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How Christian preachers planted the faith in Japan
How Christian preachers planted the faith in Japan

Video: How Christian preachers planted the faith in Japan

Video: How Christian preachers planted the faith in Japan
Video: How God Led Me to be a Missionary in Japan || My Testimony 2023, December

Missionary work has always been an important political tool. The salvation of lost souls was justified by diplomatic intrigues and bloody conquests. America was conquered by the priests along with the conquistadors, and the Indians who had escaped the Spanish swords were forced to kiss the Catholic cross.

In the Far East, the situation was different: it was difficult to fight against the mighty states there, even hiding behind the name of God. Nevertheless, such difficulties did not stop the Europeans. In the 16th century, they reached Japan.

When the first Portuguese traders sailed to the distant islands in 1543, it was clear that Catholic missionaries would soon follow. And so it happened. Already in 1547, the Jesuit Francis Xavier, who was preaching in Malacca, the Portuguese colony in Indonesia, began to prepare for a trip to the northeast.

His interest was fueled by the Japanese Anjiro, who left his homeland, hiding from punishment for murder. He told the Portuguese about his country, about its customs and traditions, but he could not predict whether the Japanese would want to accept the Catholic faith.

Francis Xavier. Source:

After a long preparation and correspondence with the Portuguese authorities, Francis set out on a voyage. He reached Japan on July 27, 1549. In addition to the language barrier, which was gradually overcome, the missionary also faced a worldview barrier. The Japanese could not understand the idea that the almighty god who created, including evil, is the embodiment of good.

Gradually, overcoming the cultural barrier and establishing contacts with major feudal lords, Francis got the opportunity to bring the ideas of Catholicism to the Japanese of all social strata. However, due to the civil war in Japan at that time, bureaucratic obstacles had to be overcome in almost every province. Permission to preach from the ruler of one province meant absolutely nothing in another, and the emperor's authority was formal.

Some feudal lords were baptized solely to facilitate trade with European countries, because the Jesuits acted as intermediaries in these transactions. By 1579, according to the estimates of the missionaries themselves, there were about 130 thousand Christians in Japan.

Insulting the feelings of believers … with their subsequent destruction

That all changed when the civil war subsided. Japan's unifier Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1587 clashed with Christian fanatics who attacked Buddhist monasteries on the island of Kyushu.

This event prompted the commander to think that Christianity is a teaching alien to the Japanese people. In 1596, the skipper of the Spanish merchant ship San Felipe, which was wrecked off the coast of Japan, spoke of the usual Spanish tactics. According to him, first they send missionaries to a foreign country, and then with the help of natives converted to Christianity, a military invasion takes place. This conversation was retold by Hideyoshi.

In a rage, the unifier of Japan ordered the closure of all Christian missions in the country, and those who did not obey were ordered to be executed. In the end, six Franciscans, seventeen Japanese Christian converts, and three Jesuits were escorted on foot from Kyoto to Nagasaki, where they were crucified on crosses on February 5, 1597.

Later, the Catholic Church declared them twenty-six Japanese martyrs. Pogroms of Christians began, and most of them "/>

Fumi-e. Source:

In addition, shogunal officials invented "Fumi-e" - metal plates engraved with images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, on which the alleged Christians were to step. Those who refused, or even simply doubted whether it was worth doing, were arrested, and if they did not give a clear explanation of their actions, they were tortured, trying to get them to renounce Christ.

Many did not agree to deviate from their faith. Over the years of persecution, more than a thousand Christians have been martyred for their beliefs.

In 1637, an uprising broke out in the Shimabara principality, which, although it began as a movement of peasants dissatisfied with high taxes, quickly turned into a religious revolt. The formal leader and living banner of the rebels was Amakusa Shiro, whom the Japanese Christians considered the messiah.

They talked about how a sixteen-year-old boy worked miracles, for example, walked on water. The uprising was soon brutally suppressed. The leader was executed, and most of the surviving rebels were exiled from Japan to Macau or the Spanish Philippines.

Secret Christian altar. Source:

Many Japanese Christians have gone into hiding. In the homes of such hidden Christians, there were secret rooms where the symbols of the cult were kept. Those who were more cunning even presented Buddhist home altars to the shogun officials, which confirmed their trustworthiness.

As soon as the inspectors left, the Buddha statue unfolded, and a Christian cross was found on its back, to which it was already possible to pray calmly. Others carved Buddhist statues, but with the faces of Christian saints and officials who were not versed in theology, they did not notice the catch. Even the secret prayers read monotonously, trying to disguise them as Buddhist sutras so that especially attentive neighbors would not suddenly report.

Naturally, there was no Christian literature in the homes of Japanese Catholics - in which case - it would have been iron evidence that could easily lead to execution. Therefore, the scripture was passed down orally from father to son.

In some cases, such "family" Christian sects for many generations forgot the meaning of memorized prayers, and simply repeated a set of sounds incomprehensible to them, allegedly in Spanish or Portuguese in front of a cross or an image of a saint. Some secret Christians went to remote islands, where they lived in a secluded commune in complete isolation from the whole world.

Cancellation of all restrictions: pray to anyone

This continued until the middle of the 19th century. In 1858, foreigners were officially allowed to reside in Japan. Together with merchants and ambassadors, priests also arrived in the newly discovered country.

One of them was the Frenchman Bernard Petitjean. He studied the history of the persecution of Christians in Japan and, with the help of the French Missions Society, built a church of twenty-six Japanese martyrs. The still officially banned Japanese Christians poured into the new temple. Petitjean talked with many of them and was unspeakably surprised that they had preserved many of the rituals for 250 years practically unchanged. He wrote to the Pope about this, and Pius IX declared it a miracle of God.

After the Meiji Restoration, the law banning Christianity was still in effect for some time. It was canceled only in 1873. The pressure from the embassies of the United States and European countries contributed a lot to this.

Officially allowed to return home to those who were expelled from the country for their faith, and their descendants, regardless of religion. After the ban was lifted, the Russian Orthodox Church also took up missionary work: Nikolai Kasatkin was sent to Japan on a spiritual mission. He began to successfully preach Orthodoxy among the Japanese.

Some Christian communities remained unaware that the times of persecution were over. One such community was discovered in the 1990s by the anthropologist Christal Whelan on the Goto Islands near Nagasaki. This commune was home to two elderly priests and several dozen men and women.

After talking with them, the scientist was surprised to realize that he had stumbled upon a medieval Christian community, which had managed to secretly carry the faith of their fathers and grandfathers through age-old prohibitions …