August 5, 2022
A Reflection from the Interpath Traditions
By Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
A very wonderful, powerful, and transformative practice is emerging in more and more sectors of our contemporary society. Many gatherings and meetings now begin with a statement recognizing whose land is under our feet. The practice of “Land Recognition” acknowledges the people who were displaced, demeaned, or killed so the land could be settled by people who thought God gave them the right to take over what did not belong to them.
The motivation for such unjust behavior was religious. Christian settlers, in particular, believed God gave them the land. Therefore, they had a God-given right to remove the Native people. Oddly enough, Native people did not think land could be owned. They instinctively experienced the land as the gift of the Great Spirit. Psalm 24 proclaims, “the Earth belongs to the Lord.” Ownership of the land as real estate replaced the idea of land as a shared resource. Native peoples thought the land could be shared and cared for, for the benefit of everyone.
The “Doctrine of Discovery” is based on Papal decrees dating from 1493 granting special rights to Christian European colonizers to bring Christian civilization to the lands being discovered in the New World. This sad development dehumanized indigenous people as it set the stage for enslavement and genocide.
In more recent times, many hope Pope Francis will rescind the Doctrine. His recent visit to Canada is hopeful. The Pope apologized to the Indigenous people who suffered unjust brutality and genocide in Church Residential Schools. Bishop Douglas J. Lucia of Syracuse, NY stated, “This particular doctrine has been used to justify both political and personal violence against Indigenous nations, Indigenous peoples and their culture — their religious and their territorial identities.”
Pope Francis remarked in an interview, “This doctrine of colonization is bad, it is unfair. … Even today it is used, often. Sometimes some bishops from certain countries, tell me that when they ask for a loan from international organizations, they are given colonialist requirements. … We need to go back and rectify the mistakes, while being aware that even today we have similar forms of colonialism. It’s a universal theme.”
Several historians and theologians remind us the Doctrine of Discovery was nullified years ago. The damage, however, continues. Technicalities regarding the past do not make amends in the present. Apology is not enough. We need to implement meaningful reparations and serious reforms. The Canadian government and peoples are to be applauded for their willingness to address this horrific history and its consequences.
The United States might want to consider the reparations and reconciliation efforts taking place in Canada. We must confront the forces of Nationalism which would continue the racism and genocide embedded in our history, culture, and government.
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for supporting, respecting, and learning from our Indigenous friends. Thank you for confronting any racist attitudes or behaviors that would continue the past injustices. Gratitude to you for supporting those who have the courage to stand up and speak out on this most important issue.
As things begin to return to a new normal, we at The Interfaith Peace Project are here for you in any way that you need us. The Antioch Center is now open to fully vaccinated people on Wednesdays, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. We are vigilant and will adjust to any and all recommendations from the state and county. We will continue our work through Zoom as we add in person programs. If you would like to schedule an in person or Zoom program or would like a phone appointment with any of us, give us a call. You may call or email Tom at: