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Post Persecution and the 1511 Montesinos Sermon; from Gary Moore
Created by John Eipper on 03/16/19 2:45 PM

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Persecution and the 1511 Montesinos Sermon; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA, 03/16/19 2:45 pm)

Gary Moore writes:

Reading John Eipper's considerate reply to my essay on the word "persecution" (March 14th), I wondered whether the landmark sermon he referred to, by Montesinos in 1511, in the much-abused Spanish Caribbean, might shed light on the words used by Montesinos, and by his more famed amanuensis Las Casas, to express the idea of persecution.

Thus my naiveté struck again--for of course, in their epochal defense of human rights, these two Dominican voices didn't have to define an idea of persecution. They weren't talking about persecution. The urgent issue before them was exploitation, enslavement, quite a different matter--not an obsessive targeting of dissidence or difference, but merely unconcerned usage of fellow humans. The difference found in Caribbean natives may have helped deepen the excuses or rationalizations for the abuse, but it wasn't "persecution."

Ironically, that realm was left to quarters like the Dominican order itself--so mere definition of what that problem consists of was arguably still off on the horizons of future centuries. As JE rightly pointed out, the Montesinos sermon is still a millennial beacon: if not the world's first declaration of universal human rights, still a high flag on the slope:

"¿Estos no son hombres? ¿No tienen ánimas racionales? ¿No estáis obligados a amarlos como a vosotros mismos? ¿Esto no entendéis? ¿Cómo estáis en tanta profundidad de sueño tan letárgico dormidos?"

("Are these not men? Do they not have rational souls? Are you not obliged to love them as your very selves? Do you not understand this? How could you be so deeply sunk in dreams, so lethargically asleep?")

The ironies here presage the coming half millennium's struggle over whose rights deserve notice. "Rational souls?" This idea--that Platonic-style rationality could embrace bleeding wafers and virginity miracles, was in step with scholasticism and Church doctrine of that day, reminding that the "rationality" each age takes for granted--as our only tool for beating back superstitious excess--has also required half a millennium for at least partial distinction from the "lethargic sleep."


JE comments:  An important distinction.  Gary, as you pointed out in your post on St Dominic, "persecution" could be considered a virtue in the old days.  Consider the very nature of the Inquisition's work.

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  • Rampant Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang (Paul Levine, Denmark 03/17/19 4:37 AM)

    Speaking of persecution. While we have been worrying about Trump, Brexit, Putin, Maduro, Catalan separatists, Franco idolators and other crimes and misdemeanours, a true catastrophe is taking place on the other side of the world.

    The incarceration of a million Chinese citizens in the Xinjiang region is certainly a crime of major proportions. In NYRB James Millward reports: "There may be as many as 1,200 such camps in Xinjiang, imprisoning up to a million people, including Kazhaks, Kyrgyz, and especially Uighurs, who make up around 48 percent of Xinjiang's population." The vast majority of these citizens have committed no crime. Unless it is now a crime in the PRC not being born Han Chinese.

    When was the last time a self-respecting sovereign nation locked up a million of its citizens without demonstrating they had committed a crime? The historical parallels are alarming.

    Is Xi Jinping criminal or is he crazy? The regime claims the purpose of the camps is to "re-educate" its Xinjiang citizens into industrious Han Chinese. In a matter of months the regime proposes to "brainwash" half the provincial population and convert them from an ancient belief in Islam to an instant faith in the Party. Does the regime really believe this inanity? Already a provincial government official has claimed that "the happiest Muslims in the world live in Xinjiang." Has the Party officially embraced Orwellian language? Has Xi Dada watched The Manchurian Candidate too many times?

    Indeed, we have seen this film (Party repression and Regime criminality) before: during the Cultural Revolution under Mao; the Tiananmen Massacre under Deng; the Falun Gong persecution under Jiang Yemin; the imprisonment of Nobel Prize-winner Liu Xiaobo and others under Hu Jintao; and the current lockup of dissidents and incarceration of civil rights lawyers under Xi Dada.

    Where will it end? Not in a good place, I fear. James Millward concludes: "What is sometimes called the ‘Xinjiang Problem' is but one dimension of a broader question: Can today's PRC tolerate diversity? Or does it plan to resolves its Tibet Problem, its Hong Kong Problem, and its Taiwan Problem as it does its Xinjiang Problem: with concentration camps?"

    Xi's China Dream is in the process of becoming Xi's Chinese Nightmare.

    JE comments:  Paul Levine attached an extensive bibliography from The Guardian, BBC, Foreign Policy, NYRB, and other sources.  There is a human rights apocalypse in Xinjiang, and the world barely notices.  Instead of Cultural Revolution, will future historians be talking about a Cultural Genocide?

    To James Millward's question above, we could add a more troubling one:  can anything be done to improve the lot of China's persecuted Muslims?

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