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Should severe oppression be fought with weapons, or the power of goodness and love? Should religion be forced upon innocent natives of other countries and cultures? Bartolome de las Casas’ A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies and the film “The Mission” deal with these critical issues in very different ways, but yet they both convey the similar messages to their audiences. They have their parallels, such as the usage of severe human suffering as a way to capture the attention and affection of the audience, but they also have their differences, such as the way in which the messages are conveyed and expressed. The film technique has the obvious capabilities of breathtaking visuals and vivid displays of human conflict, but the report has the ability to paint clear pictures in the minds of the readers, and also the advantage of exaggeration. Although both techniques have their own faults and disadvantages, they are both very effective in illustrating their purposes to the audience.

A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies is de las Casas’ way of informing the Spanish government of the atrocities being committed by their fellow countrymen overseas. These men, as a way of proselytizing the people of the Indies and harshly converting them to their own creed, “tear the natives to shreds, murder them and inflict upon them untold misery, suffering and distress, tormenting, harrying, and persecute them mercilessly”. Unfortunately, by the time de las Casas arrived in the Indies, they had been doing so for decades. These “unassuming, long-suffering, unassertive, and submissive” peoples that “are without malice or guile, and are utterly faithful and obedient both to their own native lords and to the Spaniards in whose service they now find themselves” had been slowly tormented and slain to death for no reason other than ignorance and fear on the part of their assassins. The Spaniards thought of these peace-loving creatures as dangerous animals that did not deserve to live. The decapitated population had seen its fair share of horror, and de las Casas, being a newly ordained and innovative priest, did his part to put an end to the chaos.

He exposed the true nature of the gentle, benevolent natives, who were “innocent and pure in mind” and had a “lively intelligence”, and explained how horribly the Spaniards had been acting. This strong indictment against the exploitation of these peoples of the New World carries with it all of the urgency of a crucial moment in history when it still seemed possible that he could reverse the tide, and start to restore hope and trust in the eyes of the Indians. De las Casas believed that through his shocking writings, he could possibly alter the course of history, and restore the peace. It was a valiant effort on the part of de las Casas, and very effective indeed.

The other documentation of the early enforcement of a barbaric form of Christianity on native peoples that we studied was the feature film, “The Mission”, starring Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro. Irons plays a missionary trying to get along with natives of South America in the eighteenth century, and attempting to peacefully teach them about Christianity with the hopes of conversion.

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There were two major powers that hoped to get their ideas across to the people of the Indies the selfish colonists who wanted to form a new trade in slaves and riches (initially headed by Robert DeNiro’s character, Mendoza) , and the peace-loving missionaries, headed up by Jeremy Irons’ character, Gabriel, who wanted nothing more than to turn the benevolent Indians into followers of Jesus Christ. The two groups clashed again and again, until the eventual downfall of the weaker.

Mendoza starts out as a slave trader, but after murdering his brother, Philipe, in a fit of rage, he sought redemption and forgiveness. He found this through the Jesuit missionaries, who designated his penance, which consisted of dragging a large sack of heavy armor and metal, signifying the weight of his sins, up an enormous waterfall. After having completed this strenuous task, he symbolically threw the sack into the river, relieved that the burden of his crime had finally been lifted from his chest. He could now go and live a peaceful and fulfilling life and become a man of God.

Mendoza took advantage of the opportunities that were before him, and later became a missionary himself with the help of Gabriel, his mentor. Together, along with the rest of the Jesuits and the newly-converted Christians, they dreamed of a society in which they could all live in harmony. The Spanish and Portuguese were becoming an increasing threat to their dream because the colonial governors viewed them as dangerous. They would rather enslave the Indians and issue orders to destroy the mission than learn to trust them and treat them as human beings. As the orders were about to be carried about by the colonists, Gabriel and Mendoza had a disagreement concerning how the people of the mission should deal with the threat of being overthrown. Mendoza felt that the people should defend themselves with weapons, which was their initial instinct. Gabriel, on the other hand, held strong to his Christian beliefs and trusted that love, compassion, and goodness would prevail over brutal war. This separation of the community partially caused the downfall of the mission.

When the time came, half of the people fought to defend themselves with their hands, and the other half surrendered to the militaries and offered peace. Either way, the entire mission was completely destroyed and all of its inhabitants were horrendously murdered. The most ironic part about the whole situation is that the purpose of the project was to instill in people everywhere the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ and his teachings. This was met with the onslaught of self-centered imperialist ideals, and the clash caused tremendous loss of life.

The messages of “The Mission” and A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies are quite clear. It is quite impossible to righteously follow and uphold the principles of Christianity while committing atrocities against the very people who should be treated as brothers and sisters. A hypocritical contradiction is created by this, thereby infringing upon the most basic ideals of the religion itself. Religion is a serious issue that must be dealt with using great care. People are very sensitive concerning what they believe in, and no one wants to be dictated by someone else who or what to worship. It is really quite ironic what happens when the spread of a kind and loving religion is placed in the hands of forceful, barbaric, power-hungry people � the outcome is pure chaos, as we can see through both of these detailed and ghastly accounts. The real lesson learned is that religious beliefs and faith in God cannot be enforced, they must be learned peacefully. When Gabriel entered the territory of the Indians, they accepted him only after he made it clear that he was coming in peace and posed no threat to them. Only then were they open to being taught his thoughts and ideas, and eventually, becoming Christians. This seems to be the single most effective way of conversion and proselytization. Religion can be a double-edged sword at times, but when taught lovingly and peacefully, it has the power to save humanity and create a world in which we live for God, and for each other.

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