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Singapore News // Thursday, May 18, 2006 Print Article Email To Friend(s) Feedback Text Larger Text Smaller One Column Three Columns  
Preparing for the Da Vinci fallout
Worldwide protests but churches here are calm
 
Tan Hui Leng
huileng@newstoday.com.sg
 
As Christian groups from South Korea to Greece are up in arms over the celluloid version of The Da Vinci Code, Singapore churches are taking a more moderate official approach to its release here today, despite a futile attempt to have it banned.
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Last month, the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) wrote to Information, Communications and the Arts Minister Dr Lee Boon Yang to register their "strongest objection" to the release of the film and requested that it be banned. The Media Development Authority, however, passed the unedited version of the movie, albeit with a NC16 rating.
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While disappointed with the decision, the church council is not taking a laidback approach.
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"There are other ways of responding and the educational approach is more important (than explicit protests) in the longer run," said NCCS president and bishop of the Methodist Church, Dr Robert Solomon.
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He said that churches and Christian institutions in Singapore had been organising lectures about the subject for months. Conducted by historians and biblical scholars, the lectures aim to present historical facts countering claims in the bestselling Dan Brown novel, which suggests that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child.
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Although the NCCS is not going to the extent of ordering its members to boycott the movie, it is not encouraging it either.
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"As far as possible, we would say you really don't need to watch it, because of the sort of lies and fallacies contained in the film," said Dr Solomon.
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He added: "One should read the book or see the movie with care because of the historical fallacies (that) are not ordinary fallacies but go to the heart of the Christian faith."
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At City Harvest Church, some senior pastoral staff members have read the book so that they can pick out parts that are contradictory to the Bible and answer any questions their congregation may have.
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"We are not discouraging people from seeing the movie," said church pastor Reverend Derek Dunn. "We think that if they watch a movie like that, it will strengthen their faith and the belief they already have."
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However, such measured reactions are not to be found in other parts of the world.
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In India, home to 18 million Catholics, the head of the Catholic Secular Forum, Mr Joseph Dias, began a hunger strike in a bid to ban the movie. The government has put a temporary hold on the movie's release after receiving more than 200 complaints.
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In South Korea, which has 13 million Protestants and 4.6 million Catholics, the Christian Council of Korea said it would lead a boycott of the movie after a failed attempt to block screenings.
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In Thailand, censors caved into pressure from Christian groups to cut the film's final minutes. The groups also demanded that subtitles supposedly disrespectful to Jesus be fixed and disclaimers, saying the content is fictional, be screened before and after the movie.
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In Athens, about 200 religious protesters, including Orthodox monks and nuns, waving crucifixes and Greek flags, demonstrated in protest of the film.
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It is not just Christian groups that are protesting.
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The United States-based National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation also expressed unhappiness with an albino monk-assassin in the plot. The movie is said to be the 68th since 1960 to feature an evil albino.

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