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The Syrian Christians
These were a group of Nestorian Christians originally from Syria, who travelled to China in several waves. The earlier ones arrived in China from Turkey in the 7th century and others in the 10th century:
the Syriac name for Edessa, which, finally, is modern Urfa in Turkey. ... It is here and in Persia that [the Apostle St. Thomas] proselytized the Syrians, and it is here that the Syrian Christians, known to Europeans as Nestorians, would flourish and spread eastwards after the sixth century even up to Kublai Khan's court in ChinaLink
the 10th century Nestorian Christian missionaries ... passed through Kashmir on their way to ChinaLink
One of their legends presents their leader St. Thomas the Apostle as the evangelist of China: after allegedly preaching to the Indians, he supposedly came to China and preached to the Chinese as well. It is claimed he then returned to India where he died. Nevertheless, he's given a tomb in China. He's also given a tomb in many other places: Brazil, Germany, Japan, Tibet, Malacca, and no less than 6 tombs in India.
The section Syrian Christians in India shows that the St. Thomas, who supposedly preached in China and India in the 1st century, never visited those places. The section The Apostles has more information on St. Thomas.
Syrian Christians claim the older Chinese Goddess must be Mary
The ancient and much-revered Kwan Yin, the deity also known as the Goddess of Mercy, is known throughout the Mahayana Buddhist lands. Tibet and India had an equivalent Hindu-Buddhist deity who was known among both populations under different names. Ignorant of the ancientry of this important character in China and elsewhere, Syrian Christians today claim that this must have been Mary, and that they introduced this character to China, even though she was known there and in other lands before Christianity.
Today's Syrian Christians further state that some of the many old Chinese statues, figurines and paintings of Kwan Yin had at one point in time been representations of Mary. However, they omit to tell the complete story, concealing a very important fact either through genuine ignorance or on purpose: the original images had all been those of the Chinese Kwan Yin, which Jesuit missionaries and their converts later on desecrated and altered by inserting Christian elements. In some cases they even decapitated Kwan Yin statues and replaced them with facile heads of Mary. At other times they redrew or painted over existing representations of Kwan Yin.
After finally regaining their freedom from Christian oppression, the Chinese over time merely restored their old images of Kwan Yin to their original states and removed the Christian additions.
Mary was introduced with Catholicism in China
It is to be noted that Nestorians, who were the early (non-Catholic) Syrian Christians, cannot have brought the concept of reverence for Mary to China or anywhere else.
The History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science by John William Draper states that with regard to Mary, the Nestorians:
could never be brought to an acknowledgment of the perpetual virginityand that they considered her:
not as the Mother of God, but as the mother of the human portion of Christ
the Nestorians ... denied that God had "a mother."
[St] Cyril was determined that the worship of the Virgin as the Mother of God should be recognized, Nestor was determined that it should not.See the section on Nestorius for more.
Therefore, they did not revere her nor did they waste time making images of her. It was only much later, after Catholic missionaries converted many of the small Syrian Christian groups in Asia to Catholicism, that reverence for Mary as the Mother of God entered their now-Catholic beliefs. Only the Catholic missionaries and the converted Syrian Christians (or Chinese converts) could have created any images of Mary and altered Kwan Yin images to represent the Virgin. Thus, any knowledge about Mary was introduced into China many centuries later: when the Catholic Church entered there (see Catholicism enters China). The very ancient presence of images of and reverence for Kwan Yin in China far antedate this.
Despite these facts, one can still find several Catholic "Syrian Christians" and books about them ignorantly citing the restored Kwan Yin statues as proof that the Chinese Kwan Yin (and her Japanese equivalent too) is actually Mary, and that the Syrian Christians had taught the Chinese about a "Goddess of Mercy".
There's a distinction to be made: the earlier Christian presence in China, which had nothing to do with Mary, has been appropriated by Catholic converts from among them. These and other Christians now wrongfully date later Christian influences as having taken place much earlier instead.
From Chapter 17 - Early History of Catholic Power in Siam and China, of the book Vietnam: Why did we go? by Avro Manhattan:
The Catholic Church started its operations in Thailand / Siam in the early 17th century.
At almost the same time the Catholic Church was also attempting to impose herself upon another Buddhist culture, the largest in the world: China.
