An aide to Franklin Graham was asked to leave India during an event organized by the evangelist that concluded this weekend.
The Hyderabad Festival, named for the town in which the event was held, ended peacefully despite protests from Hindu group Vishwa Hindu Parishad. VHP claimed Graham’s mission was to convert Hindus to Christianity and that his visa did not allow him to perform religious ceremonies.
As it turned out, Graham’s visa was fine – it was stamped with an ‘M’ for “missionary” – but his aide’s, Derek Forbes, was not.
Forbes was in the country on a tourist visa, which does not allow religious activities. Forbes said he was not aware that a tourist visa forbade him from participating in religious events.
Police have asked that Forbes be blacklisted from re-entering the country.
The eviction comes after VHP and other Hindu organizations planned to protest the Hyderabad Festival and asked local authorities to ban the event, citing conversion concerns.
But police were in full force around Lal Bahadur Stadium to protect the nearly 50,000 attendees from protesters.
The Graham camp contended that the trip wasn’t meant to convert Hindus, but to celebrate Christianity in a city where just over 2 percent of the seven million residents are Christian. Just over half of Hyderabad residents practice Hinduism.
VHP expressed concerns that Christians like Graham attempt to convert Hindus by offering money and material benefits.
Reports from inside the four-day event claim great success. Local bands gave performances alongside local preachers who gave sermons. Graham reportedly hit a number of talking points including sex outside of marriage, honoring God and Christian fellowship.
Graham is the son of evangelist Billy Graham. He has been an evangelist for more than three decades. The next large prayer gathering is scheduled for early March in Sendai, Japan.
Forbes reportedly left India without incident.