Article source: JOY! Magazine

Footprint of Christianity
Christianity reached Japan in 1549 with the arrival of Portuguese missionary Francis Xavier. By 1595 there were ± 300 000 Japanese Christians. However, ruler Hideyoshi expelled all Christian missionaries and persecution followed. In 1597, 26 Christians (aged 12-64) were crucified in Nagasaki. By 1859 Christianity was again established in Japan with the arrival of Protestant missionaries. Today Christianity is perceived as Western and not suitable for Japanese people, hence a reluctance to be converted.

Quick facts:
• Only 0,8% of the population are professing Christians.
• Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
• Japan is one of the least reached countries in the world.
• Religious radio stations are not permitted in Japan.
• Niijima Jō (Joseph Hardy Neesima) was the first native-born Christian minister (1874). He founded Doshisha University – still one of Japan’s most influential Christian universities.
• In 1883, Protestants reported 130 churches, 70 educational institutions, and ±5000 members.

What do they believe?
There is no single dominant religion in Japan, but people practice Shinto and Buddhism. Generalisations are dangerous, but this is the general Japanese opinion about God and faith:
• There is no universal God.
• There is no heaven or hell.
• Eternity: A dead person’s spirit does not go anywhere specific, but something does continue after death.
• No devil, sin, or judgement: Human nature is basically good. The idea that someone can be a sinner who needs grace, is foreign.
• No clear scriptures on what to believe. No clear set of “commandments” on how to behave.
• Harmony: The highest value is probably wa – harmony, or harmonious relationships with others. Therefore, ideas of good and evil or right and wrong will normally be considered in relation to what preserves harmony in any given situation, rather than as absolutes.

People tend to be ignorant of Christianity. Their questions are often more about lifestyle rules, not Christianity itself. This lack of knowledge can lead to social persecution. They tend to confuse Christianity with cults, such as Aum Shinrikyo, whose members released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995 (14 people died), or the Unification Church, whose fundraising practices led to an angry young man assassinating the former prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. Therefore, the Japanese are wary of Christianity.

Pray for Japan
With over 65% of the population unreached with the Gospel, please pray for the Good News to be made known across this country.

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Date published: 24/03/2024

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