In recent times a new R-rated Hollywood movie coming out by the name of Silence has been mentioned to me as something that I need to see as a missionary to Japan. This movie depicts a dramatization of Japan’s history when Jesuit priests as well as early Japanese Catholic converts were being tortured and killed for their beliefs. I have read plenty about Japanese martyrdom to be aware of what the movie is portraying and do not need to see a graphic R-rated movie about the subject! In a nation with no concept of forgiveness or grace it is not hard to imagine that brutality would be a regular practice a few hundred years ago.
However, I wanted to pass along some little known history about Japan. I read that Francis Xavier was able to see as many as 3 million converts to Catholicism in 16th Century Japan because of the foundation of Christianity that had already been laid by people hardly anyone knows of that came one-thousand years before his arrival!
My father-in-law gave us a Smithsonian Japanese Lecture Series which indicates that there were three major waves in Japanese history, in which Japan went from being an open country to a closed country. During the first wave, Japan was at the end of the ancient Silk Road, which made it a desirable trade location. Because of this apparently ancient central-Asian Christians came to live there! It is thought that these Christians were descendants of the converts of the disciples Thomas and Bartholomew who went far east as well as north to spread the Gospel. This ancient Assyrian as well as Indian church had many contacts throughout Asia including China, Korea, and Japan.
Currently, most Japanese are falsely taught that Francis Xavier was the first to come to Japan to introduce “Christianity”. However, as much research appears, that story is becoming harder to keep. If the story of Francis Xavier introducing “Christianity” from the West becomes dispelled, while the idea of ancient Christianity becomes accepted, then the notion that Christianity is a “Western” religion in Japan will be dismissed! This is important to missionary work, because it will help Japanese realize that Christianity came to Japan before Buddhism! Please pray that this information will make breakthroughs in Japan!
If you want read more about Japan’s very first Christians I’m enclosing a link to two articles:
Japan Times Article on Ancient Christianity
CBN Article on Ancient Christianity