Japan: Japan’s oldest church likely candidate for UNESCO world cultural heritage status in 2018

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Christian sites in Japan including country’s oldest church selected by a panel of Japanese government, as a collective candidate for UNESCO World Cultural Heritage status in 2018. Nagasaki’s Oura Catholic Church, has already been designated as a national treasure by the Japanese government.

Oldest church in Japan
Built in 1853, the Oura Catholic Church Ñ or Church of the 26 Martyrs Ñ in Nagasaki is the only Western-style building declared a national monument and the oldest Christian church in Japan.

The panel further recommended 12 other momentous assets from Kyushu which include churches marking distant islands in Nagasaki and the village of Sakitsu in Amakusa, Kumamoto area, which became safe haven to some Christians who flee persecution during the era of Japan’s history of banning Christianity.

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In the 17th century Christianity spread rapidly through Japan so that at one point the country housed largest population of Christians outside of European rule. The shoguns who were the de facto rulers of the country; became doubtful of the European missionaries, seeing them heralds of military invasion, and launched a massive persecution of the Japanese Christians.

Consequently, Christians revolted which was followed by a ban on Christianity in Japan, and gradually tight restrictions on foreigners in Japan were implemented. With Christianity prohibited, the Japanese Church was forced into going underground.