Thursday, October 1, 2015

Being true 'Christ-bearers' in search of peace

When I was a child in elementary school we proudly sang, “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” There were assemblies and plays and words of praise for Christopher Columbus, who we learned “discovered America.” While the claim of discovery is a dubious one, he was indeed a brave explorer. He sailed west across an ocean that many believed would send one off the edge of a world that everyone knew was flat.

His name “Christopher” means “Christ bearer,” and part of his goal was to bring Christ to the lands he hoped to explore. He was an entrepreneur who was able to get funding for his expedition from the Spanish crown. He made not only one voyage but four, and he faced enormous hardship, dangers and political intrigue.

Much later in my life I traveled to the Dominican Republic with a mission work team that taught Bible studies at a Deaf School in Santo Domingo. While visiting the island we took a tour of the history museum that spoke much about the history of the island. There we saw evidence of much cruelty and sadness.

The Taino people, who were living in Hispaniola at the time of Columbus’ arrival, were forced into slavery. Over 98 percent of the nearly 3 million native peoples died from the labor regime and war of this time period. (History of the Indies, New York: Harper and Row, 1971). Sadly this was the lot of many indigenous peoples at the hands of European explorers who traveled to the Americas in the years that followed.

Human rights violations abound on this planet we live on. It is hard to go anywhere and not notice the abusive way humans treat each other, especially those who are deemed “less than” or different. Humans abuse one another for wealth, power and sometimes even for the cause of religious superiority.

Jesus called for us to love one another and treat our brothers and sisters as we would like to be treated. It is that simple. It is that hard.

As some prepare to celebrate Columbus Day on October 12, let us all be educated about the whole picture of global exploration across vast canvas of the world's history. Let us learn and acknowledge with repentance grievous sins committed against indigenous peoples and also live in such a way that everyone can have respect and dignity in this world.

Let us call that second Monday of October “Indigenous Peoples Day” instead, and as true "Christ bearers," seek to live and move gently on this earth in loving peace with all of God’s people.

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