The government is set to retract its recommendation to UNESCO that a slew of churches and other Christian sites in southwestern Japan be listed as World Heritage sites after the international body found fault in its bid, government sources said Thursday.
The decision to withdraw the recommendation on 14 locations in Nagasaki and Kumamoto prefectures for a later submission is expected to be approved at a Cabinet meeting next week at the earliest, the sources said.
A UNESCO advisory panel notified Japan in mid-January that the country’s latest World Heritage submission, in its current state, may not make it to the formal screening this summer, saying the explanation of the roles of the individual locations was insufficient.
Japan sees the sites as reflecting the 250-year history of people practicing Christianity in secret due to persecution, as well as its later revival.
The sites the government recommended last January include Nagasaki’s Oura Church, the country’s oldest Christian church designated as a national treasure, and Sakitsu village in Amakusa, Kumamoto Prefecture, where some Christians hid to escape persecution.
Experts from the International Council on Monuments and Sites inspected the sites between September and October last year and are expected to present their findings to UNESCO around May for screening at the World Heritage Committee in July.