Converting the ruler in order to convert non-Christian China
[Captioned image]Early in the seventeenth century, Jesuits had managed to penetrate the Imperial Court and convert a Chinese Empress to Catholicism. This conversion was a major coup for the Catholic Church in her strategy to impose herself, upon the whole of Buddhist China. Since the Empress was the center of the Imperial Court, the source of Supreme power, she became the pivot round which the Catholic Church planned her exercise of mass conversion.
Jesuit astronomers in the court of the Emperor of China and two Chinese converts with crosses, Madonna, and IHS wafer symbol. Jesuit missionaries succeeded in converting a Chinese Empress thus gaining access to high political influence. As the Vatican began expanding this influence, resistance increased eventually creating open rebellion. Some of the European nations became involved by diplomatic pressure, economic measures carried out under the threat of European gun boats off the Chinese coast. The end result was another major Asiatic nation closed to Western influence and missionary activity for hundreds of years.
Chinese Empress renames herself Helena and baptises her son Constantine
The potential appeared unlimited. The Chinese Empress had become a pliable tool in the hands of the Jesuits, who manipulated her to implant Catholic influence at all levels. Her piety had turned into a personal zeal to serve the Catholic Church in everything. She even changed her Chinese name into that of the Empress Helena after the Roman Empress, mother of Constantine, who had given freedom to Christianity in the Roman Empire. Indeed, not content with that, she baptized her son with the name of Constantine to indicate the role which the boy was intended to play in the future conversion of Buddhist China for the Catholic Church.More on the original Constantine, first Christian Emperor of Rome, and his Christian mother Helena, upon whom the Chinese Empress wanted to model her son and herself:
Catholic minority is given all the benefits and imposes on Buddhist China
Her religiosity soon radically altered the practices and regulations of the entire Court so that Roman Catholicism seemed to have superseded everything. Conversion to the Catholic Church meant advancement, privilege, and wealth, not to mention power in the administration and even in the Army. This Catholic minority grouped round the Empress began to exert such influence that it became first resented, then feared, and finally opposed by those who wished to maintain the traditional Buddhist culture of China.
If the Empress and her advisors the Jesuits had contented themselves within the restrictive circles at court, her religious operations, although objectionable to the Buddhists, might have been tolerated. But the Empress and those surrounding her set out on a grandiose scheme: the conversion of the whole of China to the Catholic Church.
Requesting the Pope to send more missionaries, whilst brutally suppressing Buddhist China
They sent a special mission to Rome to ask the Pope to send hundreds of missionaries to help accelerate the conversion of China to the Catholic Church.
While waiting for the Pope's response, the Catholic minority began implementing this conversion from the Empress to the Mandarins, to the bureaucratic machinery, and finally to the teeming millions of Chinese peasantry. The scheme however, encountered wide spread resistance from the beginning. Persuasion to conform to the semi-official influence of the Catholic Church soon necessitated special regulations, and later legislation. Opposition was suppressed at first by discriminatory measures, then arrests, and finally with brute force.
Outside the Court circle and the Catholic minority, the campaign met bitter mass resistance. This bitterness was nourished by the fact that those who became Catholic enjoyed the most blatant privileges, while the Buddhists suffered under the most discriminatory laws ever recorded in living memory by the Buddhist majority.
China is victorious, Christianity retreats and waits for a while
The campaign reached its most controversial level, when rumors came that the Pope had agreed to send hundreds more missionaries to help convert the whole country to Catholicism. The news created more unrest and mass demonstrations which were ruthlessly suppressed. Popular resistance eventually grew to such intensity that finally the European nations had to intervene to quell the "rebellion" as it was called, using diplomacy and commercial measures carried out under the menacing presence of European gunboats off the Chinese coast.
The Catholic Church's attempt to rule and then convert China through a Catholic indigenous minority ended in total failure; but not without having first created unrest, chaos, revolution, national and international commotion, in her attempt to impose herself upon a great, unwilling, Asiatic nation.
Although China won that time, it's not over yet. Attempts were made to convert the country in the late 20th century, which failed. The Joke of Christianizing China, by B. W. Williams, available from the American Atheist Press, presents
An analysis of the Christian outreach to China and why it was bound to fail. [Link]Christianity's bid for China is ongoing. The Catholic Church, Protestant denominations and the new Evangelical groups are all working on it.
