UNESCO Recognizes Heritage of Japans ‘Hidden Christians’ in World Heritage List

On Saturday, UNESCO added 12 historic sites in southwestern Japan linked to Christian persecution to the World Heritage List.

One of those sites includes Oura Cathedral in Nagasaki, which is the country’s oldest surviving church and is already considered a national treasure. It was built in 1864 to honor 26 Christian martyrs.

The sites also include the remains of Hara Castle. The Catholic revolt Shimabara-Amakusa took place there in 1637, which forced many Japanese Christians to practice their faith in secret for fear of increased persecution.

The Japanese Catholic Church welcomed UNESCO’s decision. Cardinal Thomas Aquino Manyo Maeda told The Japan Times that he is descendent of the country’s “hidden” Christians.

“The registration brings with it something profound and meaningful, in which a true peace for peoples comes when there is respect for each other,” he said.

According to newspaper, some 100 people including local government officials gathered at a museum in Nagasaki to celebrate the announcement.

Some attendees reportedly prayed historic prayers passed

“I’m proud that my hometown is now recognized globally,” Satomi Ogino told the news source. “I’d like to convey the value of the heritage site to my 1-year-old son someday.”

Meanwhile in Amakusa, approximately 450 people also gathered to celebrate the decision.

“They cast a spotlight on predecessors who kept their faith. I was able to witness a great day,” Emiko Yoshimura, a church leader said.

Nagasaki Gov. Hodo Nakamura said in statement he hopes the recognition with make his citizens proud.

“We would like to give pride to residents and excitement to visitors through this heritage by engaging in preservation of the sites and revitalization of the region,” he said.