Wed, Feb 12, 2020 - Page 13 News List

Digging deep into the underground faithful

A four-day journey through ‘hidden Christian’ country in southwestern Japan answers many lingering questions from the movie ‘Silence’

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

We pass by Shikairou restaurant, which stands next to the site of Japan’s very first bowling alley, and where champon, Nagasaki’s Chinese-influenced signature dish was, first invented in 1899. Making our way up the hill, we arrive at Oura Cathedral, built in 1865 before the ban was lifted to serve the growing foreign population.

A display in the church recounts the story of how nearby hidden Christians showed up at the church one day, revealing to the clergy how they had maintained their faith for more than two centuries. This led to renewed persecution of hidden Christians, who were banished from the area until the ban was lifted.

We see one last piece of Catholicism at the Nagasaki Hypocenter Park where the bomb exploded — a section of the Urakami Cathedral walls. Completed in 1925 (also on a former site where Christians were tortured), it was once the largest Christian structure in the Asia-Pacific before the bomb hit 500 meters away. The wall was moved to this park during reconstruction.

Many lingering questions I had from Silence were answered during this trip, but it’s still quite surprising how the hidden Christians risked death — and often chose death — rather than renouncing their religion. Atop the memorial at nearby Peace Park, through the trees I make out the rebuilt Urakami Cathedral in the distance — a testament to the perseverance of faith.

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