by Mark Wolter As many of you know Japan, although an economic powerhouse and advanced country, is one of the poorest spiritual countries in the world. ("The world's largest unreached people group" - Joshua Project 2007) With a less than .5% Christian population and 1 in 1,000 people attending an evangelical church on Sunday, Japan is a place that needs hope. But how did it get this way?
When Christianity first came into Japan it was adopted by many top leaders and became VERY popular. Kyoto, for example was a hot-bed of Christian activity and the church experienced great growth. Then, very quickly, Japan began to see Christianity as an imperialistic threat, just as it had been in the Philippines. For the next 300 years or so, Christianity was brutally and completely eradicated from Japan. A more closed country the world has never known!
In addition to other very shrewd ways of finding Christians (like the "fumie" - a picture of Jesus that EVERYONE had to step on and renounce Christ as they did), for over 260 years, EVERY family was put into groups of 5 families to monitor Christians. If in one family there was found to be a Christian without the others snitching, then all 5 families would be killed! This was called: 連帯責任（rentai sekinin) meaning, "united responsibility." (If there is one person who gets in trouble, the whole group is responsible because they didn't help fix it.)
During this "Go-nin-gumi-seido" (5 person group system) Sometimes problems arose and one family or person began to dislike another family. Sometimes people would falsely report a family in their group as being Christians. Therefore, it was very important to treat outside people very politely and nicely, even better than members of your own family.
People are still pressured today to be a part of the neighborhood group that cleans the neighborhood area (for example) and demands a fee to be a member. Instead of death, the fear of being gossiped about or being regarded as a "breaker of harmony" still looms large! People are shamed therefore into making a good face to outsiders. Outsiders, at least as an outward show, receive better treatment than insiders.
Please pray for Maki and I to do more than show a good face! Pray that we have God's true love for outsiders. I will pray the same for you.
(Read more about this at Mark's blog: www.markandmaki.blogspot.com)