Revoking Doctrine of Discovery – Church confiscation of indigenous lands and providing restorative justice for victims by siphoning Third World debt
Posted on October 22nd, 2014

Shenali D Waduge

 Who is to be accountable for over 100million deaths and the confiscation of lands and territories, the elimination of entire tribes, the dehumanizing of values, cultures and the replacement of indigenous legal systems that prevailed? It is undoubtedly the Church whose edicts sanctioned Christian monarchs and explorers to ‘invade, capture, vanquish and subdue’ all non-Christians and reduce them to ‘perpetual slavery’ and ‘take away all their possessions and property’. This capture of already inhabited lands and territory and taking possession of them simply because they were non-Christian happened 500 years ago but still continues with these nations now in debt to the same Western industrialists and corporates. Should it not be time that 500 year edicts that continue still be revoked and the Third World nations be given some reprieve by siphoning off their debt so they could rebuild the lives that the papal bulls were responsible for?

 The Roman Catholic Church issued the following papal edicts that changed the lives of millions of indigenous natives as well as took away the ethos of their indigenous lands forever.

·         Terra Nullius” in 1095 issued by Pope Urban II at the beginning of the Crusades giving Kings and Princes of Europe the right to ‘discover’ or claim non-Christian areas.

·         Dum Diversas” in 1452 – War declared against non-Christians, conquests authorized of their nations and territories, non-Christians declared uncivilized, subhuman and without rights to land or nation. Christian leaders claim God-give right to take control of all lands and this idea was used to justify war, colonization and slavery.

·         Romanus Pontifex’ in 1455

·         inter caetera” in 1493 – this decree gave orders by the Pope to convert natives of non-Christian lands to Catholicism in order to strengthen the Christian Empire”.

·         Manifest Destiny” in 1845 was just another name for Doctrine of Discovery promoted by John L O’Sullivan to defend US expansion and claims to new territory. The idea was a continuance on the Church notion that whites held a natural right to expand the nation and spread ‘freedom and democracy’.

 These were orders granted by the Pope to Portugal to rule the East and Spain to rule the West giving them the right to invade, capture, vanquish, subdue, convert and reduce to slavery all lands, territory and people that were non-Christian.

 Thereafter, in 1495 King Henry VI followed the papal edicts and commissioned explorer John Cabot to claim on behalf of the crown the lands of heathens and infidels not yet discovered by ‘any Christian people’.

 This became the foundation of the decision by the US Supreme Court in 1823 in the Johnson v M’Intosh case that cited the Cabot charter to justify America as a Christian discovery and turn Native Indians into landless people. The Christian Doctrine of Discovery thus was quoted in the US to deny Native American Indians their land, the doctrine was used to deny natives land in Canada and repeated in Australia as well. Yet the US Constitution says “No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”

 How ethical and moral is it for lands and territory to be taken away from people who were living in them for centuries earlier simply because these lands were not Christian? As a result the lands/territories with inhabitants in Americas, Africa and Asia were all stolen and a bogus ‘independence’ was created after these nations had been pilfered of their natural assets and resources and the Christian lands built up their nations with the stolen wealth. Thereafter they began global trade with banking systems that they controlled leaving countries further impoverished and unlikely to ever come out of the debt trap.

 The general excuse is let bygones be bygones. Nevertheless, what the proponents of the ‘let bygones be bygones’ theory is that there is no likelihood of the developing nations ever coming out of the trap unless the nations that caused the peril accept and play a role in compromising to make amends for histories injustices.

 Helping nations come out of abject poverty, bringing sunshine into the lives of people living in the dark and unable to make more than a $1 day is pittance compared the waste that First World nations unknowingly indulge in. This is the real humanity that is needed to bring back some balance into the imbalances that prevail. To not distance the rich-poor divide but help bridge it. Afterall, we all leave in a 6×4 box taking nothing that we acquired except leaving the living to remember us. The good will be missed and the bad will be not missed.

 Followed the papal edicts and commissioned explorer John Cabot to claim on behalf of the crown the lands of heathens and infidels not yet discovered by ‘any Christian people’.

