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The Impact of Religious Persecution on Art

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

Historically, art has always been used as a way of expression. It holds so much power over one’s emotions and has different effects on everyone. It also allows you to see subjects through somebody else’s point of view while spreading awareness of difficult topics such as religious persecution. Religious persecution is a significant continuity throughout history, and art inspired by it can tell remarkably impactful stories.

One of the largest instances of religious persecution is the Holocaust. Out of this came a portrait called “Mocking a Jew at Prayer.” In the image, is a rabbi reading from the torah, dressed in traditional Jewish clothing. Around him are three German officers, one with a visible Swastika on his sleeve, laughing. This painting is an extremely accurate depiction of what Jews faced in the 30's and 40's and is still relevant today.

Mocking a Jew at Prayer

Going back even further, in 1587, the Japanese Shogunate banned Jesuit missionaries, as Christianity was a growing threat. People responded differently, and some fled or gave up on their Christian beliefs. Religious paintings from this time are very prevalent. Depicted on a scroll, with black ink, are 15 different biblical scenes of the life of Jesus and Mary. The scroll is currently on display at Sawada Miki Kinenkan Museum in Japan.

Fifteen biblical scenes

In more recent years is the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda. This took place during the Rwandan Civil War. Almost lost during this was a traditional art form called Imigongo, usually made by women using cow dung. It used to be a royal art and consisted of patterns and geometric designs painted on walls, pottery, etc.


Art plays a huge role in history, especially when it comes to religion. We can learn so much about other cultures and what they have gone through. Art is an amazing method of education and can help people events through a new lens.

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