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    “Religious” War in the Congo

    The Abuse of Religion as a tool for Wealth and Power

    Stanley and Livingston’s royally funded adventures to find the source of the Congo River in Africa reported a country rich in slaves and natural resources such as rubber and ivory. In 1884, Emperor Leopold of Belgium – a “truly evil man” by the admission of the King of Austria – marched troops into the region and murdered, by various reports, upwards of 10 to 13 million indigenous Congolese.

    A common and brutal discipline of his Belgian Administrators was to cut off the hands of people who didn’t obey the smallest instruction immediately, and then victim’s children and wives were also disciplined the same.

    To keep the population in balance, and hard at their assigned labors, Leopold sent Missionaries to the Congo with instructions in 1883, on how to interpret gospel so as to promise reward after this life. Throughout his new colony, Colonial Missionaries taught “religious studies” – and not Mathematics, not Language; not science nor agriculture, and they were instructed not to teach “Thou shalt not kill” because “they already know that”. (1)

    Administrators were given full reign to control the people and large production quotas to fill, with no monitoring or regard to the conditions of the people. Religious studies evolved in time to teach children how to defend themselves against the “infidels” or “heathens” on the other side of the country, and how to seek poverty, and it taught children of the Congo these fundamentals from a very early age. The indigenous students set about their learnings and followed instructions per this plan beginning almost immediately.

    Back in Europe, Leopold’s response to the criticism of polite society over his human rights violations was to rationalize that he was “bringing heathens to Christianity”. Even the most balanced accounts of Leopold’s legacy acknowledge his willingness to deploy religion to control both population and labor.

    His approach to population control was both reprehensible and effective. It worked so well, in fact, that other colonizing nations followed suit; the Portuguese, Spanish, and others adopted similar strategies. In the Congo – 130 years of civil war has endured and controlled the indigenous population – through Religious teaching, and Religous War, which have origins in control and not in religion.

    Modern examples of religious control are seen and felt today all over the world. An important value and lesson here, is that violence is never tolerable and war is seldom an appropriate remedy. In discussions of level-setting and Human Rights to come, we generally want to treat problems like we treat projects in Chapter 17. We level-set with language that all understand the same, we gather facts sufficient to permit supportable next steps, and then we plan changes responsibly so that families, and even our right to a Good Life, is safeguarded.



    (1) King Leopold’s Agenda: The historical origin of Christianity in Africa by Professor Chinweizu Ibekwe | Rasta Livewire. Retrieved November 24, 2015, from

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