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Indian Christian protests force stay on release of Da Vinci Code

Mounting protests demanding the banning of showing of the "Da Vinci Code" as blasphemous have pressured the Indian government into putting on hold the release of the movie until Christian leaders have reviewed it and given their approval.

"If anything in the film affects their [Christian] sensibilities, we will not allow the movie to be screened," Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, India ‘s federal information and broadcasting minister told journalists.

Though the Censor Board had cleared the film, the federal ministry overruled it saying the movie could be released only after a decision was made after the Catholic Churches’ Association of India, Christian members of parliament, Censor Board members as well as the minister himself previewed the movie in New Delhi.

The Indian Express daily newspaper carried a 17 May front-page headline saying: "Government says let church decide whether the country can watch Da Vinci Code." The film was due open to open for public showings on 19 May, when a final decision will be made.

The Rev. Donald De Souza, deputy secretary general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, who among those picked to preview the movie, thanked the government for its "sensitivity to the feelings of the Christian community".

"This is a country where a lot of misinformation is spread against the Christians. The movie could be used for anti-Christian propaganda," De Souza told Ecumenical News International in noting apprehension about the film of a book by author Dan Brown which has upset many Christians by portraying Jesus as having a child with his follower Mary Magdalene.

The Global Council of Indian Christians hailed the government move while street protests were growing across India, one in which Catholic nuns in Mumbai have begun an indefinite hunger strike demanding a ban on the movie. And Joseph Dias, the general secretary of the Catholic Secular Forum in Mumbai, told the media on 17 May that he will "fast unto death" unless the movie is banned.

Goa state, which was for hundreds of years a Portuguese colony and has a strong Catholic presence, has joined the call for a ban.

(c) Ecumenical News International