- Sainting criminals for China
Pope John Paul II, with a hopeful eye on the future of China as a Catholic nation, has given its non-Christian population a large number of saints. He has canonized all those he could find in China's traumatic past under the Church. Those canonized include European missionaries and Chinese converts known for their criminal behaviour.
- China targeted by Christianity today - Protestant missions have also latched onto this country.
Our thoughts turn first of all to the blessed Apostle Thomas who is rightly called the founder of preaching the Gospel to the Hindus. Then, there is Francis Xavier, who long afterwards dedicated himself zealously to the same praiseworthy calling. Through his extraordinary perseverance, he converted hundreds of thousands of Hindus from the myths and vile superstitions of the Brahmans to the true religion.Link
-- Ad Extremas, Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, 1893
Link, has a little more on the man who called for inquisitions in Goa and after whom many missionary schools in India are named."Following the baptisms, the new Christians return to their homes and come back with their wives and families to be in their turn also prepared for baptism. After all have been baptized, I order that everywhere the temples of the false gods be pulled down and idols broken. I know not how to describe in words the joy I feel before the spectacle of pulling down and destroying the idols by the very people who formerly worshipped them."Xavier did this after the Hindu raja [king] of Quilon had given him a large grant to build churches.
-- Saint Francis Xavier, in a letter to the Society of Jesus
After the Portuguese settlement, hundreds of temples in and around the Portuguese-held territories were demolished, often to be replaced with Catholic churches. "Saint" Francis Xavier described with glee the joy he felt when he saw the Hindu idols smashed and temples demolished. Most sixteenth and seventeenth century churches in India contain the rubble of demolished Hindu temples. The French-held pockets witnessed some instances of Catholic fanaticism as well. Under British rule, Hindu places of worship in the population centres were generally left alone (some exceptions notwithstanding), but the tribal areas became the scene of culture murder by Catholic and Protestant missionaries.Link
These refugees were given a home by Hindu rulers in the south of India. India had also given refuge to Zoroastrians fleeing from Persia in the 7th century, Jews, as well as more recently, Tibetans and Buddhist monks including the Dalai Lama. It's noteworthy that all these other (non-Christian) communities get along well with India's indigenous Hindu and Buddhist religions.
The Syrian Christians claim to have come to India fleeing persecution in the first century, led by the Apostle St. Thomas himself. This early date is of course impossible, since the Roman Church started its persecutions in the 4th century (and started persecuting the Nestorians/Syrian Christians in the 5th century), and Persia's persecution of treacherous Christians in its midst occurred around that time or just after. The story of an Apostle Thomas leading them is also fiction.
The first Christians to emigrate to India came in 345 C.E. They landed at Cranganore in Malabar, the ancient port on the mouth of the Periyar where it joined the Arabian Sea. They were four hundred refugees from Babylon and Nineveh, belonging to seven tribes and seventy--two families. They were fleeing religious persecution under the Persian king Shapur II, who had driven them out of Syria and Mesopotamia because he considered them a state liability. Rome, Persia's arch enemy, had begun to Christianize under Constantine, and Shapur had come to suspect the allegiances of his Christian subjects.From: The Myth of Saint Thomas
The Syrian refugees were led by a semi-legendary figure who is known to history variously as Thomas of Cana, Thomas the Merchant, Thomas the Canaanite, Thomas of Jerusalem, Knaye Thoma, Thomas Cananeus, or Thomas Cannaneo. Nothing is known about him except his name, and this migration of Christians also cannot be treated as historical fact.
K.S. Latourette, the American church historian, in A History of the Expansion of Christianity, supports this view. He does not allow for the possibility of Christians coming to India by any route before the third century. T. Edmunds, the Lutheran church historian of T.B.M. Lutheran College, Porayar, Tamil Nadu, confirms the traditional date of 345 C.E. for the first migration.
