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AS8 07-60 Asia Research Institute
3 June 2024, 10:00 - 12:00

Japan’s Encounter with Christianity began with the arrival of St. Francis Xavier in 1549. The missionaries who followed him found themselves caught up in the “Warring States” period, when feudal warlords vied for dominance. This lecture will explore the cultural, linguistic, and religious challenges that the Jesuit missionaries faced, as they encountered a completely different culture and religious tradition. They established schools and also a printing press in their efforts to create a new Japanese Christian literature. The first persecution began under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who executed the first 26 Christians in 1597. A few years after the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603, further persecutions and martyrdoms followed. Thereafter, Christians survived underground in and around Nagasaki for more than 250 years. They re-emerged in 1868, only to face new persecutions, until partial religious freedom was granted first in 1873 and then formalized in the Meiji Constitution of 1889.  More than 10,000 of their descendants were killed when the atomic bomb exploded directly over Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki in 1945. This presentation will highlight some of the major events that marked this turbulent history.

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About the Speaker: 

M. Antoni J. Ucerler, S.J., D.Phil. (Oxon.), was born in London, England. A Jesuit priest, he has lived and worked in Turkey, Canada, Poland, Italy, Taiwan, and the United States. He has also been a missionary in Japan since he first went there in 1985. He has previously taught at Sophia University in Tokyo, Oxford University, Georgetown University, and the University of San Francisco. He currently serves as the Director of the Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History and Associate Professor of History at Boston College. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and an Associate Fellow of Campion Hall at Oxford University. He is also Co-Chief Editor of Studies in the History of Christianity in East Asia, a monograph series of Brill Academic Publishers in Leiden, The Netherlands. His most recent book is The Samurai and the Cross: The Jesuit Enterprise in Early Modern Japan (Oxford University Press, 2022).

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Writing a History of 
Singapore Catholics 

15 February 2024

4 p.m. AS8 04-04

The island of Singapore has long thrived on the fusion of trade and culture, and this history goes back at least 700 years; a tradition which continues into Singapore’s immediate past. The open and friendly demeanor of the Malay world made the rise and spread of Peranakan communities and culture possible. It rose from a multitude of vastly different sources; from trader settlers and sojourners to even colonial invaders.

Beginning in 1832, this story is about the meeting of different cultures, who are united under a newfound religious faith. While most other communities at this time were bound by some degree of clan, racial affiliation or language, the newly formed Roman Catholic community was different. From its early days, it was an amalgam of people from different backgrounds. Beginning in 1834, intermarriages between these different groups began, mainly between China-born, Teochew men and Melaka Serani, Malay, Peranakan Chinese and Indian women. It is possible that divisions did exist, but there were also more opportunities to overcome them than previously recognized. In effect, this community predates modern concepts of multicultural and multiracial Singapore by at least a century.

In this talk, Marc Sebastian Rerceretnam will discuss his research about the history of Singapore Catholics and present the new edition of his book "A History of Immigrant Roman Catholics and Converts in Early Singapore 1832-1945."

About the Speaker: 

Marc Sebastian Rerceretnam is a Sydney-based freelance researcher, published author and social historian. He has a Ph.D. (Economic History) from Sydney University and has a special interest in social and political trends and movements in colonial and present-day Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. He was a 2019 recipient of a Lee Kong Chian National Library Board Fellowship. In 2021 he published his first book on the history of Singapore Catholics. 

Discussants: 

Cyprian Lim

Bruce Lockhart

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