Religion sparks further conflict in an unstable Japan Violent Christian extremists put strain on relationship between Christianity and Buddhism

Bo Jang/The Varsity


In the year 1570, a religious crisis broke out when a group of Christian radicals attempted to murder followers of the Buddhist faith in Southern Japan. Many innocent villagers were killed in the attack, straining the previously-peaceful relationship between Japanese Buddhists and Christians.

Since the Portuguese converted many of the Japanese leaders to Christianity, civilians have been influenced to follow suit. Despite this major shift, the two major religions of Christianity and Buddhism have managed to maintain peaceful relations until now. 

However, recent uprisings of both Buddhist radical groups and Christian extremists have disrupted the peace. The Christian’s open act of violence left angry Buddhists and an infuriated Rennyo, a head priest heavily affiliated with the Buddhist radical group Ikkō Ikki, demanding justice.

“Peace-loving, innocent villagers practicing their faith were unjustly murdered,” states Rennyo. “Christianity is evil for provoking genocide.” 

However, others argued that not all Christians take part in radical groups; it would be wrong to inflict severe punishments or condemn the religion as a whole.

Further conflict broke out when delegates began to side with a specific religion. Supporters of Buddhism were in favour of taking action to target Christianity, demanding that Christians “take their religion back to their Western countries.” 

Mōri Motonari also proposed a more forceful approach to the issue with an impartial standpoint, expressing that religious persecution should be punishable by death. Motonari’s directive has already been passed in his own province of Aki. With its apparent effectiveness, Motonari suggested that his directive be passed throughout all of Japan.

However, the delegates looked unfavourably on these violent approaches, considering the current state of Japan. Religious tolerance would be a much more peaceful approach to the issue, avoiding the chance of another dreaded war. 

Currently, unity is crucial in Japan. Tokugawa Ieyasu, daimyō of a minor house and retainer of Lord Ōda, was one of many committee members who repeatedly emphasized that provinces must work together in order to restore prosperity across the nation.

With clans suffering from famine, struggling to obtain resources, and now further conflicted by religious disparity, it is more important than ever for the people of Japan to set aside trivial differences and focus on progressing as a whole nation. 

In time like these, it is important for Japan to maintain peaceful relationships amongst its clans to further unify the destabilized nation. Japan currently stands in a sensitive state that cannot risk the dangers of a religious conflict that can certainly be avoided.