Christianity and colonialism

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Christianity and colonialism are often closely associated because Catholicism and Protestantism were the religions of the European colonial powers and acted in many ways as the "religious arm" of those powers. According to Edward Andrews, Christian missionaries were initially portrayed as "visible saints, exemplars of ideal piety in a sea of persistent savagery". However, by the time the colonial era drew to a close in the last half of the twentieth century, missionaries became viewed as "ideological shock troops for colonial invasion whose zealotry blinded them", colonialism's "agent, scribe and moral alibi."


  • The white man is very clever. He came quietly with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.
  • The barbarities and desperate outrages of the so-called Christian race, throughout every region of the world, and upon every people they have been able to subdue, are not to be paralleled by those of any other race, however fierce, however untaught, and however reckless of mercy and of shame in any age of the earth.
  • The religions whose theology is least preoccupied with events in time and most concerned with eternity, have been consistently less violent and more humane in political practice. Unlike early Judaism, Christianity and Mohammedanism (all obsessed with time) Hinduism and Buddhism have never been persecuting faiths, have preached almost no holy wars and have refrained from that proselytizing religious imperialism which has gone hand in hand with political and economic oppression of colored people.
  • Missionary activities… which became so prominent a feature of European relations with Asia were connected with Western political supremacy in Asia and synchronised with it. ... It may indeed be said that the most serious, persistent and planned effort of European nations in the nineteenth century was their missionary activities in India and China, where a large-scale attempt was made to effect a mental and spiritual conquest at supplementing the political authority already enjoyed by Europe. Though the results were disappointing in the extreme from the missionary point of new, this assault on the spiritual foundations of Asian countries has had far-reaching consequences in the religious and social reorganization of the people...
    • K. M. Panikkar. Asia and Western Dominance: a survey of the Vasco Da Gama epoch of Asian history, 1498–1945. p. 15, 314
  • The treaty clauses, in fact, wrote the ultimate doom of Christian activity in China. To have believed that a religion which grew up under the protection of foreign powers, especially under humiliating conditions, following defeat, would be tolerated when the nation recovered its authority, showed extreme shortsightedness. The fact is that the missionaries, like other Europeans, felt convinced in the nineteenth century that their political supremacy was permanent, and they never imagined that China would regain a position when the history of the past might be brought up against them and their converts. `The Church', as Latourette has pointed out, `had become a partner in Western imperialism.'
    • Latourette quoted in K. M. Panikkar. Asia and Western Dominance: a survey of the Vasco Da Gama epoch of Asian history, 1498–1945.
  • In 1454 he (Prince Henry the Navigator) received from the Pope Nicholas V the right to all discoveries up to India. The Bull, which is of fundamental importance and is the first of three which determines the Portuguese monopoly in the East, is quoted below:...‘We, after careful deliberation, and having considered that we have by our , apostolic letters conceded to King Affonso, the right, total and absolute, to invade, conquer and subject all the countries which are under rule of the enemies of Christ, Saracen or Pagan, by our apostolic letter we wish the same King Affonso, the Prince, and all their successors, occupy and possess in exclusive rights the said islands, ports and seas undermentioned, and all faithful Christians are prohibited without the permission of the said Affonso and his successors to encroach on their sovereignty. Of the conquests already made, or to be made, all the conquests which extend to Cape Bajador and Cape Non to the coast of Guinea and all the Orient is perpetually and for the future the sovereignty of King Affonso.’
    • Papal bull by Pope Nicholas V. quoted in K. M. Panikkar. Asia and Western Dominance: a survey of the Vasco Da Gama epoch of Asian history, 1498–1945.
  • European Imperialism and European Christianity were twins. It is difficult to say whether the flag followed the cross or the cross followed the flag.
    • Ram Swarup, Meditations. Yogas, Gods, Religions (2000)

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