Columnists > There is an important distinction between being martyred and being on a suicide mission

04 January 2017 | by Richard Leonard

There is an important distinction between being martyred and being on a suicide mission


Every so often there is a film that haunts you. Silence is one of them for me. Not that it is easy watching. True to its title, there is no lush soundtrack to sweep the emotions along. Though the stories are related on so many levels, Silence is a very different piece to The Mission.
Based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 award-winning novel of the same name, the drama opens with the 1614 edict in Japan, ordering all foreigners and their colonial influences, especially their religion, to be expunged from the country.

Word arrives at Macao that Fr Cristóvão Ferreira (played by Liam Neeson), the Jesuit superior in Japan, has apostatised, converted to Buddhism and is collaborating with the Japanese government.

Two of Ferreira’s Jesuit students – Fr Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Fr Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver) – do not believe that their former teacher has defected. They volunteer to go on a secret mission to Japan to find Ferreira and discover the truth. In time they are tracked down, captured and tortured.

Even to this day, we can be inspired when we hear of heroic men and women, religious or otherwise, who are prepared to die so that others might live, remain defiant in the face of evil or give their lives in the service of justice. Martyrs walk the talk and pay the price. We need them, though their witness usually provides an uncomfortable contrast to what we would do in similar circumstances. Most of us come up short.


Subscribe to The Tablet from just £19.99 quarterly
3 options available

Share this story

Article List

Post a Comment

You can post as a subscriber user...

User Comments (0)


Sign up for our newsletter

Sign Up

Latest Issue
Digital/PDF Version

PDF version (iPad-friendly)

Previous Issues
Tablet Subscription

Manage my subcription here