by Linda Straker
- Traditional churches benefitted from enslavement of black people
- Slave Trade was abolished in 1838
- In Grenada and many other Caribbean countries obeah is still criminalised
Arley Gill, Chairman of Grenada’s Reparation Commission, believes that the traditional churches such as the Catholic and Anglican which benefitted from the enslavement of black people need to apologise for the role they played in the trade which was abolished in 1838.
“It is important as a people that we recognise that the church has done us wrong as a people. The church must apologise and make good on the exploitation that they took part, active part, in the exploitation of black people,” said Gill, a former culture minister during the Tillman Thomas National Democratic Congress administration.
“The Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Protestant churches they benefited directly, financially and otherwise from the enslavement of black people,” Gill said during an Emancipate Day virtual panel discussion organised by the Grenada Cultural Foundation.
Focusing on the role religion played during the period of the slave trade, Gill said, “Fundamentally, religion was a tool of slavery, western practices were used to justified slavery.”
“The fact is religion was used as a tool to justify the enslavement of black people and it was used to strip us from our cultural identity…All culture has its own religion, they own religious belief.” He pointed out that the religious or spiritual practices of African people that were brought to this region by slaves, were outlawed and made illegal by the colonial masters. “I remember us studying about Arawaks and Caribs and them having their own religious belief. They have different gods, rain god, sun god and so…In Africa we had our own; our forefathers had their own religion.”
He reminded his audience that conversion to Catholicism was used as a controlling mechanism for the slaves. “Catholicism was used, and the Catholic Church benefited, the Anglican Church benefitted directly from slavery, slave trade and colonialism,” Gill said as he passionately supported Richie Maitland, another member of the panel, who pointed out the various religious beliefs that were brought to the Caribbean through the slave trade.
Discussing the subtopic “Enslavers belief that black people was destined by God to be servants of whites”, they also pointed out that the bible did not condemn slavery and blacks required conversion. Maitland, a lawyer by profession, said that a major part of slavery was breaking black people culturally. “Separating them from their spiritual roots was a mechanism to dominate them and we see that manifested in many different ways. Christianity is what we use now, but in Grenada and many other Caribbean countries obeah is still criminalised…the criminalisation of that I see absolutely as a continuation of demonisation of blackness.”
Maitland pointed out that in reality, many ancestors came from West African with different forms of spiritual practices such as Orisha and Yoruba.
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