The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Opposition to Benny builds up

From protests to effigy burning, activists are using all means to ensure that the programme is not held

BANGALORE, DHNS:

A CIA agent, reiki healer in disguise..... � there appears to be no shortage of descriptions that are being touted about Benny Hinn, a somewhat controversial American preacher who will address a large gathering at Jakkur on January 21.

A �bennyhinn� (most people have combined the gentleman�s first and last names) consisting of a thermocol head � horns and all � mounted on a well-dressed body of straw, was burnt near the Jayanagar 4th block bus stand by the Hindu Jagarana Vedike. The activists were protesting against pamphlets which carried controversial statements on idol worship and distributed at a previous Benny Hinn show, his claims to possess healing powers and his alleged attempts to convert Hindus. They have called for a bundh on the days of the event.

Lawyers� rally

It wasn�t just these activists who appeared to be miffed by Mr Hinn�s impending visit. Doctors, lawyers, politicians, music directors and reiki specialists have all lent their voices to the babble of protest all over the City.

Several dozen advocates took out a march from the High Court to the City Police Commissioner Mariswamy�s office, where they requested him to �advise the government� not to allow Benny Hinn in. Mr Mariswamy explained that a programme on these lines was �nothing new� and he was bound by duty to provide protection.

Mr Mariswamy said the police would abide by any court ruling on the five cases that have been filed in various courts of the City. One of the rulings, which is about the controversial pamphlets, was not clear enough.

The police have requested the court for clarification, he said. The Bangalore Doctors� Forum has announced that it will conduct a public awareness programme about the risks of getting healed by Mr Hinn. The program will be held at 2:30 pm on January 19 near Mahatma Gandhi statue on M G Road.

BJP General Secretary Ananth Kumar also called for a complete investigation into Mr Hinn�s background, remarking that several international television channels had criticised Mr Hinn�s supposed curing powers.

This included doubts on the question of the �third parties� who verify the results of Mr Hinn�s healing prowess. Heads of various mutts will also protest outside the Vidhana Soudha at 11 am on Wednesday.

Muck-reiking

Representatives of the Shubha Karnataka Party have accused Mr Hinn of using techniques employed in reiki, hypnotism, telepathy and psychokinesis to make false claims of divine power. Mr D C Pani, publicity secretary of the party, and Mrs Rama Subramanya, who is described as a �famous reiki grandmaster�, explained how reiki uses �auric fields and energy centres� to cure diseases. This can be done even with photographs, they said. They were not, however, too sure if the same could be done with photographs sent over email.

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