"Stepping into Silence" Exhibit

"Stepping into Silence" is a meditative exhibition designed to engage with Shusaku Endo’s powerful novel Silence by means of historical artifacts and artistic responses.

About the Exhibit

The "Stepping into Silence" exhibition grows out of a timely convergence: Wheaton College chose Silence as a core text for the new  Christ at the Core curriculum the same year as the projected release of Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited film adaptation of the novel.

The live exhibit is on display at the Billy Graham Center Museum from August 15 - September 30, 2016, and houses artifacts associated with the 17th-century persecution of Christians in Japan and the responsive works by acclaimed artist Makoto Fujimura. The online exhibit featured here offers an alternative for those who are unable to visit the exhibit in person.

About the Collection

The artifacts in this collection bring to life the suffering of Kakure Kirishitan (hidden Christians) and the public test of the fumi-e. The collection includes governmental and religious items showing the prohibition of Christianity, items associated with the secret Christ-worship of Catholic Kakure Kirishitan, and several fumi-e and Buddhist representations of fumi-e, including a rare paper fumi-e.

Makoto Fujimura’s artworks, placed at the beginning, middle, and end of the exhibition, serve as signposts to reflect on the themes of Silence through the course of the numbered works.

The purpose of this exhibition is to lead you to experience the novel’s essential theme: God’s grace speaks through trauma, failure, ambiguity, silence, and hiddenness.

Read more about the historical context of Christianity in Japan >

Explore the Exhibit

The works are intentionally sequenced as a meditative journey into Shusaku Endo’s novel. In the words of Makoto Fujimura, whose book Silence and Beauty explains the nature of the journey,

Silence is not a triumphant pilgrimage with clear outcomes, but a meandering pilgrimage of one wounded by life and confounded by faith, whose experience of faith has been punctuated by betrayals, his own and those of others. Endo notes repeatedly in his memoirs and through his characters that through his own struggles of faith God never let him go.

We invite you to move through the sequence of stations and allow the works, passages, and reflections to enhance your engagement with the novel. We hope that when encountering the fumi-e, you will consider yourself a pilgrim whose suffering and failures may yet be the way God speaks—through silence—with radical grace.

The exhibit is a partnership between Wheaton College’s English Department and Core Studies Program with More Partnerships, the Oxley family, the Billy Graham Center Museum, Rule29, and Crossway Publishing.

Begin the "Stepping into Silence" Exhibit

View the first piece of the exhibit, Ju-nan (Passion) Panel.