Passion of Christ gets nod, but censors restrict film to Christians


BY JONATHAN CHEW

KUALA LUMPUR: Mel Gibson’s controversial film The Passion of the Christ, which sparked unprecedented debate following its release early this year, has finally arrived on Malaysian shores. 

It was learnt that the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) would be meeting with the local distributor of the film to work out the details of the screenings. 

Its executive secretary Patrick Cheng said tickets would be sold in various member churches of NECF. 

“We have yet to work out the details on whether it will be screened just in the Klang Valley or nationwide and on how to distribute the tickets. 

“We will only know more when we meet the distributor next week,” he said when contacted yesterday. 

The US$25mil (RM95mil) film, which depicts the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus Christ, ignited charges of anti-Semitism and excessive gore when it was released worldwide on Feb 25.  

The blockbuster, with dialogue solely in Latin and Aramaic, has grossed over US$370mil (RM1.4bil) at the US box-office to date. 

In reply to a question raised by Seputeh MP Teresa Kok in Parliament, the Home Affairs Ministry had said the National Censorship Board had approved the screening of the film in designated cinemas to Christian viewers. 

Cheng added that standard publicity such as posters and cinematic trailers were not permitted. 

NECF, he said, understood the regulations set by the ministry and was thankful that the authorities had allowed the film to be screened locally. 

Sidang Injil Borneo KL pastor Dr Chew Weng Chee said the move was a welcome step contributing to religious tolerance in the country. 

“We should applaud the Government for its sensitivity to the Christian community,” he said. 

Kok, however, urged the ministry to review the decision to limit the screenings to Christians, adding that it contradicted the policy of promoting racial and religious tolerance among Malaysians. 

“Merely watching a movie about a religious figure would not automatically convert a person to another religion. 

“Rather it would help to promote deeper understanding of the religion,” she said in a statement yesterday.  

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