postle of the Indies, Bartolome' de Las Casas
, died JULY 17, 1566.
In 1502, he left Spain for the West Indies, where he became a hacendado of an encomienda (plantation) and a slave owner of native Americans.
He participated in slave raids and military expeditions against the native populations of Hispaniola and Cuba.
But in 1511 Las Casas' life began to change when he heard a church leader, Dominican friar Antonio de Montesinos,
speak:"I am a voice crying in the wilderness... the voice of Christ in the desert of this island..
You are all in mortal sin...on account of the cruelty and tyranny with which you use these innocent people. Are these not men? Have they not rational souls? Must not you love them as you love yourselves?" Montesinos
"Tell me by what right of justice do you hold these Indians in such a cruel and horrible servitude?... Why do you keep them so oppressed and exhausted... from the excessive labor you give them...in order to extract and acquire gold every day." Bartolome' de Las Casas
was convicted by Motesino's
preaching and determined to follow Jesus, leading him to be the first priest ordained in the New World.Las Casas
sounded to similar to Martin Luther King, Jr.
, who would later state:
must be reminded that it is...the conscience of the state..." and "It must be the guide and the critic of the state... If the church
does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority."
In 1514, while preparing a Pentecost Sunday sermon, Las Casas
read from the Book of Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 34:18-22, that if one offers as a sacrifice an animal that they have obtained dishonestly, it is unacceptable, and it is as murder to deprive someone of his means of making a living.
Convicted in his heart, Bartolome' de Las Casas
dedicated the rest of his life to ending the enslavement of native Americans.Las Casas
became Bishop of Chiapas and was officially appointed "Protector of the Indians."Get the book American Minute-Notable Events of American Significance Remembered on the Date They Occurred
In 1515, two years before Martin Luther started the Reformation, Las Casas
went back to Spain where they met with King Ferdinand
on Christmas Eve.
The King Ferdinand
agreed with their cause but died a month later before doing anything about it.
Las Casas, being now 40-years-old, petitioned the new 16-year-old King Charles V
to end the military conquest of the new world and use peaceful means to convert Indians.
This was the same King Charles V
who presided over the Diet of Worms and Martin Luther in 1521 and withstood Muslim Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent's invasion of Hungary in 1526 and Austria in 1529.
In 1520, Las Casas
founded three Christian Indian towns in Venezuela, but Spanish encomiendas owners stirred the natives up to destroy them.
In 1531, on Tepeyac Hill outside of the former Aztec capitol of Mexico City, the story of Indian Juan Diego and 'The Virgin of Guadalupe
' resulted in an estimate 15 million Indians being baptized in the next 20 years in what many consider the largest mass conversion in history.
In 1536, Las Casas criticized Franciscan friar Motolinia
for being too quick to baptize thousands of Indians before they were fully instructed in the faith. Las Casas
wrote a treatise, titled: "Concerning the Only Way of Drawing All Peoples to the True Religion."Las Casas
became hated by those without a conscience who profited off of slavery.
Similar to the pro-life/pro-abortion arguments of today, Las Casas
debated Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda
in 1550 at Valladolid
argued that Indians were less than human and therefore it was justified to enslave them, whereas Las Casas
defended that Indians were fully human, created in the image of God.
This conflict demonstrated the broader tension between the two threads that run through human history: GREED and the GOSPEL.
Those motivated by the GOSPEL:
gave money, food, clothes & shelter to the poor; dug wells in native villages; opened orphanages; founded hospitals; staffed medical clinics; inoculated children; took in homeless; visited those in prison; provided disaster relief and emergency aid; taught farming techniques; provided literacy programs; and fought to abolish slavery.
Those motivated by GREED:
sold people into slavery; took land from Indians; grew opium in India to ship into China; incited racial tension for political gain; and voted for candidates promising entitlement hand-outs even though those candidates promoted sexual immorality to school children and disregard for innocent human life of elderly, handicapped and unborn.
Motivated by the GOSPEL, Bartolome' de Las Casas
spent 60 years of his life fighting for the rights of native Americans, resulting in him being considered one of the first advocates for universal human rights. Las Cases
declared in his tract "Confesionario" that any Spaniard who refused to release his Indians would be denied forgiveness of sins.Las Casas
wrote "A brief report on the Destruction of the Indians" and "Apologetica historia de las Indias."
When Las Casas'
writings were translated and spread around Europe, an outrage arose pressuring the Spanish monarch to issue Leyes Nuevas (New Laws)
liberating thousands of indigenous Indian workers.
Motivated by the GOSPEL, Las Casas
"The main goal of divine Providence in the discovery of these tribes...is...the conversion and well-being of souls, and to this goal everything temporal must necessarily be directed."
Unfortunately, once enslavement of Indians was outlawed, plantation owners motivated by GREED replaced them with African slaves purchased from Arab Muslim slave traders. American Minute-Notable Events of American Significance Remembered on the Date They Occurred