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Thursday, 18 May 2006

(BosNewsLife)– Leaders of India’s embattled Christian community made a last-minute appeal to the government on Thursday, May 18, not to release the controversial film ‘The Da Vinci Code’ without a disclaimer, an ‘Adult’ certificate and some cuts.

They made the comments after watching Director Ron Howard’s latest film in New Delhi on Wednesday, May 17, and met in the capital on Thursday, May 18, to give their joint response to Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Das Munshi

The film was originally scheduled to be released Friday, May 19, pending a final ruling by the Indian Film Censor Board, but because of the delays ‘The Da Vinci Code’ was expected to be distributed next week.

“We have said the film’s story is unacceptable to the Christian community of India .

If the government goes ahead with the release of the film after the special screening for the members of the Indian Film Censor Board, then there should be a sustained and lingering disclaimer saying that this movie is fiction and has no bearing with the historical truth or corresponding truth,” added Father Donald D’Souza, deputy secretary general of the Catholic Bishop Conference of India, in a statement.

ADULT CERTIFICATE

“We want the film to be given an ‘Adult’ certificate so that the mature audience can differentiate between fiction and reality. We also want some scenes to be cut, particularly the one where the murderer makes the sign of the cross before and after a murder. This hurts religious sentiments,” Father D’Souza added.

However in a letter to Minister Das Munshi obtained by the BosNewsLife New Delhi Bureau, John Dayal, who is the National President of the All India Catholic Union, as well as Secretary General of the All India Christian Council and President of the United Christian Action, criticized the government for involving Christians in censoring the film.

“Instead of taking stock of the gravity of the [ongoing] protests by people of all denominations of the rich Christian faith in India, [the] government has sought to pass the buck to the Church leadership by involving them in the censorship process,” Dayal wrote the minister.

BAD PRECEDENT

“This does set a bad precedent [and] puts unnecessary pressure on the Church leadership which is also witnessing an orchestrated campaign by commercial film distribution interests, aided and abetted by vested interests in the media,” he added. “It is shocking that certain editorials today dare compare the Catholic Church with the Taliban [of Afghanistan ]. This is singularly the result of what transpired yesterday,” Dayal said.

Dayal urged the government to pressure the Censor Board to set the same standards for a film on Christianity as it would do for a movie on Hinduism. “It is also deeply concerned with the integrity and security of India , and issues of community sentiments. That is why it does not show cow slaughter which injures sentiments of Hindus, nor does it allow extolling insult to the nation, the Armed forces and so on,” he wrote.

The minister has reportedly said that the decision taken by the Censor Board “will be the decision of the Government of India,” but made already clear that after viewing the movie “as a film in technique etc, it was all right.”

GOVERNMENT OPPORTUNITY

Dayal stressed however that the Government “now has an opportunity to prove that India has the same set of standards – in all spheres of governance including censorship for all communities and equal respect for their sentiments.”

He said that “fiction must not be allowed to pass of as fact in cinema…and induce, a suspension of reality and belief, that even makes a comic character such as Spiderman look real. Credulous viewers, particularly those who are no Christians, may take the myth of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ to be the truth of Christianity, with serious and severe consequences…”

‘The Da Vinci Code’ explored the possibility that Jesus was married and had a child with Maria Magdalene and that ancestors still live today. Christian leaders have said that Christ was not married to any woman as He clearly identified His Church, which includes all Christians who accept him as Lord and Savior, as His Bride. ‘The Da Vinci Code’ comes amid growing pressure from Hindu militants on Indian Christians, who comprise roughly 2 percent of India ‘s 1.1-billion