For Christians across the world, faith is a source of hope and comfort. Jesus's triumph over death offers a reason for joy whatever the circumstances, and a promise that light will ultimately overcome darkness. But if we only talk about victory, we risk denying the reality of the other half of life. Where is God in our doubt, in our defeat - and even in our despair?
These thorny questions are at the heart of Silence, a new historical epic film from master director Martin Scorsese. The story, based on the classic 1966 novel by Shusako Endo, centres on two young Jesuit priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver), who travel to Japan in the 17th Century to search for their missing mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson).
Setting off on this dangerous journey at a time when the church in Japan is facing terrible persecution, these men will find their faith tested to the limit.
Rodrigues, whose journey we follow most closely, arrives in Japan with a very fixed idea about his mission and about God's plan for him. He is courageous, more than prepared to face suffering and even death for the sake of his faith and for the Japanese people: but things don't pan out the way he had imagined. Instead of glorious martyrdom he finds himself looking at something far more challenging - the real, unglamorous face of Jesus, who offers grace to cowards and martyrs alike.
As God works in this broken world, Silence suggests, victory might sometimes look like defeat, and we will struggle to hear the answers we crave. 'Rodrigues believes that he will be the hero of a story that we all know very well: he will be the Christ figure,' says Scorsese. 'But he learns that God's love is more mysterious than he knows and that God is always present, even in His silence.'
This film, released January 1st 2017, promises to be a provocative look at faith in adversity, and a powerful reminder of the Christians who still suffer for their beliefs around the world today.
This article has been sent to us by Damaris Media, who create free film resources for community groups. Download Silence resources, including a reflection and discussion guide for church groups, here: silence.damarismedia.com.
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