A dozen Christian locations in parts of southern Japan where members of the faith were once brutally persecuted were selected for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list on Saturday.
The 12 sites include 10 villages, Hara Castle and Oura Cathedral, a Catholic church in Nagasaki that is dedicated to 26 Christians who were executed for their beliefs over four centuries ago.
The decision was announced in the Bahraini capital Manama. In a press statement UNESCO said that the 12 sites “bear unique testimony to a cultural tradition nurtured by hidden Christians in the Nagasaki region who secretly transmitted their faith”.
Christianity in Japan dates back to 1549, when European Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier arrived in the country with two companions and the religion began spreading in western Japan.
As more missionaries arrived and the faith spread, Japanese military leaders became increasingly suspicious of its growing influence and a crackdown against Christians began from 1589.