 Whatever arguments, what needs to be said is that people were living in lands under their own laws, following their own language, traditions, values, food habits and culture systems and under their own governance but what and who gave the Church the right to issue edicts that took all these rights from the people and even started the slave trade is a moral, ethical and legal question yet to be answered.

The 3 edicts together denied fundamental rights to entire continents and their people. What rationale can be accepted of a right to invade and claim land and dominate over the people simply because they were not Christian? It is not only that, the indigenous natives were accepted as inferior beings, who didn’t have souls or spirits, they were defined as subhuman. It was these indoctrinated set of beliefs put into the minds of the explorers that travelled to these lands which contributed to them committing heinous crimes against these natives. It was with fear that natives agreed to convert knowing that if they did not they would face the sword. The legacy of non-white Christians all come from natives who embraced Christianity not because they wanted to but because they did not wish to die if they didn’t. None of these crimes have been atoned for.

 Is it fair to simply shut the book on a history of murder simply because the perpetrators are those who now rule the world? Without atoning for these crimes what is the point promoting a farcical self-determination and bogus ‘independence’ from lands that were anyway belonging to indigenous natives?

 The Papal edicts set the stage for over 500 years of invasions and crimes which can easily be defined as ‘genocide’ for entire tribes were terminated.

 No one likes to bring up dark periods of the past especially when the perpetrators are those that claim to be world leaders and they project themselves as champions of human rights. Thus, they do not like to recall what they did in the past, for those deeds helped them bring up their nations from pilfered wealth of indigenous lands and slave labor. Sadly, they orchestrated global trade and international relations to enable them to carry on the same rule and that is why organizations like World Bank, IMF and even the UN and its entities ending up giving a raw deal to developing Third World nations.

 Nevertheless, it is only right that centuries of wrongs which cannot be reversed should at least be atoned for and the best way to do that is to help poverty-stricken nations instead of using every means possible to bring these nations down simply because geopolitics are manipulated and influenced by a very rich elite group of global power families that number 300.

 Help countries without bringing countries down. Help people without leaving them in eternal debt. None of what anyone acquires will be taken to the grave!

 With Pope Francis making his way to Sri Lanka in January 2015 it is a good time to bring up the topic of why the Church does not renounce the continuing doctrine of discovery and repeal it officially as well as take the lead in suggesting international trade reforms that would benefit the Third World instead of always benefitting the elite corporate handful! Such a gesture is pittance compared to what the First World have pilfered throughout 500 years and continues to still through organizations like the Federal Reserve, the World Bank and the IMF.

Shenali D Waduge

2 Responses to “Revoking Doctrine of Discovery – Church confiscation of indigenous lands and providing restorative justice for victims by siphoning Third World debt”

  1. Christie Says:

    1840 Crown lands Ordinance of Ceylon that gave our land to be occupied by Indian colonial parasites. Similar laws were used in Fiji, Malaya, Burma, South Africa and other parts of the British-Indian Empire , that allowed Indian colonial parasites to occupy land owned by the locals.

  2. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    The article reflects what we now consider “horrible” met by the standards we hold dear. But the power of the church at that time was not seen in the manner it is presented today in the 21st century. It is the exercise of power, in this case by a faith.
    One can see the same level of power in the Secular based age of America during the 20th century to that of modern day India where 117 thousand households have a cumulative wealth of 2 trillion US dollars (yes 2 TRILLION US dollars) or the population of the US city of San Francisco if one averages that each family constitutes around 5 members.

    They rule a population of 1 billion 3 hundred million people. their power is so immense it spreads across the entire region and now is one of the most affluent centers of power in the world. they are NOT Christians. Most are Hindus. Maybe a few years from now a similar article will reflect how the power of India’s elite have shaped the destiny of that region including having a say in the 30 year long war in Sri Lanka.

    Final conclusion. If Sri Lanka wants to realize her own power base outside of the commercial aspects that are well known then do that in a Buddhist theocracy.

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