Jakarta (AsiaNews/Ucan) Catholic clergy and lay people in the Jakarta area who have viewed the by-now famous film directed by Mel Gibson, "The Passion of the Christ", say that the film has been an asset to their Lenten reflections and has deepened their appreciation of Jesus' sufferings. "The film is great, and Christian viewers need to watch it in the context of faith," Father Josef Lalu, executive secretary of the Indonesian Catholic Bishops' Commission for Catechetics commented after his viewing of the production. The priest indicated however, his surprise at the graphic violence, saying he was afraid it "could even foster the culture of violence" and pointed out that the Resurrection "is less prominent, giving the impression that suffering and death are the film's ultimate message." Jesuit Father Alex Soesilo Wijoyo, executive secretary of the Bishop's Commission for Social Communications, defends the work, saying that though the attention to the Resurrection was brief and may leave Christians feeling incomplete, he thinks it "is not a weakness of the film, but a technique of the filmmaker"
Though the movie has not been released in public theaters yet, unofficial copies have been circulating, and have been viewed privately.
Father Wijoyo, who is a member of the government-sanctioned National Film Censorship Agency, acknowledged the film's violence, but commented that, "people should watch it with the eye of faith to see what the suffering means," and to see it in relation to the problems Indonesia faces. "We do not only see the suffering, but what is behind it, the unjust structure that makes people suffer," he said. He feels that the film is relevant for all people, not only Christians, since it portrays abuse of power, hypocrisy, money politics and betrayal, all elements of the human condition. Though the censorship agency has not received the film for review yet, he said he has "no objection" to its release, and suggests that it be translated into Bahasa Indonesia, the national language. Julian Karfili, a Catholic communications student , saw the film March 18th on the Depok campus of the State University of Indonesia, south of Jakarta, with a group of about 50 other mostly-Muslim students as part of a lecture on international communications. "This film is very realistic and touching," he commented. Maria Sanjaya, a 21-year old student, said the meaning of the fim was clearly communicated even though the language was incomprehensible. "Although I don't understand the language, I could follow the story because I already know it from the Bible I and others cried when we watched how Jesus was cruelly tortured."
Johanes Stafanus Tantoro, a 42-year old worker in Jakarta, said he was curious after reading about the film in newspapers and since it has not been released in public theaters, bought an illegal copy from a sidewalk vendor. "The film is very suitable for Christians during Lent. It vividly reminds me of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection," he said.
A Muslim sidewalk vendor in central Jakarta, Iwan, talked about the interest customers have shown in the unofficial copies of "The Passion of the Christ". "I think they were Christians. Although I told them what I had were illegally reproduced copies, they dared to buy them."
He has sold on average 10 copies of the film every day, since early March.