Saint of the Week: The Martyrs of Japan
5 February 1597
The Christian faith was first introduced into Japan in the sixteenth century by Jesuit and later by Franciscan missionaries. By the end of that century, there were probably about 300,000 baptized believers in Japan.
Unfortunately, this promising beginning met reversals, brought about by rivalries between different groups of missionaries and political intrigues by the Spanish and Portuguese governments, along with power politics among factions in the Japanese government itself. The result was a suppression of Christians. The first victims were six Franciscan friars and twenty of their converts, who were executed at Nagasaki on 5 February 1597.
After a short interval of relative tolerance, many other Christians were arrested, imprisoned for life, or tortured and killed; and the Church was totally driven underground by 1630. However, when Japan was re-opened to Western contacts 250 years later, it was found that a community of Japanese Christians had survived underground, without clergy, without Scriptures, with only very sketchy instructions in the doctrines of the faith, but with a firm commitment to Jesus as Lord.
The stained glass depicts the faces and praying hands of six martyrs of Unzen, now applying for beatification.
Adapted from: http://justus.anglican.org, http://www.unzen.org