He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:32

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 

Japan Looks Back on 17th-Century Persecutions

Christians from all over Japan have gathered for a ceremony in Nagasaki to honour 187 people who were killed as a consequence of their faith during the 17th Century.

Roman Catholics maintain that the campaign against Christianity which took place in Japan in the early 1600s was more ferocious than any other religious persecution in the history of the Church.

They estimate that tens of thousands of Japanese Christians were put to death, many after being tortured.

During that period, Japan's shogunate rulers were attempting to unify the country and repel foreigners. They expelled missionaries from Spain and Portugal who had won many converts, especially in western Japan. Christianity was regarded as a malevolent influence on Japanese affairs.

In the early part of the 17th Century, an attempt was made to eradicate Christianity altogether.

At the time there were approximately 400,000 Catholics and many who did not renounce their faith were killed. Crucifixion and burning at the stake were common forms of execution.

Women and children

At the ceremony organised by the Roman Catholic Church in Nagasaki on Monday, 187 people who were killed between 1603 and 1639 were beatified, as well as a Japanese priest by the name of Julian Nakaura who was put to death in the late 15th Century.

Father Paul Miki Murakami
Many Japanese people today will find it difficult to understand why the martyrs gave up their lives
Father Paul Miki Murakami
Beatification is sometimes regarded as a step on the path to sainthood, although in this case the church says its primary aim is to commemorate the sacrifice of the martyrs. Similar ceremonies have taken place periodically in Japan over the past 150 years.

The service in Nagasaki followed historical research which uncovered new details of the Christians who died during the 17th Century.

They included people from all over Japan and from all levels of society, including lay people and priests, women and children, commoners and samurai.


Father Paul Miki Murakami, a Roman Catholic priest in Tokyo, says: "Many Japanese people today will find it difficult to understand why the martyrs gave up their lives, but these were in a sense a spiritual elite.

An illustration painted by Father Takeshi Sakuma for a brochure about the beatification of 188 Japanese martyrs who died 400 years in Nagasaki on Monday
Few Japanese today describe themselves as Christian
"Japan remains a spiritual country in some ways, but during the economic boom period of the 1960s and 1970s, many people turned from religion and began to focus more on money and secular matters. They believed a strong economy would make them happy and turned into economic animals."

Father Murakami believes this is one reason why membership of the Catholic Church has declined among native Japanese in recent decades, although it has been strengthened by an influx of foreigners from Korea and the Philippines.

Less than 1% of Japanese people define themselves as Christian. Most subscribe to Buddhism or the traditional faith of Shinto, although those who profess deep religious convictions are rare and it is usually regarded as impolite to talk about religion with strangers.

Sunday, November 23, 2008 

Him Whom They Have Pierced

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves." - Zechariah 12:10-14 ESV

We said in our yesterday's lecture, that the words, They shall look to me whom they have pierced, are to be taken metaphorically, for the Prophet expresses here what he had said before - that the Jews would some time return to a sound mind, that is, when endued with a spirit of grace and of commiserations. For it is a true conversion when men seriously acknowledge that they are at war with God, and that he is their enemy until they are reconciled; for except a sinner sets himself in a manner before God's tribunal, he is never touched by a true feeling of repentance. It is therefore necessary for us to remember, that God has been offended by us, and that we have, as far as we could, instigated him to destroy us, inasmuch as we have provoked his wrath and his vengeance. This then is the real meaning of the Prophet here: for the Jews, after having in various ways and for a long time heedlessly provoked God, would sometime be led to repentance, inasmuch as they would become terrified by God's judgement, while no one of them thought previous]y that they had any account to render.

John says that this prophecy was fulfilled in Christ, when his side was pierced by a spear, (John 19: 37;) and this is most true: for it was necessary that the visible symbol should be exhibited in the person of Christ, in order that the Jews might know that he was the God who had spoken by the Prophets.

- From John Calvin's Commentary on Zechariah 12

About me

  • I'm DR
  • From Exiled
My profile


The Bible Challenge

Test your knowledge of the Bible

This Day in History
Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV Bible 9Marks Ministries
Locations of visitors to this page