A Chronicle of Renewal and Revival

Japan: Christian persecution sites nominated for UNESCO World Heritage

This month, a dozen Christian landmarks in Japan – where just 1 percent of the population claims Christ – have been officially recommended to be named World Heritage sites.

“First, it recognizes the centrality of hidden Christian history in Japanese soil, which is a significant contribution to Japanese understanding of her own history. Second, it accentuates the cultural value of the resilience of Christianity even under many years of persecution.”

Spanning across the Nagasaki and Amakusa region, these sites represent places where believers during the Tokugawa shogunate (1630-1867) suffered the harshest persecution and martyrdom in the Asian nation’s history.

The list includes the Oura Cathedral in Nagasaki, which memorializes 17 Japanese Christians and 9 European priests who were crucified at the order of the ruler; Hara Castle in Minamishimabara, a battlefield during the uprising when Catholic rebels were massacred, their leader beheaded, and their faith banned; and other ‘hidden Christian’ sites, where Christ-followers carried on their beliefs in secret for hundreds of years.

These landmarks, if granted recognition by UNESCO, would join 14 other cultural World Heritage sites in Japan and over 800 around the world.

“This recommendation by the Japanese government on hidden Christian sites is significant for several reasons,” said Makoto Fujimura, who authored a book on faith in the midst of suffering. “First, it recognizes the centrality of hidden Christian history in Japanese soil, which is a significant contribution to Japanese understanding of her own history. Second, it accentuates the cultural value of the resilience of Christianity even under many years of persecution.”

Source: Kate Shellnut, Makoto Fujimura

  # 1086 | June 19, 2018

Trailer of the movie ‘Silence’ about the persecution of Jesuit missionaries and Christians in 17th century Japan, with actor Andrew Garfield (who stars in Hacksaw Ridge as Desmond Doss the Quaker conscientious objector in WWII and Medal of Honour winner).

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