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Protest against <i>Da Vinci Code</i> grows

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Thursday, May 18, 2006
Hyderabad (UNI): Arch Bishop Marampudi Joji today said the controversial The Da Vinci Code film, due for release on Friday in the country, will hurt the sentiments of the Christians and cause disharmony among the community. Addressing the press here, Mr Joji said the Tom Hanks starrer had ''so many untruths and distorted the facts and this will not be tolerated by the Christians.'' ''We are protesting against the film's content which will divert the minds of vast section of the Christians and their faith.'' Saying the Christians were ready to shed blood if the film was released in the country, Bishop Joji warned the state and Central governments will responsible for any eventuality. Stating Christian organisations had started 'special courses' to educate the community about the film and the facts of the religion in the state, he said ''the film can cause a lot of damage to the religion.'' Mr Joji said Christian organisations would chalk out future plan of action after the government's decision on the film's release.

In other protests against the movie, at least 15,000 Christians today submitted a memorandum to the Pune Police Commissioner against the release of two films Da Vinci Code and Tickle My Funny Bone, stating that their religious sentiments were hurt by these films which are based on false facts and wrong notions about Christ and Christian life. Pune Diocese spokesperson Fr Malcolm Sequeira, in a statement, said the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) strongly protests the release of the film 'Da Vinci Code' by Sony Pictures and Tickle My Funny Bone by Yogendra Konkar as both the films were offensive in nature, deeply hurting the sentiments of the Christian community.

Da Vinci Code is a false and an irreverent portrayal of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, as a married man and having progeny which insidious attacks at the very root of their faith. The other film, Tickle My Funny Bone, portrays the caricature of nuns, who sacrifice their life in the service of God and people, according to the statement. ''The movies belittle what is at the heart of Christian faith and cherished in Christian life. They hurt the religious sentiments of the Christian community in the country and are, therefore, blasphemous and totally unacceptable to them. Besides, the movies are bound to bring into disesteem the Christian community in the country and create misgivings about the minority Christian community in the country,'' the release added.

Outside the nation in Russia, a group of Orthodox believers plan to demonstrate against the screening of controversial film Da Vinci Code. ''The goal of the protest demonstration is to attract the attention of Orthodox believers to the ever-growing number of offensive attacks on Jesus Christ,'' the press service of the Union of Orthodox Citizens told Interfax news agency here yesterday. It said the movie was ''a link in a chain of propaganda mass culture works aimed at persuading the viewer that Jesus Christ was a common person''.

Meanwhile, Archpriest Mikhail Kozlov, rector of St Tatiana's at Moscow State University and associate professor of Moscow Theological Academy, has called upon the Orthodox public to stage an active democratic protest against the screening of the film. ''We should keep insisting that Da Vinci Code is a phenomenon of public consciousness that insults millions of our compatriots,'' Father Mikhail said. He proposed that Orthodox public organisations see to it by filing suits that each show of Da Vinci Code be preceded with a warning that to watch this film is to participate in sacrilege towards the founder of Christian religion, Lord Jesus Christ. The rector of the University Church also supported holding a campaign against film distribution organisations for insulting religious sentiments.

'' The price of victory in this struggle can be expressed in roubles, but what is more important is to see to it that the assertion that Da Vinci Code presents slander and insult as facts of literature and cinematography becomes a fact of mass consciousness,'' Father Maxim said. He stressed the main negative consequence of the mass distribution of Da Vinci Code would be that it will make many people outside the church fold understand Christianity in a false light.

Working contrary to the effect, the Thai censor authorities have restored cuts they had earlier ordered in the controversial film The Da Vinci Code after considering an appeal from the film's distributor. The film censorship board decided by a one-vote majority to allow the full screening of the film, based on the best selling book by the same name. The censor panel had earlier this week ordered the last 10 minutes of the film to be cut on a petition from Christian groups here. Censor authorities viewed the film for a second time yesterday with representatives from Christian groups who accepted the decision to restore the cuts.

Seree Lorgunpai, secretary-general of the Thailand Bible Society said while Christian groups would not stage protests against the movie, they would distribute a guide book to people going to see the film. Christian groups in Thailand have prepared 100,000 copies of the guide books which would be given to people outside cinema halls screening the film. Rachot Dhiraputra, manager of Columbia TriStar Buena Vista Films, the movie's distributor said he would cooperate with the Christian groups in handing out the guide books to the viewers.

On the same note, China-in dispute with the Vatican over its appointment of bishops without papal approval-hosted a premiere of The Da Vinci Code hours before the gala opening at Cannes, Xinhua news agency today said. ''With a shining cast and controversial plot, the movie is expected to be a massive hit both because of the novel's worldwide sales record of over 40 million copies and protests from religious circles,'' Xinhua said in an overnight report.

Kicking off the annual Cannes film festival, Ron Howard's adaptation of the Dan Brown bestseller, starring Tom Hanks, has been panned by most critics. The novel has enraged religious groups because one of its characters argues that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and had a child by her, and that elements within the Catholic Church resorted to murder to hide the truth. Xu Bing, a spokesman with the China Film Group Corporation, the film's China distributor, estimated it would reap over 60 million yuan (7.5 million dollars) in China despite the country's roaring trade in fake copies of most Hollywood blockbusters. Available on street corners, they sell for about 1 dollars each.

''The company has decided to show the movie simultaneously in big cities across the country with over 380 copies in over 30 cinema lines,'' Xu told Xinhua at the Beijing premiere where the film was shown four-and-a-half hours before it hit the screen in Cannes. The DVD bootleggers, meanwhile, were busy at their copying machines. ''We still need three or four more days,'' said one hawker outside a five-star hotel when asked if he had The Da Vinci Code.

Li Chow, general manager of the Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International China, said no part of the movie had been cut for its release in China. China's state-backed Catholic Church has appointed three bishops in recent weeks without the blessing of the Pope. China's 10 million Catholics are split between an underground church loyal to the Holy See and the state-approved church, which does not have formal ties with the Vatican.

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