Although the Syrian Christians are now also called (St.) Thomas Christians, this name appeared much later, from a time when this non-Catholic group was converted to Catholicism:
Bishop Giovanni dei Marignolli, the Franciscan papal legate who built a Roman Catholic church in Quilon, in 1348, is the first person to use the appellation "St. Thomas" Christians. He did this to distinguish Syrian converts from low-caste Hindu converts in his congregation. This allowed the former Nestorians to retain their caste status as Roman Catholics. The appellation "St. Thomas" Christian is thus of Roman Catholic origin and indicates a social division within the Roman Catholic Church.Link
The myth of St. Thomas ...was invented by the Syrian Christians of Malabar and later taken over by the Portuguese...Link, also contains information on the various versions of the Jesus came a-visiting to India fable. One of the footnotes contains a very amusing revelation: according to one author, Jesus, Mary, Moses and Thomas are all buried in India.
...The first St. Thomas story was invented to give these Syrian immigrants Indian ancestry and the patronage of a local martyr-saintóChristianity is the religion of martyrsóand it was resurrected and embellished in the sixteenth century by Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries who needed a pious story of persecution to cover up their own persecution of the Hindus. This is another reason for the Church to promote the story in Madras, for during that period she and her imperial Portuguese "secular arm" destroyed many temples in Mylapore and its environs.
German scholars whose work on Indian churches is yet to be translated and published in English ...assert that most sixteenth and seventeenth century churches in India contain temple rubble and are built on temple sites.From: The Myth of Saint Thomas
This page also shows that, like the fictional St. Benedict was credited with the demolition of pre-Christian temples in Europe, the Portuguese and Syrian Christians, who were the actual culprits, attributed the destruction of India's temples to St. Thomas who never set foot there. In reality, the destruction of all these shrines were performed by Christians.
And the historian T.R. de Souza, quoted by M.D. David in Western Colonialism in Asia and Christianity, writes,Link"At least from 1540 onwards and in the island of Goa before that year, all Hindu idols had been annihilated or had disappeared, all the temples had been destroyed and their sites and building material were in most cases utilized to erect new Christian churches and chapels."
In 1567 the Captain of Rachol Fort in South Goa bragged to his Portuguese king back home,From: Is the March over?, By Mario Cabral e Sa, Goa"For nights and nights went on the demolishing, demolishing, demolishing of 280 Hindu temples. Not one remained in the happy lands of our division."Jesuit historian Francisco de Souza jubilantly praised the feat,"It is incredible--the sentiment that the gentile were seized of when they saw their respective temple burning."
Chapter 15 and Chapter 14 of The Myth of Saint Thomas contain more information on the destruction of the shrines of the Indians in various parts of their country by the Christian Portuguese, British and French.
The inquisition in Goa instigated by Saint Francis Xavier ended later than those of Europe:
"I discovered that historians consider the Goa Inquisition the most merciless and cruel ever developed. It was a machinery of death. A large number of Hindus were first converted and then persecuted from 1560 all the way to 1812!"Link
-- Richard Zimler, in an interview about his book Guardian of the Dawn
...in the year of 1812, the British put pressure on the Portuguese to put an end to the terror of Inquisition and the presence of British troops in Goa enforced the British desire.From: Historian de Souza on the Goa Inquisition - Warning: some gruesome parts.
It contains information on enforced mass conversions, more temple destructions and prohibitions on indigenous rituals for marriage and death, the giving of indigenous names and the practise of local beliefs. It also has details on the tortures inflicted on the poor Indians during the Goa Inquisition.
"conversions were made," wrote contemporary Portuguese chroniclers, with "the cross in one hand, the sword in the other"From: Is the March over?, by Mario Cabral e Sa, which contains more information
Portuguese evangelists ... force-fed Goan converts beef and pork declaring--incorrectly--that the neophytes could never return to Hinduism.
- The Myth of Saint Thomas, an online book and related articles. It contains Marco Polo's account, and some of the later conflicting versions of Apostle Thomas' preaching in India. The site refers to more books on the subject.
See more on the Apostles, including Thomas.
- About Goa under the Portuguese: Flight of the Deities: Hindu Resistance in Portuguese Goa, by Paul Axelrod and Michelle Fuerch, in Modern Asian Studies, 30:387-420, 1995
The Goa Inquisition by Dr. T. R. de Souza, Is the March over? by Mario Cabral e Sa and Guardian of the Dawn, by Richard Zimler, a historical novel about the inquisitions in Goa.
