May 18, 2007

How wrong was the pope?

Holy disaster:  Pope alienates indigenous peoplesIn a speech at the Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate, the pope characterized pre-contact Indians as "silently longing" for Christianity and stated that "the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture." It may be the most blatantly erroneous statement about the Christian legacy on indigenous cultures ever uttered.

Not only did the pope's comments exhibit an ever-increasing general arrogance that aims to deny the rights of indigenous peoples around the world but, in this rare case, they came straight from the source. Millions of tribal people died as a result of the institution of the 15th century Inter Caetera papal bulls that provided legal justification for European colonization of the Native people of the Americas (including Brazil where Benedict spoke) and Africa. Then, Indians were slaughtered, enslaved or exposed to deadly diseases. Now, Native survivors of Christian colonization efforts suffer its traumatic generational effects: a diminished ability to relate to and practice traditional life ways, social exclusion and learned sexual abuse. If this does not qualify as an "imposition" on the culture of indigenous peoples, what does?

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