The Japanese cabinet on Feb. 16 approved withdrawing its bid to add churches and other Christian sites in southwestern Japan to the UNESCO World Heritage register.
A UNESCO advisory panel asked Japan in January to review its nomination of the 14 locations in Nagasaki and Kumamoto prefectures, citing failure to explain their overall value, The Japan Times reported.
The sites include Nagasaki’s Oura Church, built in 1864 and Japan’s oldest church, and the Sakitsu community in Amakusa, Kumamoto Prefecture, where Christians practiced their faith despite a ban, persecution and even torture starting in the 17th century.
The period gave rise to the nation’s so-called “Hidden Christians,” who retained their faith and traditions down the generations despite having almost no contact with the Christian community overseas.
The government considers that the sites illustrate the 250-year history of Christianity in Japan, from the period of persecution to the faith’s subsequent revival. About one percent of today’s population is Christian.