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The Kirishtan Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Kirishitan Martyrs
to the nearly one million indigenous Japanese Christians who were martyred for their faith in the Kirishtan Holocaust over a 250-year period beginning February 5, 1597.
The Kirishitan Martyrs
February 5, l997 is being memorialized as the 400th anniversary of the first killings of the Kiristan Holocaust in which approximately one million Kiristan or indigenous Japanese Christians were slaughtered for their faith.
On February 5, l597, atop a hill in Nagasaki, Japan, 26 individuals ranging from 12 to 64 years of age were stretched out and crucified upon crudely build crosses. This slaughter marked the beginning of a nearly 250-year nightmare that decimated the Christian church in Japan--which at that time, according to A History of the Christian Church in Japan by Dr. Richard Drummond, was "the largest single organized religious community within the nation." Today only about three Japanese in a thousand claim to be Christians.
One of Xavier's first acts was to preach the Gospel to these descendants of the Keikyo. Many eagerly returned to the faith of their forefathers. Within a year, nearly 10,000 had experienced a revival so dramatic that, by 1600 A.D., the Christian Kirishtan comprised the single largest organized religious community in Japan.
Five children ranging in age from 12 to 19 were among those killed on February 5.
Ibaragi Kun from Kyoto--at 12 years of age the youngest of the group--from Kyoto was admired until the end for his remarkable courage in the face of death.
Shortly after they were led to the place of their execution, an official came to him and begged him to recant his faith. Young Ibaragi Kun looked his tormentor squarely in the eye and replied, "Sir, it would be better if you yourself became a Christian and could go to heaven where I am going. Sir, which is my cross?"
The stunned official pointed to the smallest of the crosses on the hill. Ibaragi Kun ran forward, knelt in front of his cross and embraced it like a friend. Along with the others, he sang praises until he could sing no more.
"Which Is My Cross?" This brave lad's final words have become a rallying cry for those seeking to keep the memory of this holocaust alive.
An appeal for prayer for Spiritual Awakening and Revival in Japan is being put out in connection with the February 5 memorial. Japan, which still functions under a political and social system established upon the blood of these Christian martyrs, is facing serious challenges.
A series of stridently anti-Christian laws are seeking to distract the attention of the Japanese people from the slow financial, moral, economic and political collapse of their nation. We believe their only hope for recovery lies in the power of God, demonstrated in the sacrifice of the nearly one million Christians--mostly women and children--who gave up their lives during the Kiristan Holocaust, and catalyzed by the prayers and concern of the many Christians across the world who have committed themselves to setting aside this day for special prayer.
The persecution reached its peak in 1622, when many priests were publicly beheaded or burned at the stake, according to Tokyo's Keikyo Institute. The Institute was established by the Japanese government in 1947 to research the history of the Keikyo people.
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© The Keikyo Institute 1998