Japan revisits dark chapter in Christianity’s past

19 11 2008

article here

I will start with the title of the article.  It would be more accurate to say Japan revisiting dark chapter in Japan’s past I think.  My impression of the current title is that it gives the image of the Christians having a dark past or of having done something wrong.

The Catholic Church hopes the special ceremony for the Christians killed in the 17th century will generate more interest in the history of a religion that has so far failed to take root in a country dominated by Buddhism and Shinto.

As I feel I often write, or at least think to myself, Christianity has taken root in Japan in the little opportunity it has actually had to grow.  The roots are small yet strong however they are roots and they are there.

“We have a history of religious persecution that has no similar example in Japan nor in the world,” said Father Isao John Hashimoto of Nagasaki’s Catholic Centre, which is organising the event on November 24.

It is strange for this priest to say that the persecution of Christians in Japan is unique in the world as though Japan was the only country to ever treat Christians as they did.   

As many as 30,000 Christians are believed to have been martyred since the religion was banned by the government shortly after it was introduced to Japan by the Portuguese Jesuit priest Francis Xavier in 1549.

Yeah it is rather hard for a religion to stand a chance when so many followers are killed and then the country is basically isolated.  I wold like to point a finger at Buddhism and Shinto for not doing anything to stop the killing of the Christians as far as I know.  If Buddhism is a religion that respects all life so much, even a worm, then why didn’t they do more to stop the killing?  If anyone knows more about this, in particular the Buddhist and Shinto reaction to the killing of Christians at the time, I would really like to know. 

No government officials have been invited to the beatification — a public act of blessing martyrs who suffered persecution for their faith — not even Prime Minister Taro Aso, Japan’s first Christian leader.

I don’t know why Prime Minister Asowas not invited although he could still attend as a private citizen perhaps.   For a more in depth definition of blessed see this page.

Although the history of Christian persecution is not entirely unknown in Japan — helped by Shusaku Endo’s prize-winning novel “Silence” — public awareness remains relatively low, historians said.

Which historians said that?  I would like to see a survey or some kind of statistic other than a simple historians said that public awareness is low.  I know people can at least recognize a picture of St Francis Xavier as a painting of him or his name are fairly common questions on quiz shows I watch. 

Today there are an estimated one to two million Christians in Japan, including about half a million Catholics.

If you dig around on the Japanese Bishops’ site you can find stats that there are actually around half a million Japanese Catholics and half a million foreign ones.

“Interest is growing not so much among Catholics but more among others who like history and want to know more,” said local tourist official Toshikazu Yokoura.

Well I am one Catholic who is interested in history but who has yet to actually go to Nagasaki.  It is nice that non Christians have taken an interest in the Catholic history of the area  and maybe they will think of the religion as being a bit less foreign too. 

In a symbolic gesture of peace, the ceremony will take place beneath the spot where a US atomic bomb was dropped on August 9, 1945, killing 80,000 people.

I will have to do some research on this but I read that the beatification mass was being held in a stadium, not at the bomb memorial site.


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