- Christians on rare occasions (in later, less savage times, or if they were not powerful enough in the region), instead of forcing Indians to convert, tried to argue why Christianity was the only true religion. The Question of Conversion in India by Sarah Claerhout and Jakob De Roover presents these dialogues from a few centuries ago, which took place between the Hindus and the non-murderous missionaries:
No matter how much the missionaries stressed the falsity of the Hindu religion, their subjects of conversion maintained that "every one may be saved by his own religion, if he does what is Good, and shuns Evil" [Ibid: 15]. And when Ziegenbalg tried to show how wicked and ridiculous their Gods were, one of the "Malabarian" Hindus stood up and told him "that it does not become an holy Man to blaspheme our Gods; for true Piety despises no Man upon Account of Religion; and 'tis therefore we Malabarians do neither condemn nor despise the Christians upon the Account of their Religion"Hindus, like Buddhists, apparently don't comprehend the concept of one True Religion and that it entails intolerance and destruction of all others.
- Western Colonialism in Asia and Christianity, by M.D. David
- Empires of the Monsoon: A history of the Indian ocean and its invaders by Richard Hall
- Christianity in India today
From Chapter 18 - History of Catholic Aggressiveness in Japan, of Vietnam: Why did we go? by Avro Manhattan:
In the history of Japan we have an even more striking instance of Vatican aggressiveness with profound repercussions in the world. As in China and Siam, the basic policy was to see that Catholic merchants and Catholic priests worked together so that both, by extending their own interests, should ultimately extend those of the Catholic Church.
16th century Japan welcomes trading missionaries with open arms
Contrary to popular belief, when Japan first came into contact with the West she was eager for the interchange of ideas and commercial commodities. From the first chance landing of the Portuguese in Japan, foreign merchants were encouraged to call at Japanese ports. Local potentates vied with one another in opening their provinces to Western merchants. Catholic missionaries were as welcome as the traders, and set about spreading the Catholic faith in the new land.
These missionaries found a powerful protector in [Daimyo] Nobunaga, the military dictator of Japan (1573-82). He was anxious to check the political power of a certain movement of Buddhist soldier-priests, but also held a genuine sympathy for the work of the Christians who were newcomers. He encouraged them by granting them the right to propagate their religion throughout the Empire. He donated them land in Kyoto itself and even promised them a yearly allowance. Thanks to this, in no time the Catholic missions had spread throughout the country, converts were made by the thousands, establishing sizable Catholic centers in various parts of Japan.
External loyalty to the Pope endangers the security of Japan
As is explicit in her doctrines, the Japanese converts could not remain the subjects only of the Japanese civil authorities. The mere fact that they had entered the Catholic Church made them also the subjects of the Pope. Once their loyalty was transferred outside Japan, automatically they became potentially disloyal to the Japanese civil rulers.
This brought serious dangers to both the internal and the external security of the Japanese Empire. Internally, religious intolerance led to violence against other religions because of the fundamental Catholic tenet that only Catholicism is the true religion. This, of course meant civil strife.
In the external field, Japanese communities, by following the directives of foreign missionaries, had to favor not only the commercial interests of Catholic foreign merchants but also the political plans of Catholic powers intent on political and military penetration of the Orient.Not many years after the first Catholic missionaries appeared, Japanese civil rulers began to realize that the Catholic Church was not only a religion, but a political power intimately connected with the imperialistic expansion of Catholic countries like Portugal, Spain, and other Western nations.
Persecuting the indigenous religions of Japan: forced conversions, murders and demolished temples
The nefarious tenet of Catholicism that only Catholic truth is right and that error must not be tolerated began to produce its fruits in newly discovered Japan. Whenever Catholic converts were made and Catholic communities expanded, Catholic intolerance raised its head. Whenever Japanese Catholics formed a majority, the Buddhists and members of other local faiths suffered. Not only were they boycotted, but their temples were closed and, when not destroyed, were seized and converted into churches. In numerous cases Buddhists were forcibly compelled to become Christians, their refusal resulting in loss of property and even of life. Faced with such behavior, the tolerant attitude of the Japanese rulers began to change.
