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500th anniversary of fiery Hispaniola sermon

December 20, 2011

December 21 marks the 500th anniversary of a sermon preached in Santo Domingo in which Father Antonio de Montesinos, a Dominican, denounced the Spanish colonizers’ treatment of the indigenous peoples.

“I have come here in order to declare it unto you, I the voice of Christ in the desert of this island,” he preached. “Open your hearts and your senses, all of you, for this voice will speak new things harshly, and will be frightening.”

He added:

This voice says that you are living in deadly sin for the atrocities you tyrannically impose on these innocent people. Tell me, what right have you to enslave them? What authority did you use to make war against them who lived at peace on their territories, killing them cruelly with methods never before heard of? How can you oppress them and not care to feed or cure them, and work them to death to satisfy your greed?

And why don’t you look after their spiritual health, so that they should come to know God, that they should be baptized, and that they should hear Mass and keep the holy days? Aren't they human beings? Have they no rational soul? Aren’t you obligated to love them as you love yourselves? Don't you understand? How can you live in such a lethargical dream? You may rest assured that you are in no better state of salvation than the Moors or the Turks who reject the Christian Faith.


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