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Last Updated: Monday, 2 February, 2004, 09:31 GMT
Campaign against Gibson's Passion
The Passion of Christ
The film has dialogue in Latin and Aramaic
Jewish and Christian groups have announced a lecture campaign after fearing Mel Gibson's upcoming film on Jesus could incite anti-Semitism.

The Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee saw The Passion of the Christ, due out shortly, last week.

"It undermines the progress that we've made in this country toward mutual respect and religious pluralism," said Rabbi David Elcott.

Lectures, interfaith talks and other programmes will be held.

Critics of the film said they would explain how crucifix re-enactments in medieval times, which were called Passion Plays, had been used to incite violence against Jewish communities.

The groups said they would not boycott cinemas or hold protests outside.

Christian promotion

"Artists have every right to create any kind of movie they want, but an audience has the absolute right to pass judgement on that," said Rabbi James Rudin.

Gibson, a staunch Catholic, has always denied the film depicted Jews in a bad light.

The campaign will come amidst heavy promotion of the film by Christian evangelists.

Mel Gibson
Gibson has always denied the film has an anti-Jewish slant

Some, including TV preacher Billy Graham, praised the film's depiction of Christ's last hours.

The Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College has published a study guide for people who watch the film, saying how Christian churches had come to reject charges of Jewish involvement in Christ's death.

The chairman of the Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations also asked people not to make judgements.

"We hope people will be on guard against any tendency to blame 'the Jews' collectively for Jesus' death, rather than only a small circle of Jewish collaborators with the Roman authorities," said the Reverend Franklin Sherman.

Pope John Paul reportedly watched the film in December and was said to have given his approval, which was later denied by the Vatican.

The film has also caused debate because all of the dialogue is in Latin and Aramaic.

In October, Gibson's Icon Productions company and independent movie specialist Newmarket Films agreed to distribute The Passion of the Christ. It will be shown on 2,000 screens in the US.

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