Catholic communities in Japan predictably become political instruments
In addition to this internal strife, the political ambition of the imperialistic Catholic nations began to present itself in ways that the tolerant Japanese rulers could no longer ignore. The Vatican, on hearing of the phenomenal success of Catholicism in the distant empire, set in motion its plan for political domination. As its custom was, it would use the ecclesiastical administration of the Church, together with the military power of allied Catholic countries. These were eager to bring the cross, the Pope's sovereignty, profitable commercial treaties and military conquest all in the same galleons.
The Vatican had followed this type of political penetration ever since the discovery of the Americas. Numerous Popes, including Leo X, had blessed, encouraged, and indeed legalized all the conquests and territorial occupation by Catholic Spain and Portugal in the Far East. Chief among them was Alexander VI, with his grant to Spain of all "firm land and islands found or to be found towards India, or towards any other part whatsoever."  (The Pope's Bull, made to Castille, touching the New World.) Japan was included in this Papal benediction of Portuguese and Spanish imperialism.
When, therefore, Japanese Catholic communities became strong enough to support secular Catholic power, the Vatican took the first important tactical step toward its long-range political stranglehold: the coordination of the new Catholic communities in Japan as political instruments.
To carry out this policy, in 1579 the Vatican sent one of the ablest Jesuits of his time, Valignani, to organize the Japanese Church along those lines. Of course for a time Valignani's design remained screened behind purely religious activities and received enthusiastic support from numerous powerful Japanese princes, such as Omura, Arima, Bungo, and others. In their provinces he erected, with their help, colleges, hospitals, and seminaries where Japanese youth trained in theology, political literature, and science.Once this penetration was deep enough into the religious, educational, and social structures of the provinces of these princes, Valignani took his next step and persuaded them to send an official diplomatic mission to the Pope. When the mission returned to Japan in 1590 the situation there had altered drastically. Hideyoshi, the new master of Japan, had become keenly conscious of the political implications of Catholicism and its allegiance to a distant Western religio-political potentate like the Pope. He decided to unite with Buddhism, which owed no political allegiance to any prince outside Japan.
New ruler of Japan takes action against Christian intolerance
[Captioned image]In 1587 Hideyoshi visited Kyushu and to his astonishment found that the Catholic community had carried out the most appalling religious persecution. Everywhere he saw the ruins of Buddhist temples and broken Buddhist idols. The Catholics, in fact, had forcibly attempted to make the whole island of Kyushu totally Catholic. In indignation Hideyoshi condemned the attacks on the Buddhists, the Catholic religious intolerance, their political allegiance to a foreign power, and other real misdemeanors and gave all foreign Catholics an ultimatum.
Daimyo Hideyoshi ruled Japan during the time when the Jesuit Valignani was organizing the long-range political stranglehold of the Vatican. In 1587 he visited the island of Kyushu and found appalling persecution of the Buddhists by the Catholic community. He found that the Catholics had forcibly attempted to make the whole island of Kyushu totally Catholic. Condemning the Catholics for their religious intolerance and political allegiance to a foreign power, he gave them twenty days to leave the country. Although it took several years to fully expel the foreign Catholics and stop expansion of Roman Catholicism in the country, the country was ultimately sealed off to any Christian influence for several hundred years.
They had just twenty days to leave Japan. Churches and monasteries were pulled down in Kyoto and Osaka in retaliation for the attacks upon the Buddhists, and troops were sent to Kyushu.Such measures were only partially successful since the society had been so deeply penetrated. In 1614 all Catholic foreign priests were ordered to be deported once more. The injunction was precipitated by an even more serious issue. The Catholic missionaries, besides fostering religious intolerance among the Japanese, had begun to fight a most bitter war against each other.
Jesuits and Franciscans fight, leading to fears of civil war and foreign intervention
Vicious quarrels between the Jesuits and the Franciscans had split the Christian communities themselves. These feuds became so dangerous that the Japanese ruler feared they would lead to civil war. They also saw that civil war could mean the military intervention of the Portuguese and Spaniards to protect either the Jesuits or the Franciscans. This involvement of foreign armies could mean the loss of Japan's independence.
Was this fear exaggerated? The tremendous expansion of Catholic Portugal and Catholic Spain was there to prove that the danger was a real one. The coming of the Franciscans as special envoys from the already subjugated Philippines in 1593 caused Hideyoshi no end of alarm. The Franciscans ignored the ban on Christian propaganda, constructed churches and convents in Kyoto and Osaka, defying the authority of the State. To complicate matters, they began violent quarrels with the Portuguese Jesuits. What at last made Hideyoshi take energetic measures was a small but significant incident.
