missionaries to India and the Far East.
When the King of
Portugal requested that missionaries be sent to colonies in the Orient,
Ignatius of Loyola
selected Francis Xavier for the job. One of Xavier's early successes was
among fishermen and their families along the Coromandel Coast of India.
In the midst of a Hindu population, the new Christians were drawn from
the lower castes. Working through Tamil interpreters, Xavier taught young
people the basics of the Christian faith: Lord's Prayer, Creed, and Ten
Commandments. Xavier then sent these young people to teach their elders
in the Tamil language. In 1549 Xavier arrived in Japan, and some two years
later left behind, in this Buddhist civilization, a few small groups of
converts. Xavier tried to reach China, but died just short of this goal.
In 1583 the Jesuit Matteo Ricci reached China. Eventually Ricci gained
the favor of the emperor through the gift of some clocks. Like Xavier,
Ricci sought to communicate the Christian message in a Chinese context.
By the time of Ricci's death, the church in China may have had about 2,000
members. In 1614, long after Xavier's death, Christians suffered brutal
persecutions in Japan.