“Stepping into Silence” is an exhibit which highlights art that presents images of both suffering and tragedy, as well as hope and redemption, and stirs one to confront tough, realistic questions on sin, persecution, and salvation.
The World of “Silence”
In anticipation of filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s new religious epic, “Silence” (2017)–based on Japanese Roman Catholic author Shūsaku Endō’s prolific novel of the same name–the Regent University Library has opened “Stepping into Silence,” an exhibit of related historical artifacts as well as artistic responses by renowned Christian painter Makoto Fujimura. Often hailed as one of the 20th century’s most influential pieces of Catholic literature, Silence highlights the persecution of Japanese Christians during the 17th century. The main character, Portuguese Jesuit missionary Father Rodrigues, witnesses the extreme suffering and spiritual brokenness of the Japanese believers under his charge. He wrestles with many heavy questions: Is there forgiveness for those who renounce Christ? Where is God when He seems silent?
Art, Culture, and Global Christianity
Fujimura’s artwork offers an element of tangible reconciliation for these questions. The artist has extensively researched Endō and his work, and Fujimura’s four exhibited pieces, each unique in composition and subject matter, offer a beautiful, vital marriage of Christian ideology and Japanese heritage. Harold Henkel, the dean of the library, encourages students to experience this exhibit as a way of expanding their understanding of global Christianity: “The Japanese church is very small; less than 1% of Japan is Christian…[this exhibit is] an opportunity to see the spirit of Japanese Christianity.”
Following the Path of Silence
Such grim source material as found in the exhibit may appear daunting to a prospective audience; fortunately, however, the exhibit offers a thorough commentary which adds both spiritual and cultural dimension to “Silence.” It includes ten different stations, each highlighting a different facet of “Silence’s” complex world. Brochures available at the beginning of the exhibit offer a path to gaining a better spiritual perspective on Endo’s work. Visitors realize that “Silence” demands a thoughtful examination of both history and faith; “Stepping into Silence” provides them with a wonderful way to do so.
The exhibit, which is located in the back of the library’s first floor, will be open until February 4th. For more information on the exhibit or the novel itself, click here.
Caroline Roberts is a contributor to The Daily Runner.