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BosNewsLife (05/16/06) – The Indian Government on Tuesday, May 16, temporarily held up the release of the movie “The Da Vinci Code” in India amid mounting protests from Christians fearing persecution, a day after it was cleared by the Indian Film Censor Board.

In remarks to media, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting announced it would show the film to Catholic groups and examine every aspect before its likely nationwide release.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi said he had received over 200 complaints and asked for a special screening of the movie. “The release of the movie, scheduled for Friday, “may be delayed by a day or two,” he added.

The decision came a day after the Indian Film Censor Board ruled that ‘The Da Vinci Code’ could be released in India on May 19 in its original format.

ONE CONDITION

The only condition is that Sony Pictures will have to get an Adult certificate and a disclaimer in the beginning of the movie saying it is “a work of fiction and bears no resemblance to people dead or alive,” Indian media reported.

Despite the small delay, the developments came as a disappointment for especially vocal Catholic groups who see the movie as an attack against their faith and Jesus Christ in particular.

The Da Vinci Code explored the possibility that Jesus had a child with Maria Magdalene, who later fled to France , and that ancestors still live today. Christian leaders have said that this is impossible as Christ clearly identified His Church, which includes all Christians who accept him as Lord and Savior, as His Bride.

HUNGER STRIKE

Joseph Dias, head of the Catholic Secular Forum, reportedly began a hunger strike in downtown Mumbai, the capital of the film industry known as Bollywood to protest the Censorship Board’s Monday decision.

“We want the movie to be banned. The movie should not be shown in India ,” he said. Other Catholic groups that had protested the movie also said they were disappointed by the board’s decision.

But the Rev. Myron Pereira, a member of the Central Board of Film Certification panel that cleared ‘The Da Vinci Code’ said there was no reason to reject the movie as the movie is “fictional and the film also implies that the church is covering it up. But it does not portray anything in an obscene fashion.”

HINDU BIAS?

Catholics have complained of Censor Board bias towards the Christian faith, saying films making fun of, or attacking, the Hindu faith would have a harder time. Christians comprise just about two percent of India ‘s predominantly Hindu population.

Two other films, ‘Tickle My Funny Bone’ and ‘Sacred Evil’, have shocked India ‘s Christian community. Tickle My Funny Bone, is viewed as “denigrating” Catholic consecrated sisters by depicting a nun with sexual escapades.

‘Sacred Evil’ has been condemned for film posters that feature the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ with the movie’s title written below. In the film, the mother superior of the convent where the nun stays calls a witch to exorcise the spirit from the nun’s body.

WIDER PATTERN

Churches see the developments as part of a pattern in India where Christians and converts from Hinduism have been attacked in several states in recent weeks and months. However Indian officials have made clear that the country is “secular” in its constitution and that censoring films is not the best way to deal with religious tensions.

“We are a secular country…People can protest about anything since we live in a democracy,” argued Pereira .