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Announcing Our 2015 Courage to Be Essay Contest Winner!

In “The Practice of Courage: From Martyrs to Suicide Bombers,” one of the classes sponsored by the Hannah Arendt Center’s “Courage to Be” program, members of the class debated the virtue of martyrdom. Among the literary works they read was Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel Silence, which tells the story of the Portuguese Jesuit priest Sebastião Rodrigues and his companion Francisco Garrpe, who slip into Japan in 1639 to support the local Christian population, which has been driven underground as a result of persecution. At this time, suspected Christians were required to step on the fumie—an image of Jesus Christ or Marie—in order to prove their rejection of the faith. Those who refused to do so were hung upside down over a pit and slowly bled to death. When Rodrigues enters Japan, he feels that he is prepared for the martyrdom he might face, but he is haunted by stories he has about Cristóvão Ferreira, his mentor and predecessor in Japan, who is rumored to have apostatized. When Rodrigues is arrested, he is shaken by the threat made by Inoue, the magistrate of Nagasaki, not that he himself will be put to death if he refuses to trample the fumie, but that Japanese Christians, who are already suspended in the pit, will be put to death if he declines to do so. Is martyrdom a virtue if the martyr brings about, not his death, but that of others?

Students were asked to discuss in their papers the courage, or lack of courage, of Rodrigues’s response to this question. Their essays were subsequently entered into our Courage to Be Essay Contest. We are pleased to announce that the winner of this contest is Sophie Strand. You may read her paper by clicking on the link below.

The Selfish Dreamer: An Examination of Rodrigues’ Faith and Courage in Shusaku Endo’s Silence

sophie strand

Sophie Strand

About Sophie Strand

Sophie Strand is a Senior at Bard College. She is studying Written Arts and has a passion for medieval saints, mycology, and Middle English.

About Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel Silence

Endō’s Silence is based upon the experiences of actual Portuguese Jesuits in Japan in the seventeenth century and even incorporates historical documents from their cases. Martin Scorsese’s film version of the novel, starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson, will be released in 2016.

Posted on 16 September 2015 | 8:00 pm

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