Prosecution of Christianity in Japan
Every religion in human civilisation had its path of development. Sometimes historical paths of religions coincided, sometimes they were entirely different. In other cases, one religion could be accepted or rejected depending of geographic specifics of the region it was introduced to. Although Christianity was widely spreading around the world in 15th -16th centuries, its acquaintance with the Asian region was not so successful. Particularly disastrous was the introduction of Christianity into Japan. After a few decades of successful spreading of the new religion in the Japanese islands, authoritarian Shogunate became suspicious to the religion which was converting Japanese people not only into new believes but also into Western culture. Thus, in order to keep control over the subordinate territories, Shogunate condemned Christianity and started the witch hunt on its followers. On the first stages of persecution, Christians were to give up their beliefs and return to the cults of ancestors. This was to be achieved through local guards monitoring public meetings, destruction of Christian Shrines and places of martyrdom (Endo 122).
The situation further deteriorated after the Shimabara Rebellion in 1637-1638, which was a result of local authorities' persecution of Christians. Although the rebel was supposed to improve the situation, it convinced Shogunate that new religion was dangerous and that it should be eliminated systematically. Thus, new round of more sever persecution started. In order to survive, Japanese Christians had to go underground and became known as Hidden Christians (Endo 33). On this stage, persecution included not only closing of Christian shrines; authorities became suspicious to any secret or public gathering. Continuous searches were conducted in public places, private houses; population was constantly questioned on the topic of reasons for family or public gatherings. Belonging to Christianity was equal to the death warrant. Potential evidences of were any material belongings considered Christian and Western (Endo 185).
In order to spread fear among population, show trials and demonstrative public punishments and death sentences were executed. While ordinary people were often simply tortured until they refused from their religion, Christian priests were usually humiliated publically and exposed to the common judgement. For instance, it was not uncommon to see a Jesuit priest to be bound by rope and shown through the main of a city. The humiliation would not only be in showing him in a serving manner, but also in the fact that people would throw garbage and stones at him. Priests were often publically executed through crucifixion or hanging upside down until they died from bleeding. Except for physical tortures and punishment, authorities aimed at the destruction of Christian will. This was achieved through placing moral responsibility of priests for their followers and their potential tortures (Endo 169). Another way to compromise priests was to make them tools in finding Christian followers. In this context, authorities used to make priests identify Christian objects among other Western objects and so contribute to exposure of the fellow-Christians (Endo 187). This action was more demoralising than even public prosecutions or parading through the city, because it deprived priests of dignity to protect their followers.
Overall, persecution of Christianity during the rule of Shogunate was systematic and meticulous and aimed at weakening of Jesuit positions in the country. Although authorities could destroy this religion entirely in Japan, and Hidden Christians survived, the overwhelming spreading of Christianity in Japan stopped. From the historical perspective, it can be argued that Shogunate contributed to the minority status Christianity favours in contemporary Japan.
Endo, Shusaku. Silence. New York: Peter Owen. 2006. Print.