Benny Hinn controversy brings out crowds

Preparations for Savannah crusade in high gear

For several months preparations have been in high gear for the visit to Trinidad and Tobago of evangelist Pastor Benny Hinn. Thousands of volunteers from Full Gospel and Evangelical churches throughout the country have been mobilised and are in the final stages of rehearsals for the three-day crusade scheduled for the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, from May 19 to 21.

Undaunted by the controversy raging over the imminent arrival of the globetrotting evangelist, representatives from the more than 400 Christian churches supporting the event are getting ready to serve as ushers, security personnel, intercessors, members of a mass choir, facility workers and to perform other duties during the three-day event.

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Although local Hindu group the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha has raised strong objections to Hinn’s visit, even seeking the intervention of the Government and the Inter-Religion Organisation (IRO) in the matter, the resulting controversy has not hampered preparations for what local organisers expect to be a massive event which will be attended by thousands.

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In response to the objections raised by Maha Sabha General Secretary Sat Maharaj, Rev Alister Alexander, Event Chairman and head of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies (PAWI), issued a statement in which he said the local organisers did not want to “enter into a war of words and debate concerning the upcoming event.”

He said: “We respect people’s opinions and feelings about the matter and wish to be granted the same in return.”

According to Rev Alexander, Hinn is coming to TT at the invitation of PAWI in collaboration with Full Gospel and Evangelical churches. He made it clear that the local Benny Hinn Event Committee “has not and will not” receive funding of any kind from the Government of TT.

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.

“We do respect the plural composition of our society and seek only to bring people to a personal relationship with God. In the spirit of respect of all creeds we do extend an open invitation to whosoever wishes to attend, as we do believe that this event will be a blessing to our entire nation,” Rev Alexander said.

In a series of newspaper advertisements and an open letter to Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Maharaj claimed Hinn had cast negative aspersions against the country during his previous visit. He claimed the Maha Sabha had done extensive research on Hinn’s ministry and had concluded that claims of healing during his crusades were nothing but theatrics “designed to maximise revenue.”

However, protests and criticisms have not stopped Hinn, one of the best-known evangelists in the United States, from staging mass crusades around the world.

In Janaury 2005, ahead of a planned crusade in Bangalore, India, Hindu activists in that country and the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) staged a series of protests, some of them violent, against Hinn’s visit.

There had been incidents of stone throwing, damage to public property and attempts by protestors to stop traffic. Banners and posters saying “Benny Hinn Go Back” were put up around the city.

The BJP warned that Hinn would use his crusade to convert Hindus to Christianity and said the world renown pastor was misleading people with his claims to heal the sick.

Despite the protests, more than a million people turned out for the crusade, including political leaders and other VIPs. Among the prominent people in attendance were former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and several top officials of India’s ruling Congress party.

Hinn, one of the world’s most successful faith healers, heads the World Healing Centre Church in Orlando, Florida. He travels around the world conducting “Miracle Crusades” which draw huge crowds.

His “This Is Your Day” broadcast is one of the most-watched Christian television programmes, with viewers in 190 countries. In TT the programme airs daily on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), cable channel 9. The shows are translated into Spanish, Romanian, Norwegian, Italian, Hindi and Tamil.

Hinn was born in Jaffa, Israel, one of eight children of Costanci and Clemence Hinn. He was raised as a Greek Orthodox but got his early education at a private Catholic school. In July 1968, he and his family migrated to Toronto, Canada. His life-changing experience occurred when he attended a Kathryn Kuhlman healing service in Pittsburgh in the United States and embarked on what he described as “an incredible spiritual journey.”

For the TT crusade, according to Event Coordinator Pastor Kris Maharaj, people can look forward to a service where the emphasis will be placed on worship. In a statement on the official website for the local crusade he explained: “As the congregation is led in worship, the power and presence of the Holy Spirit descend upon the people.”

Pastor Maharaj added: “When the people worship the Lord and the presence of God fills a place, people get touched and healed spontaneously, needs are met and all kinds of miracles take place.

“Pastor Benny Hinn would be the first to tell you that he does not heal anybody. He is careful to give God all the praise and glory. It is the Holy Spirit who works miracles. Pastor Benny is merely an instrument and operates through the gift of the Holy Spirit, called ‘the word of knowledge’.”

He continued: “Pastor Benny Hinn often says that the greatest miracle is not the healing of a sick body but the healing of a soul. There are many sick souls in Trinidad and Tobago that need healing. “Our nation desperately needs a change for the better. I believe that this event has been divinely ordained of God for such a time as this.”

Hinn recently held a Miracle Crusade in Jakarta, Indonesia, which attracted a crowd estimated at 1.5 million. Over the next few weeks he will also be conducting crusades in Sydney, Australia and Kobe, Japan.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
Trinidad & Tobago Newsday, Trinidad and Tobego
May 14, 2006
Suzanne Sheppard

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