So, last week in my inbox there were two “news alert” emails.
One claims that 2016 was the hottest year ever on earth (during record-keeping times). Alarming.
More alarming: The other email reports that in 2016 Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the world; 90,000 believers died, or one every 6 minutes.
Coincidentally, several of our staff took a field trip last week to see the movie “Silence,” adapted from Shusaku Endo’s masterpiece novel of the same name. It portrays the historical persecution of Christians in Japan in the 1600’s, something I knew almost nothing about before a few weeks ago. The story plays out through the eyes of two young Portuguese Catholic priests who travel to Japan to find a famous priest who had either died or disappeared, and to discover whether he had denied his faith or stayed true to it.
The method of questioning Christians in the first few hundred years of Christianity in the Roman Empire was to ask believers to simply say “Caesar is Lord.” Some Christians would do it, others would refuse, and those who did would often die as a result. In 17th-Century Japan, the authorities became tired of the missionary priests and the spreading faith, so they outlawed Christianity. They created little bronze images of Jesus and asked the suspected believers to step on them, thus “trampling” Christ and denying Him.
It’s an incredibly sobering, thought-provoking, violent movie, and it tends to make you rethink simplistic answers to persecution, not to mention wondering how you would fare if you found yourself in such a difficult situation. If you’ve seen it, I’d encourage you to go to the following web address: http://silenceandbeauty.com. The site is a companion piece to the movie, with videos and a discussion guide by contemporary Japanese Christian artist Makoto Fujimura, who wrote a book, “Silence and Beauty” in response to Endo’s book.
Finally, I would encourage anyone interested in knowing more about the persecution of Christians around the world to check out the international organization “Open Doors.” www.opendoorsusa.org