Tell me, by what right?

Fray Antonio de Montesinos

Source: Sixto Garcia. PROFESSOR OF SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY AND NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES at ST. VINCENT DE PAUL REGIONAL SEMINARY.

Tell me, by what right or justice do you hold these Indians in such cruel and horrible slavery? By what right do you wage such detestable wars on these people who lived mildly and peacefully in their own lands, where you have consumed infinite numbers of them with unheard of murders and desolations? Why do you so greatly oppress and fatigue them, not giving them enough to eat or caring for them when they fall ill from excessive labors, so that they die or rather are slain by you, so that you may extract and acquire gold every day? And what care do you take that they receive religious instruction and come to know their God and creator, or that they be baptized, hear mass, or observe holidays and Sundays? Are they not men? Do they not have rational souls? Are you not bound to love them as you love yourselves? How can you lie in such profound and lethargic slumber? Be sure that in your present state you can no more be saved than the Moors or Turks who do not have and do not want the faith of Jesus Christ


Fray Antonio de Montesinos

On the fourth Sunday of Advent 1511 a hostile congregation heard this sermon. Among the encomenderos, slave owners, was Bartolome de las Casas who then converted, studied for Dominican ordination and became the most renowned advocate for human rights of the indigenous at the Spanish court. It was 157 years later when MLK made his “I Have a Dream” plea and was murdered in 1968 while calling for economic reform and planning the Poor People’s Occupation of Washington.

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