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A Priest in the New World


Project 3b   by Sharon Sneddon

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Fray de Las Casas is considered by many to be “The Father of Anti-Racism”. Attention grabbing as this phrase is, Las Casas was one of the earliest known and outspoken advocates against racism, possibly because of the position of power he started out with in the Spanish government. His brief essay on the destruction of the Indies is a very interesting account of the invasion of the New World, and quite the polar opposite of what I remember learning as a child in school. The following is a fictionalized personal account of Las Casas’ early years in the Indies and his opposition to the destruction of the natives.

It is now 1512, and this day marks my first day as a priest, a priest in the New World. I am glad to be here, but something troubles me. Actually, I know exactly what it is that troubles me. The barbarism of our conquest has become out of hand. We have forgotten who we are and who we serve. We represent God on our conquest, yet how would anyone support a God who ransacks their homes, rapes their wives and destroys their culture. Conversion can not be a bloody conquest. It must be a peaceful lesson. These natives must not be under oppression. They must not be stricken with fear if we are to indoctrinate them with the word of God. We have a duty to tell them of Christianity in a class like setting. In this way they will have the opportunity to find their own way to God, but when we force it on them by burning their religious edifices and raping their women, they have no choice but to fight back or flee. We have killed countless natives, natives that under different circumstances could have been converted. I fear for Spain and for King Ferdinand. God does see all and Divine retribution will soon come. I’m not sure how but I am very nervous. We have done so much harm. I have trouble communicating with the colonists. They do not understand me or why I am here. They are like wild animals, hunting and raping and torturing, with no logical thought or compassion or feeling. Each day here we penetrate deeper into these lands, discovering colonies of natives and each day we chop away at their numbers. Initially, these were the most densely populated lands I had ever seen, but now, there are just small groups of a couple hundred, spread here and there. We will continue deeper into the Indies and I’m sure we won’t stop until every native is a slave or dead. I just hope I can do something to ease or slow this process, before God himself pours his final judgment over Spain.