The year is 1549, a Portuguese catholic priest, Francis Xavier arrives in Japan with the aim of introducing Christianity. He plans to establish a church in the Nagasaki area with his three Japanese Catholic converts. The local people are friendly at the initial stages. They actually embrace the new religion and some of them convert into Catholics. The authorities, under Oda Nobunaga, are also friendly to Xavier and his people. They are allowed to conduct their religious activities without any sanctions being placed on them. They also do not encounter any hostility from the leadership.
There is a mistaken belief that Xavier and his Japanese friends are from India. The local people think that Christianity is an Indian faith. The subsisting relations between India and the Portuguese inform this. Their initial endeavors to bring Christianity into Japan become a success. The growing number of Christian catholic converts evidences this. The number of Portuguese-sponsored Jesuits also increases with the success of their mission. The Spanish are as well in the race to stamp their presence in Japan by sending their religious representatives. A good number of the locals are baptized and given new Christian names (Endo & Johnstone, 1980). They are also encouraged to start practicing the Western lifestyle by adopting the western culture.
The situation remains good with better future prospects, until Toyotomi Hideyoshi takes over Japan. He develops suspicions against thChristians, vows to have Christianity abolished in Japan. What follows is a very sad occurrence in the history of Christianity. Persecution of Christians is initiated and so many of them are killed. This includes locals who had converted into Christianity, as well as the Portuguese priests and Catholics. Barbaric and torturous methods are used to deal with the Christians. So much hostility is directed towards them, and the only way to escape such torture is by renouncing Christianity (Endo & Johnstone, 1980).
Given that Christianity had only taken root in Nagasaki, this is where majority of the atrocities against the Christians are committed. A case at hand is that of the twenty-six martyrs of Japan. These were severely and inhumanly tortured and crucified on crosses in Nagasaki. This was done to serve as a warning to other Christians, and make them renounce their faith. Scores of others were also killed by crucifixion.
Father Cristovao Ferreira survives these persecutions by apostatizing. The Japanese authorities were forcing Christians to trample on a fumie, which was a carved image of Christ. This act represented denying Christ and denouncing his authority. On learning that his role model had apostatized, Fr. Sebastiao Rodriguez, a young Portuguese Jesuit and his crew sets out for Japan (Endo & Johnstone 1980). They are astonished to find that Christianity has been driven underground by the authorities.
Similar persecution of Christians by the authorities continues even during Fr. Rodriguez stay in Japan. In the midst of all the confusion and persecution, he loses contacts with his fellow Jesuits with whom they had come to Japan with. Some are killed and others arrested and locked up in prisons. Fr. Rodriguez faces betrayal by a Judas-like Kichijiro, who betrays him and he is captured. He is tortured just like the others, and forced to witness the torture and murder of local converts. This appears to be a more severe torture for him than any other. While he is undergoing this, Fr. Ferreira arrives and urges him to apostate. It is funny how even the image of Christ himself seems to be urging Rodriguez to apostatize.
The key argument here is that even Christ Himself would have done the same to save the people from suffering. It turns out that it is only after Rodriguez tramples on the fumie that the persecutions are going to stop. This convinces him and at last he apostates.
Endō, S. & Johnston, W. (1980). Silence. New York: Taplinger Publishers