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Japan’s “Hidden” Christian Sites Added to World Heritage List

It’s official! UNESCO added on June 30, 2018 to the World Heritage list the 12 sites in Japan linked to the history of persecuted Christians.

In a meeting in Bahrain, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee decided to protect the historic sites and awarded them World Heritage status. Most of the sites are located in Nagasaki Prefecture, reports The Japan Times.

It conveys a major message about how essential religious faith is. —Cardinal Manyo Maeda

The Oura Cathedral, the Asian nation’s oldest church, is included in the prestigious list. A national treasure, the Oura church served as home to hidden Christians who escaped persecution for most of the Edo Period (1603- 1868).

Other sites on the World Heritage List include the Hara Castle Ruins, known as the final battle ground of a large uprising of Christian peasants; and the village of Sakitsu in Amakusa, Kumamoto Prefecture where Japanese Christians practiced their faith in secret.

According to UNESCO, the sites “bear unique testimony to a cultural tradition nurtured by hidden Christians in the Nagasaki region who secretly transmitted their faith during the period of prohibition from the 17th to the 19th century.”

The local government and residents of Nagasaki Prefecture celebrated the honor and recognition given to these newly added sites. In a statement, Nagasaki Gov. Hodo Nakamura said, “We would like to give pride to residents and excitement to visitors through this heritage by engaging in preservation of the sites and revitalization of the region.”

Meantime, Cardinal Manyo Maeda praised the World Heritage listing of the sites, reports The Asahi Shimbun. “It conveys a major message about how essential religious faith is,” he said.

Cardinal Maeda’s ancestors were persecuted Christians in the early Meiji Era (1868-1912). He said having these sites recognized will allow people to learn more about the story and heroism of “hidden” Christians. People will know about “human rights, including the preciousness of life and freedom of religious beliefs, and the importance of having a dialogue (with people who don’t share similar values).”

Sources:
The Japan Times
The Asahi Shimbun

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