Europe and the World History Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1304 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

¶ … Mission" and Silence

Themes of Religious Persecution within Endo Shusaku's Silence and Roland Joffe's the Mission

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In the novel Silence (1969) the Japanese author Endo Shusaku describes how, in the early 1600s, a time of severe persecution of Christians within Japan, for religious and economic reasons, two Portuguese priests smuggle their way into that country in an effort to help Christian converts there. However, much like the Jesuits portrayed within Roland Joffe's 1986 film, the Mission, which portrays a small group of Jesuits' unsuccessful efforts to protect indigenous peoples of rural Colombia from Portugese and Spanish bounty hunters who would sell them into slavery, the Portuguese missionaries who enter Japan are arrested, tortured, and ultimately defeated. The treatment of the priests within Silence, and the violent defeat of both the Jesuits and the Indians, in the Mission, underscores various troubling issues having to do with the persecution of Christians, by repressive governments and other forces, during the 17th and 18th centuries. However (especially in the case of the novel Silence) the nature of Christianity itself is also pondered, as is the implicit question, as an underlying theme within the novel, of what sort of Christianity is being imported, and why it might be unwelcome. Both Silence and the Mission imply sympathetic as well as unsympathetic views of Christianity, as practiced by those who would bring it to non-Christianized areas and peoples. Both trade and religious conversion were primary but inherently conflicting goals of the various groups of Europeans who came into contact with the peoples of the Americas (as represented within the Mission and of Asia (as represented within Silence). In this essay, I will analyze, compare, and contrast religious and cultural persecution of Christians within both of these works, and foreign trade as an interfering factor within each story.

Term Paper on Europe and the World History Assignment

Within the Mission, the Jesuits from Europe are ultimately defeated in their mission (the double meaning of the film's title is deliberate) to help the indigenous peoples, not by government, but rather, by competing European economic interests, particularly the economic interests of the Portugese. Moreover, because the priests within the Mission are Jesuits (historically and ideologically radicals within the Catholic church) the church does not in fact support their efforts to maintain and defend Mission San Carlos, which they have built, and where the Indians of rural Colombia now safely and happily live. In Silence, Endo Shusaku describes how, in the 17th century, Christianity was practiced only in secret by Japanese Christians, due to severe religious intolerance on the part of the government there. Moreover, according to the web article "Christianity (Japanese)," Silence is:

the story of foreign missionaries attempting to convert seventeenth-century

Japan to Christianity in the face of relentless persecution by the authorities.

Under torture the missionaries give in - they are defeated not only by men, but also by Japan itself. Endo's story has a universal significance; the Christianity which he shows to be so unsuitable for Japan is, for many people, equally unsuitable for the modern West; and if the concepts of God, sin and death need to be reconsidered for one country, they must need reconsideration in all. Indeed, the very popularity of Endo's novel would seem to proclaim a Japan not indifferent to Christianity but looking for that form of Christianity that will suit its national character.

Like the Mission, Shusaku's Silence has an economic theme as well. As Melvin Pena explains:

Portuguese missionaries must contend with traders from rival European nations and the persecution of Christians by Japanese feudal lords. The feudal lords want to drive Christianity out of Japan, and try to do so by torturing priests into apostasy, denying their faith. This is done symbolically by stepping on a "fumie," a Christian image, like a picture of Mary or a crucifix.

Two Portuguese priests, Sebastian Rodrigues and Francis Garrpe, make a dangerous journey to Japan, both to locate and comfort Japanese… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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