Pope Francis has offered a half-hearted apology to the indigenous people of Canada. The indigenous people say there is a long way to go in healing their wounds as the Pope still seems reluctant about apologising for the sexual abuse of children in residential schools and recognising the Catholic Church as an institution bearing responsibility for the horror.
Francis termed his visit to Canada in July a “penitential pilgrimage” to atone for the church’s role in the Canadian government’s residential school system. Established through the Residential School Assimilation policy of the country to ‘assimilate’ indigenous people with ‘Canadian culture’, these schools snatched lakhs of children from their parents. Indigenous children were made to give up their native way of dressing, speaking, and worshiping in these schools. The Catholic Church fervently aided the Canadian government in wiping out the indigenous culture.
Run by the Catholic Church, these schools abused the children physically, mentally, sexually, and spiritually. It is estimated that more than 1,50,000 children were forcibly separated from their parents to be lodged in these church-run, government-funded schools. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the indigenous people demanded an apology from the Pope for the church’s atrocities against their culture, especially their children. Recent reports of mass graves being found in such residential schools strengthened such demands.
As the Pope planned a visit to Canada, it was expected that he would pay heed to the calls for an apology. But not only he ignored the part where indigenous children were sexually abused, but he also refused to recognise the responsibility of the church in imparting the abuse as an institution. He merely said, “the ways in which many members of the church and religious communities co-operated” in the Residential School system is deplorable”. Even though it was a half-hearted apology, the horrors Canada’s indigenous people went through were at least recognised.
As unmarked graves of children forced into Catholic Residential schools were being found in different parts of the indigenous country, indigenous people removed the statue of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John Macdonald, from the city centre in Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island. Macdonald was the one who started these schools in 1883 and ordered indigenous kids to be forcibly removed from their “savage” parents and placed in these schools.
But in Bharat, even Hindus refuse to see the truth about church atrocities in Goa, the North East, and elsewhere. They find pride in enrolling their children in missionary schools that have a much similar agenda only without as much visible hatred. The indigenous people of Canada, despite going through such horror, remember their roots and the church’s attempts to disconnect them from their identity. But Bharatiyas have been brainwashed by missionary education so much that they refuse to acknowledge their own history and roots.
The Goa Inquisition
However, the church cannot be let to have its way. The first step towards recognising its part in wiping out Bharatiya people and culture would be to sensitize Hindus about the Portuguese Inquisition of Goa and make the Catholic Church pay for the same. It all started with Pope Nicholas V issuing an order that gave Portugal a monopoly on forcing Christianity upon the locals of the newly discovered areas, following Vasco Da Gama’s discovery of Bharat. It also gave the monopoly to trade on behalf of the Roman Catholic Empire in Asia.
The Portugal kingdom sent its troops to Bharat, which captured a portion of Goa and established a colony. In 1541 all Hindu temples were closed by the Portugal soldiers and murti puja was forbidden. 350 temples were destroyed even before the arrival of Francis Xavier, who bloodied Goa’s soil with the Inquisition’s help, which had already left its footprints in Spain. Today Goan Christians and even Hindus are proud that the city has the remains of Xavier and pay respects to it.
They are unaware they are products of the Inquisition, which dismembered children limb by limb in front of their parents, whose eyes were taped open till they agreed to convert. They are oblivious to the history of their ancestors who were stretched out on the rack or burnt at the stake to “pass the Act of Faith’ and prove that they are not “heretics”. It is believed that only 20,000 people remained non-Christians by the end of the 17th century out of the initial 2,50,000 population.
Ravage of the North East
But that’s not it, the Hindu vanvasis of the North East were persecuted by Christians who saw the sons of the soil as “savages” much like the indigenous people of Canada, and the US. Unfortunately, the persecution of the North Eastern vanvasis is not even documented. But it is a well-known fact that missionaries obliterated their traditions and culture. They were shown as head hunting savages and missionaries painted themselves as the saviours.
They played into the pre-existing fault-lines of different tribes and the feudal issues between them to coerce them into accepting Christianity. Evangelists’ direct assault on vanvasi traditions resulted in losing their warrior tradition, offering sacrifices to deities, warfare, and other things. Inherent practices like drinking rice beer(part of some religious rituals), ancestral and nature worship, etc were discouraged as they are against Christian principles.
But the remaining Hindu vanvasis have started realising the methods of church and are putting up a resistance against the attack on their traditions and culture. Being a minority, they face threats from the economically and demographically strong converted Christians.
Khasi tribe, which was the first to be targeted by missionaries in the North East and thought of as an impossible tribe to convert, now faces frequent attacks from converts. A sacred centuries-old banyan tree was cut down, and the Shivling and Trishul installed under it were uprooted by converts in Assam. A local Hindu said, “People from the Khasia Punji (Khasi Settlement) intentionally cut the tree to threaten us against any sort of Hindu practices. They have been doing such activities for a long time. This is the extreme step that they have taken”.
He further said that converted Khasis do not even let them go near the chopped tree and guard it with weapons. Hindus are reportedly chased away if they go there to worship and are threatened with dire consequences.
A similar situation prevails in Meghalaya, where the traditions of the tribes are wiped out by Christianity and are endangered. In 2020, a banned Christian tribal terror group, the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), threatened ‘mass bloodshed’ if Hindu-Bengalis in Ichamati and Majai areas in East Khasi Hills district, Meghalaya do not leave within one month. Neither is Mizoram in a better situation with Christians breaking and burning Hindu murtis, much like ‘Saint Xavier’. Arunachal Pradesh, another state of the seven sisters, faces the same problem as Christian fanatics desecrate temples and vandalise murtis of Hindu deities.
The Goa Inquisition has at least been brought to the fore to be discussed following the Pope’s apology to Canadian indigenous people. But the North East remains unnoticed even as missionaries dare to establish a museum to showcase the very culture they destroyed. And so, it is time for Bhatatiyas to learn, grieve for the loss of their identity, and demand an apology from the Pope and other Christian denominations.