Japan finds out about the global pattern of Christian colonialism through use of missionaries and conversions
In 1596 a Spanish galleon, the San Felipe, was shipwrecked off the coast of Tosa. Hideyoshi ordered the ship and its goods confiscated. The angry Spanish captain, wishing to impress or intimidate the Japanese officials, indulged in some boasting how Spain had acquired a great world empire. For proof the captain showed the Japanese officials a map of all the great Spanish dominions.
His astonished hearers asked how it had been possible for a nation to subjugate so many lands. The Spanish captain boasted that the Japanese would never be able to imitate Spain, simply because they had no Catholic missionaries. He confirmed that all Spanish dominions had been acquired by first sending in missionaries to convert their people, then the Spanish troops to coordinate the final conquest.When this conversation was reported Hideyoshi's anger knew no bounds. His suspicions about the use of missionaries as a first stepping-stone for conquest was confirmed. He recognized this pattern of cunning conquest at work within his own empire. In 1597 both Franciscans and Dominicans came under the imperial ban. Twenty-six priests were rounded up in Nagaski and executed and an order expelling all foreign preachers of Christianity was issued. In 1598 Hideyoshi died, and Catholic exertions were resumed with renewed vigor until Leyasu became ruler of Japan in 1616 and enforced even more sternly his predecessor's expulsion edict.
Japan finally takes measures against Christianity
Foreign priests were again ordered to leave Japan, and the death penalty was inflicted on Japanese Christians who did not renounce Christianity. This persecution took a more violent turn in 1624 under Jemitsu (1623-51) when all Spanish merchants and missionaries were ordered to be deported immediately. Japanese Christians were warned not to follow the missionaries abroad and Japanese merchants not to trade any longer with Catholic powers. To make certain that these decrees were respected, all seaworthy ships which could carry more than 2,500 bushels of rice were to be destroyed. The government decided to stamp out Catholicism in Japan. Further edicts in 1633-4 and in 1637 completely prohibited all foreign religion in the Japanese islands.Undoubtedly, the Christians, who burnt shrines and enforced conversions, would not have liked to be on the receiving end when Japan's government finally asserted control over the situation.
Japanese Catholics become traitors and fight their own government
At this point Japanese Catholics began to organize themselves for violent resistance. This broke out in the winter of 1637 in Shimbara and on the nearby island of Amakusa. These regions had become wholly Catholic, mostly voluntarily, but some by use of forcible conversion. Led by their Western priests, these Catholic communities began to arm and organize themselves in military fashion to fight against the government.
The Japanese government, fearing that these Catholic groups might be used by Western Catholic governments for the territorial conquest of Japan, taxed them to the point of destitution. The Jesuits, who meanwhile had been preparing for physical resistance, set on foot a Catholic army of 30,000 Japanese with standards bearing the names of Jesus, Maria, and St. Ignatius fluttering before them.They marched against the civil and military representatives of the Japanese government, fighting bloody battles along the promontory of Shimbara near the Gulf of Nagasaki. Having murdered the loyal governor of Shimbara, the Catholic army shut itself in his well constructed fortress and held out successfully against the guns and ships of the Japanese forces. Thereupon the government asked the Protestant Dutch to lend them ships large enough to carry the heavy guns needed for bombarding the Catholic fortress. The Dutch consented and the Japanese were able to bombard the citadel until it was finally destroyed and practically all the Catholics in it massacred. The immediate result of the Catholic rebellion was the Exclusion Edict of 1639 which read as follows:For the future, let none, so long as the Sun illuminates the World, presume to sail to Japan, not even in the quality of ambassadors, and this declaration is never to be revoked, on pain of death.
Japan restricts further trade with the West and bans Christianity
The Edict included all Westerners with one exception, the Dutch, who had earned their privilege of remaining by aiding the defeat of the Catholic rebellion. Nevertheless, even they were put under extreme restrictions simply because they were also called Christians. To the Japanese, anything connected with Christianity had become suspect of deceit, intolerance, and conquest.In this way, Japan successfully put a stop to all possible means of evangelisation.
