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Hidden Christians of Japan
Letters from Japan, May 2022
Happy belated Ramadan to all who celebrate and to my home.
I love all the events surrounding Ramadan and what, at least once, the season culturally meant for my country. However, I am not a religious person. When you are brought up in a region where faith has always been used as a political tool to praise or condemn religion and where secularity is rarely granted even when it exists on paper, constitutions, it becomes, at least for me, a little more challenging to develop a healthy sense of spirituality.
It sure does not help that religious affiliations, especially in the last two decades, have become linked to some sort of political inclination or statement in almost any region in the world. So it took me 30 long years to finally start separating the sense of faith and spirituality from organized religion. And only then, during the last decade, I slowly started developing an appreciation for the need for spirituality in one's life. I sure have not found (enough of) it yet, but I will probably keep looking till the end of my days.
You may already be wondering where I am getting to with all this. As is often the case with my posts, to another recent trip – this time covering Goto Islands located off the coast of Nagasaki in Kyushu.
The Goto Islands had for centuries been home to Hidden Christians of Japan hiding from the persecution authorities of the mainland during a long period when Christianity was officially banned in Japan (1614-1873). It was a period of severe persecution, vividly depicted in the movie Silence by Martin Scorsese, when groups of Japanese Catholics, later known as Kakure Kirishitans, were forced to practice their religion in secrecy. Over the centuries, the religion practiced by the Kakure started differing from conventional Catholicism to such a large degree that some groups refused to rejoin the Catholic Church when the ban on Christianity was finally lifted in 1873.
This was a trip where the questions surrounding faith, religion, spirituality, and sense of community resurfaced for me. A link to a recent post on my website – a Journey to Goto Islands: a Matter of Faith or Religion?
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