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Exhibition to Showcase Resilience of Christians who Faced Brutal Persecution in Japan

Veronica Neffinger | iBelieve Contributor | Friday, September 18, 2015

Exhibition to Showcase Resilience of Christians who Faced Brutal Persecution in Japan

Christians in Japan faced severe persecution for years and are finally being recognized.

Christian Today reports that for 300 years, Christians in Japan suffered various types of torture for their faith. The "Hidden Christians" are now being recognized in an exhibition that displays the moving story of those who remained true to the Lord despite persecution.

Christianity was first brought to Japan in 1549. Initially, a thriving church sprang up, but persecution followed closely on its heels. Documents from The Vatican Library and Secret Archives detail the testimonies of Christian who lived between the 16th and 19th centuries and experienced the persecution.

According to Christian Today, the persecution began when, in an effort to impress the ruling Shogun, a Spanish captain who had shipwrecked on Japan’s coast reported that the missionaries who were there were looking for a way to begin a European conquest. 

This began an onslaught of Christian persecution. In 1597, 26 Christians were crucified. Other tortures for Christian faith included being burnt alive and being hung in a pit of excrement. 

Some Christians recanted in the face of torture, although many more died martyrs’ deaths.

A notorious Japanese way of determining whether someone was a Christian or not was called the “fumie.” This was a picture of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Suspected Christians were ordered to trample on the picture. If they refused or hesitated, this was considered a sign of guilt. 

It is reported that as many as 6,000 Christians were martyred in Japan from 1614-1640 alone. For many years, Christianity was thought to have been extinguished until 1865 when Japan finally opened its borders for foreign trade and villagers from a town near Nagasaki visited a new Catholic church and told the priest there that they and their families had maintained their faith for decades in secret. 

It was discovered that tens of thousands of Christians survived the persecution.

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Publication date: September 18, 2015