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Hundreds of thousands have seen the video on Youtube. Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins and Prime Minister David Cameron show support for the Church of England initiative.
The Church of England hoped its new initiative to encourage prayer would have a positive impact. What they probably did not expect is the kind of media attention it would receive.
A 1-minute video was to be shown as an advert in many cinemas in the UK one week before Christmas, but the agency which controls the three biggest cinema chains in the UK (Odeon, Vue, Cineword, with 80% of the screens in the country) refused to show it.
The #JustPray video shows several believers reciting the Lord’s Prayer in day-to-day situations: at work, in leisure time, at home...
The advert had been approved by the British Board of Film Classification and the Cinema Advertising Authority, but Digital Cinema Media (DCM) claimed they had “a policy of not accepting 'political or religious advertising' content for use in its cinemas.”
MEDIA ATTENTION AND MANY REACTIONS
The case rapidly appeared in the media, and the decision was criticised by many.
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, reacted saying he thought it was “extraordinary that cinemas rule that it is inappropriate for an advert on prayer to be shown in the week before Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.”
Many had found “comfort and solace in prayer” in situations like the Paris terrorist attacks. Referring to DCM’s justification, Welby commented: “This advert is about as offensive as a Carol service on Christmas day.”
PRIME MINISTER CAMERON AND DAWKINS DEFEND THE VIDEO
In the following days many have voiced their support for freedom of speech.
One of the unexpected supports came from atheist Richard Dawkins, known for his attacks against the Church of England and Christianity in general. “I strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people”, the biologist told The Guardian newspaper.
“If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”
Politicians like the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, thought the decision was “outrageous.” Asked about it on Twitter, he said: “This is a prayer that is 2000 years old and informs our whole culture.”
Even Prime Minister David Cameron expressed his disapproval of the decision. A Westminster spokesman told journalists Mr Cameron thought the ban was "ridiculous."
MORE THAN 2 MILLION PRAYERS
The campaign already seems to have far exceeded its original goals. On Wednesday 25 November the JustPray.uk website had already received 2,654,000 prayers.
Meanwhile, the video which first caused the controversy has received more than 380,000 views on Youtube so far. (The film had already been seen in unofficial social media profiles over the last few days.)
The Lord’s Prayer, as it appears in Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV translation):
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
WATCH THE #JUSTPRAY VIDEO: