International Slavery: Time for an Apology from Christian and Islamic Authorities

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Basically, Pope Alexander VI simply extended the decrees or edicts issued by Pope Nicholas V by dividing the non-Christian world into two and giving the Christian nations of Portugal and Spain the rights to invade, pillage, conquer and enslave the non-Christian populations of the territories.  This resulted in slavery and the colonization of Africa, parts of Asia, Middle East and the Americas.  It should be noted that Portugal and Spain benefited immensely from the proclamations of these two Roman Catholic popes.

Fourth, Portugal was not happy with the manner in which the non-Christian territories were divided since the division tended to favor Spain.  Therefore, both countries negotiated the Treaty of Tordesillas on June 7, 1494 to adjust the boundaries.  The boundary line was moved to 370 leagues (1185 miles) West of Cape Verde Islands.  This enabled Portugal to gain possession of Brazil.  Pope Julius II approved the change in 1506 to legalize the adjustment (Campbell, n.d.).

Fifth, the Atlantic slave trade started from the sixteenth century and continued until the nineteenth century.  About 12.5 million black Africans were forcibly transported to the Americas, as indicated by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Data Base (Gates, n.d.). This is a conservative estimate since the UNESCO puts the total number at about 25 to 30 million people (UNESCO, n.d.).

Sixth, the desire by other European nations to acquire colonies like Portugal and Spain resulted in Africa suffering another major blow when the Berlin Conference was held, starting from November 15, 1884 and ending in February 26 1885 to carve the entire continent into colonial possessions.  The conference enabled Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain to join Portugal in devouring the continent colonially. 

Black Christians and Muslims 

It is amazing that on Fridays, millions of black people trooped to various mosques to offer prayers to Allah and seek Islamic salvation.  Similarly, on Sundays, millions of black people trooped to the churches to pray to God and seek Christian salvation.  Most blacks who engage in this weekly ritual strongly believe that their adopted religions are the right path to God/Allah.  In fact, many black Africans are so convinced of the godliness of their adopted religions to the extent that they are even willing to decimate their traditional religious cultures and supplant them with Christianity and Islam.  Due to a desire to embrace these two religions whole-heartedly, many black Christians and Muslims now unhesitatingly refer to traditional African religions as “idol worshipping” and ignore the fact that every religion in the world engages in some kinds of idolism in order to connect with the Supreme Being symbolically.  For example, the cross and the crescent are idols/symbols that Christians and Muslims revered so much.   St. John Henry Newman, who was canonized at the Amazon synod, noted that important symbols in Christianity originated from pagan religions (Winfred, 2019, October 25).  Indeed, the cross, Christmas Day, Easter and Trinity originated from pre-Christian religions. Yet, black Christians and Muslims think otherwise about the fact that their adopted religions too have many fetishes, symbols and idols in their religious practices.

Similarly, many blacks have no hesitation in characterizing traditional African religions (Ancestralism) as satanic, destructive and ungodly, yet, the atrocities committed in the name of indigenous African religions pale in comparison to the atrocities committed in the name of Christianity and Islam.  Despite this reality, many blacks continue to believe in the false narrative about the godliness of their adopted religions.  The truth is that these two religions are responsible for taking actions that resulted in the degradation of the black race.  They did so by initiating and justifying the massive, industrial-scale capture and enslavement of black Africans for centuries.  How is it that religions that supposed to have positively changed the world and make people to love their neighbors as themselves turned around to create the most despicable havoc in the history of the world? Blacks and Native Americans are still experiencing pain inflicted by slavery and colonialism while the Jews are always on alert to avoid being decimated as the two major religions threaten them constantly.

In particular, most blacks seemed unaware of the fact that the hatred, dehumanization and justification for black enslavement and the continuing racism against them emanated from a story in the Old Testament of the Bible.  In Genesis 9:22 – 9:27 and possibly Genesis 10:6 is the story of Noah and the reactions of his three children to his drunken nakedness.  According to the story, Noah was so drunk on a particular day that he passed out and remained unclothed.  One of his sons, Ham, saw him naked and did not cover him up with cloth, thereby, embarrassing the father by telling his brothers about their father’s condition.  On the other hand, his other two sons covered their father up with linen while looking the other way to avoid seeing his nakedness.  Noah reacted against Ham by cursing his grandson, Canaan, who was the fourth son of Ham, by saying that he shall be a slave to his brothers.  Some people in the Middle East and the Christians turned the story around to say that Canaan, the son of Ham and the grandson of Noah and his descendants were black, hence, the belief that blacks are condemned by God to serve as slaves to other races.  This mythological story greatly contributes to the view that blacks are condemned to be slaves in the world.

To rationalize the irreconcilable logic, an Arab expert on Jewish legend, Wahb b. Munabbih, is credited with narrating the Noah story by explaining:

Ham, the son of Noah was a white man, fair of face, God-Mighty and Exalted is He – changed his color and the color of his descendants because of the curse of his father.  He went off and his offspring followed him and they settled on the sea shore.  God increased and multiplied them, and they are the Blacks (Hunwick, n.d.).

It is evident that historical knowledge about the world is turned upside down.  Hence, every negative incident or situation or event is either attributed to or associated with black people even when they have nothing to do with the matter.  On the other hand, every positive incident or situation or event is either attributed to or associated with non-blacks.  This is why even in the twenty-first century, the global media rarely cover any positive news or event about black Africa and the black world.  Thus, most people in Europe, Asia, and the Americas continue to assume that black Africa is merely a jungle where people live on trees and hunt wild animals.  The truth is that blacks are the least violent and destructive people in the world if global history is critically examined.  Similarly, traditional African religions are the least violent and destructive on earth.  It could also be said that the black race is the least imperialistic.  Similarly, African traditional religions are not imperialistic. Yet, popular knowledge in the global educational market place is twisted to create false narratives.  Hence, the black person is an endangered species on earth. 

Cultural Destruction

Apart from justifying the enslavement of non-Christians and non-Moslems, these two religions are also responsible for decimating unique indigenous beliefs, cultures and practices throughout the world.  Indeed, many ethnic groups in the world, including those in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and South Pacific Islands have lost their religious cultures and languages due to the uncompromising nature of these two religions, as people convert to them.  The preachers of Christianity and Islam, in a holier than thou frame of mind, do not tolerate any culture or belief that stands in the way of their religions.  Thus, the destruction of traditional beliefs, cultures and practices are as destructive and harmful as other evils that have been perpetrated on humanity by the adherents of these two religions. Recently, Pope Francis had to apologize for the embarrassment caused by the removal and dumping of carved Native American wooden Pachamama statues into River Tiber from a Vatican-area church in Rome by some fundamentalist or conservative Christian elements (Winfred, 2019, October 25). This took place during the Amazon synod organized by the Roman Catholic Church.

Time to Render Apology and Make Reparations 

As stated earlier, public officials of various Western countries, interest groups, scholars, and citizens have spoken in various ways in an attempt to address the issue concerning the international enslavement of black Africans and Native Americans.  Some have even proposed ways to make reparations, even though a general agreement has not been reached.  On the other hand, Christian (particularly Roman Catholic) and Arab/Islamic leaders have not been eager to engage in an open discourse concerning the roles their religions played in contributing to the massive enslavement of black Africans.  Similarly, the leadership of the Catholic Church has not been forthcoming in talking about the actions of the church in contributing to the massive enslavement and killing of indigenous people in the Americas. Additionally, the Catholic Church has not made a statement concerning the evils that it unleashed when it sanctioned the colonization of the non-Christian world, thereby, subjecting Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, Pacific Islands and some parts of Asia to European subjugation, exploitation and colonialism.

If Christian and Islamic leaders really want the world to believe in the godliness of their religions, they must join the international public debate by officially apologizing for the ungodly acts, edicts, and decrees they issued and the actions they took to justify the international enslavement of black Africans.  They are also obligated to make reparations because there are millions of Africans who are still suffering from the pangs of slavery in the Middle East, some parts of Southwest Asia and probably Southern Europe, in addition to those in the Americas. The same goes for Native Americans who are still suffering and are also treated as invisible beings in their own territories in the Americas. They must also apologize for constantly threatening the Jewish people with extinction for insisting on the right to maintain their ancestral religion (Judaism) and traditions.

The African Union (AU) is also obligated to render apology and create a program that connects Sub-Saharan Africa with various black groups in the world.  Part of the program should include an educational fund in which children of the Africans in the diaspora, both in the Eastern and Western worlds) attend some selected secondary schools and universities in the continent on fully paid scholarships.  The AU should also donate funds to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) in the United States, the countries of the Caribbean Basin and Afro-Latin America. A possible third option is to establish a small business loan program for Africans in the diaspora.

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References

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Written by
Priye Torulagha
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