Lebanese Christians angered by TV show about Christ

By Sebastian Usher
BBC News

Image caption,
Lebanon's Christian communities united in condemnation against the series

An Iranian-made television series about the life of Christ being shown on two Lebanese channels has been taken off air after complaints from Christians.

The series was being shown during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on the Hezbollah-linked TV channel, al-Manar, and another station, NBN.

They said it was cancelled to avoid it being exploited to negative effect.

Lebanon's Christian community has condemned the show as a distortion of their beliefs.

Gospel of Barnabas

Ramadan is the most important time of year for Arab TV stations, when they traditionally show their most lavish series.

They nearly always provoke some kind of controversy.

Image caption,
Jesus is not crucified and not resurrected in the Iranian television show

So far this year, it has been Christians in Lebanon who have been offended by one of the programmes.

Al-Manar and NBN - which is linked to the Shia Muslim Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally - have been showing an Iranian series, Christ.

Christians have complained that it is based on an apocryphal gospel, rejected by the Church.

The Gospel of Barnabas has a very different version of Christ's life from that found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The key variation is that it says Jesus was not crucified and was not resurrected -- the two fundamental Christian beliefs.

In this, it is actually very close to the story of Christ as told in the Koran.

Lebanon's Christian communities united in condemnation against the film, prompting the Lebanese authorities to have the broadcasts cancelled.

Both al-Manar and NBN now say they have taken it off air.

Lebanese Christians will take this as a small victory, but the fact that the series was shown at all is likely to add to their feeling of being under pressure.

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