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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Da Vinci film protests stepped up
A protest by candlelight involving Christians in India
Christians protests in India have included vigils and a hunger strike
Christian groups in many Asian nations have stepped up their protests against The Da Vinci Code film ahead of its planned global release this week.

Its release in India is likely to be delayed after a furore that has seen Islamic clerics in Mumbai (Bombay) back a call by Catholics for a boycott.

South Korea's Christian Council has unsuccessfully tried to ban the film.

And Thai censors want to cut the last 10 minutes, having been persuaded by critics that they are "blasphemous".

The film is adapted from Dan Brown's best-seller, which revolves around the theory that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and their descendants survive today.

The blockbuster has caused outrage among many Christian organisations, including senior officials at the Vatican.

In India, which is home to 18 million Catholics, the head of the Catholic Secular Forum has begun a "hunger strike until death".

Christian activist Joseph Dias
Activist Joseph Dias says his hunger strike will continue "until death"
Joseph Dias said he wanted others to join him and pledged to continue until the film was banned.

His organisation has described The Da Vinci Code as "offensive" because it breaches "certain basic foundations of the religion".

The Indian government has temporarily halted the film's release, saying it must address concerns before the movie is screened.

The country's information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi said he had received more than 200 complaints.

He has requested a special screening, which may delay the original release date "by a day or two", he said. The film is due to come out around the world on Friday.

"We are a secular country," he said. "On any sensitive issue, we should take action after we examine every aspect. We have to be careful."

Injunction rejected

Meanwhile, a court in South Korea has ruled that a request for an injunction to block screenings was without merit.

Ron Howard, Audrey Tautou and Tom Hanks with The Da Vinci Code train
The Da Vinci Code train is attempting to set a new world record
Chief judge Song Jin-hyun said: "As it is clear that the novel and movie are all fiction, there is no probability that the movie can make viewers mistakenly believe the contents of the movie are facts."

The censor board in Buddhist Thailand said it wanted to cut 10 minutes from the end of The Da Vinci Code following Christian protests.

It also wants to run a disclaimer before each screening to make clear that the story is fiction.

The final decision rests with a government appeals panel, which will consider the case on Wednesday.

In the UK, leading Catholics also demanded a "health warning" after a survey of 1,000 people suggested that reading the original book could undermine a belief in Christian traditions.

The research claimed those who had read Brown's novel were twice as likely to believe its central theme - of Jesus being a father - than those who had not.

Audrey Tautou and Tom Hanks in a still from The Da Vinci Code film
The movie premieres at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday
"For many it is fiction," said Dr Austen Ivereigh, co-ordinator of the DVC Response Group, which comprises priests, monks, theologians and members of Opus Dei.

"But an alarming number of people take its spurious claims very seriously indeed."

Many of the highest-profile celebrities associated with the film attended a photo call in London on Tuesday as a train named The Da Vinci Code set off from London to Cannes.

Among those present were director Ron Howard, actor Tom Hanks and the book's author Dan Brown.

HAVE YOUR SAY
There is no such thing as blasphemy in a free society
Alan, Vancouver

It is hoped the train will set a new record for the longest ever non-stop international rail journey, travelling 888 miles (1421 km) between the British capital and the south of France.

The film receives its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch clips from The Da Vinci Code



SEE ALSO:
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Louvre offers Da Vinci Code tour
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Da Vinci uproar 'will boost film'
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Hanks reacts to Da Vinci critics
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