The Dutch themselves had to move their headquarters to the tiny island of Deshima, in Nagasaki Bay. They lived almost as prisoners, permitted to set foot in Japan proper only once a year. The most forcible restrictions, however, concerned Christianity's religious ceremonies. The Dutch were not permitted to use Christian prayers in the presence of a single Japanese subject. The Japanese had become so incensed with anything which even reminded them of Christianity that the Dutch were forbidden to use the Western calendar in their business documents because it referred to Christ.By now Christianity represented in their eyes nothing but the torturous Western device for political and military domination. When finally the Dutch signed a trade agreement, among its seven points were four connected with Christianity:
1. Commerce between Japan and Holland was to be perpetual.
2. No Dutch ship should carry a Christian of any nationality or convey letters written by Christians.
3. The Dutch should convey to the Japanese governor any information about the spreading of Christianity in foreign lands that might be of interest.
4. If the Spaniards or Portuguese seized countries by means of religious machination, such information should be given to the Governor of Nagasaki.  (See The Far East Since 1500 by Paul E. Eckel; Harrap, 1948.) In addition to this, all books belonging to Dutch ships, especially those dealing with religious subjects, had to be sealed in trunks and turned over to the Japanese while the ship was in port. The Dutch, who at first were permitted to sail seven ships a year, were later restricted to one. Suspicion of the perversity and cunning of Christians became so profound that they even strengthened the first edicts by new ones. It became a criminal offense for any Christian ship to seek refuge in a Japanese port or for any Christian sailor to be shipwrecked off the coast of Japan.
Japan closes itself to the world until the U.S. forced it to open up
To all intents and purposes Japan became a sealed land, "hermetically" closed to the outside world. It remained sealed about two hundred and fifty years until Commodore Perry, in the middle of the last century, opened the gates of the Land of the Rising Sun in unmistakable Western [Christian] fashionóby pointing against the recluse nation the yawning mouths of heavy naval guns. When America sent Perry, and his Black Ships entered Japan's waters, they used the threat of their fire power to blackmail Japan into opening up for trade again. This time, the trade was enforced and accompanied by Protestant missionaries from the U.S. instead of those from Europe's Catholic nations.
 It is strange that America, as late as the beginning of the second half of the last century, was tempted into behaving like the Catholic Church in her dealing with Japan. Suffice to quote the New York Weekly Tribune referring to the Perry mission."In this state of things, going thus into pagan realms, it behooves us [Protestant America] not to lose opportunity of laboring for the spiritual benefit of the benighted Japanese. Let not these misguided men, fighting for their own, perish without the benefit of the clergy."
The Dutch, though mostly Protestant, were far less religious than their British counterparts and the later Americans. Their lack of interest in religiously dominating other people is the reason why their presence in colonised countries like Japan, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka was not often considered as great a threat to the indigenous religions of those regions. Their presence was also much smaller than the contingents of Spanyards, Portuguese, English and French. For these reasons, their record is not the same as the other Christian colonists who killed unwilling heathens, enforced mass conversions and demolished indigenous shrines to replace them with Churches.
The material excerpted above from Avro Manhattan's book is also available online from a Protestant site that preaches some born-again fundamentalist type of Christianity. (The book and author themselves have nothing to do with that site or its beliefs.) As such, that site's editors therefore altered the author's work by putting quotation marks around most references to Christians and Christianity, because like other fundamentalist Evangelical organisations, the site does not consider Catholicism to be a Christian denomination at all. These inserted quotation marks are not in accordance with Manhattan's original work, since the author, correctly, did not delink Catholicism from Christianity in this way.
After their horrible encounter with the religion centuries ago, it seems that the Japanese at least have learnt their lesson, with only 1% of the population following Christianity today. This is of course seen as a very important reason to evangelize among them once again. Fundamentalist Christians, other Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church continue their attempts to regain Japanese confidence and convert the people.
Abuse by Christian Church leaders, endemic to Christianity, has now also been introduced to Japan.
Recent news testifies to this: Church founder sentenced to 20 years for raping, abusing girls - Mainichi Daily News, 21 Feb 2006
KYOTO -- A church founder accused of 22 counts of rape and sexual assault against seven girls was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment by the Kyoto District Court on Tuesday.