Apostle 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 a 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 his life began to change when he heard Dominican Father Antonio de Montesinos speak on the verse: “I am a voice crying in the wilderness.”
Las Casas became the first priest ordained in the New World.
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 stopping the enslavement of native Americans.
He became Bishop of Chiapas and was officially appointed “Protector of the Indians.”
In 1515, two years before Martin Luther started the Reformation, Las Casas and Dominican Father Antonio de Montesinos went back to Spain where they met with King Ferdinand on Christmas Eve.
The King 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.
In 1520, Las Casas founded three Christian Indian towns in Venezuela, but Spanish encomiendas (plantation) 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 profiting off of slavery.
In 1550, Las Casas had to defend that Indians were fully human in a debate against Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, who eloquently argued that Indians were less than human and therefore subject to enslavement.
This was an example of the two threads that run through history, namely, GREED and the GOSPEL.
Those motivated by GREED took advantage of natives while those motivated by the GOSPEL tried to help them as Bartolome’ de Las Casas did.
Las Casas spent 60 years of his life fighting for the rights of native Americans, leading to 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 these were translated and spread around Europe, an outrage arose pressuring the Spanish monarch to issue New Laws ending the enslavement of Indians.
Unfortunately, plantation owners motivated by GREED replaced native American slaves with African slaves purchased from the Muslim slave markets.
Las Casas, motivated by the GOSPEL, wrote:
“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.”
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s bookshere.
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