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Now, Christian Prayer Meet Called Off in Bengaluru Over 'Conversion' Allegations

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18 deepab18

Updated: April 9, 2017, 9:11 AM IST
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Now, Christian Prayer Meet Called Off in Bengaluru Over 'Conversion' Allegations
Image used for representational use (REUTERS)

Bengaluru: A Christian prayer meeting was cancelled in the country's IT capital Bengaluru on Saturday after complaints were lodged that this could facilitate forced conversions in the city which was to host two American preachers for this event.

The cancellation came just about 12 hours before the prayer meeting was to be held. Nearly 1,000 people were expected to attend the meetings spread over Saturday and Sunday. It was cancelled in the wake of protests lodged by Hindutva groups like the Bajrang Dal. A similar prayer meeting was cancelled in Maharajganj district of Uttar Pradesh, after the Hindu Yuva Vahini, founded by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, alleged forced conversions (allegations that were later proven wrong) in the meeting that saw barely 150 people participating.

Also Read: UP Cops Halt Church Prayer After Yogi's Outfit Alleges Religious Conversion

In Bengaluru, the first complaint was filed on Friday afternoon by one Girish Bhardwaj, who wrote to the Foreigners' Regional Registration Office — a police wing that tracks foreigners visiting Karnataka — that two American evangelists were in India for “religious conversion”, in violation of their visa norms.

"The two foreigners had applied for Indian visa only to attend religious campaigns. Clearly, they are misleading the Indian Consulate," he alleged.

Later on Friday, Bajrang Dal convenor Keshav Nayak filed a police complaint that this programme was "aimed at converting innocent Hindus….Iit was being held daringly in public, where cash would be offered to the converts. As such, it hurts the religious sentiments of the Hindus." He asked that the organisers be arrested and suitable legal action be taken.

That the programme was hastily cancelled was evident when News18 spoke to one of the organisers. "We have always held retreats and services at this church. This event, too, was only for our church parishioners. We don't know why questions are being raised about permission. We are not converting anyone, only Christians are attending this," said a puzzled prayer coordinator.

Interestingly, the programme actually charged participants Rs 100 if they wanted to attend it — and the posters did not make any claims of giving anyone money or gifts.

Police officials did not want to be drawn into the controversy but merely said they did not ask anyone to cancel any event. "If there are allegations of visa violation, we will verify. But if there are no non-Christians attending it, where is the issue of conversion? That too an event inside the premises of their own auditorium of a local church," said a senior police officer.

The programme — themed Power and Reality of the Kingdom — was to be held in a church in east Bengaluru. Comments on social media by the two preachers who posted pictures of their visit to a place in interior Maharashtra — where over 8,000 people are said to have attended — were objected to by Hindutva activists.

First Published: April 9, 2017, 7:39 AM IST
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