Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Father António Vieira

Father António Vieira
One Jesuit that was particularly dedicated to the protection of the Brazilian natives was Father António Vieira. After his ordination in 1653, he took up the charge of defending Indian’s against the Portuguese settlers. He often preached to the colonialist about their abuses, and one sermon in particular enraged them, in this speech Father Vieira stated,
“All of you are in mortal sin; all of you live in a state of condemnation [for living off the blood of enslaved Indians] and all of you are going directly to Hell. Indeed, many are there now and you will soon join them if you do not change your life.[1]
Because of this quote, and many like it, Father Vieira was run out of Brazil by the colonials and back to Portugal when he continued his work for the natives at the royal court. Eventually he was able to return Brazil where he spent the rest of his life fighting for the protection of the Indians[2]. Father Vieira is an example of the lengths in which the Jesuit missionaries went to in their fight for the humane treatment of the native Brazilians during their time in colonial Brazil.

The Catholic Church, who had questioned the enslavement of native Indians, accepted the enslavement of Africans as long as they were Christianized. Jesuits, such as António Vieira, would eventually speak out against the brutality that the black slaves faced at the hands of their masters[4]. As he did when faced with Indian enslavement Father Vieria spoke out against the practice, asking in one sermon,
“Can there be a greater want of understanding, or greater error in judgment between men and men than for me to think that I must be your master because I was born farther away from the sun, and you must be my slave because you were born nearer to it?[5]
Along with Father Vieira, Portuguese André João Antonil and Jorge Benci also wrote pleas the monarchy to enforce better treatment of the African slave. The crown, as always, answered with edicts, but their enforcement was short lived. Slavery was the route of the colonial economic system and António Vieira, André João Antonil, and Jorge Benci’s protest against the brutality slaves gave the Jesuits a voice against the inhumane acts taking place[6].

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