hinn is quoted saying, “There is such an openness throughout this region of the world today. Never before have there been so many opportunities to share the Gospel throughout the Caribbean and South and Central America. Multitudes, hungry for the life-saving miracles of Jesus Christ, will be coming to the crusade. What an exciting time and place to spread the Gospel!”

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Trinidad & Tobago Newsday, Trinidad and Tobego
May 9, 2006
Lara Pickford-Gordon

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday May 10, 2006.
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