Is Christianity bad for black people
Theologians: Religions are not immune to racism
Even if many religions emphasize the same dignity of all people at a central point, there has always been and continues to be discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or skin color within religious communities. Even biblical narratives often had to serve to legitimize racism and slavery, the Viennese religious scholar Gerald Hödl reported on Monday (October 19, 2020) to the portal religion.orf.at. According to the report, representatives from Islam and Judaism in Austria are also aware that a self-critical examination of the past is required.
In colonialism, the Christian denominations treated the inhabitants of the conquered areas differently, Hödl explained: While they were mostly baptized in Catholic areas and received little instruction in the religion, it was assumed in Protestant colonies that Christians were actually not allowed to be Slaves are kept. "But then you needed a biblical justification for slavery - and found it in the story of Noah's sons Sem, Ham and Jafet," said the expert.
As the text from the Book of Genesis says, Ham once saw his father naked, whereupon Ham's son cursed Canaan. The ancient Israel once established the submission of the Canaanites, but it did not stop there: "Since the Bible was also considered a history book, the theological interpretation of the world assumed that all the peoples of this world would either come from Ham, Sem or Jafet, "said Hödl. Ham's skin color was dark in contrast to that of his brothers - which later led to people of dark skin color being viewed as inferior and even inferring from this that the enslavement and submission of Africans were legitimate.
The fateful thought patterns have not been completely overcome, even within the churches: Neo-colonialism is expressed to this day "in the form of perhaps well-intentioned, but ultimately paternalistic and racist infantilization of black people in connection with donation campaigns for development aid projects in many Christian parishes", so the religious scholar continues. Pictures of starving African children as "donation objects" are still central to the representation of black people in public.
Important critical ability
In the religion.orf.at report, the Viennese racism researcher Araba Evelyn Johnston-Arthur praised the fact that many Christians today are also ready to confront racism. In this regard, the ability to criticize is "very, very important," said the human rights activist. Religion actually has a "liberating effect", especially in those interpretations that see Christian theology "per se as liberation theology" - and thus as an obligation to "focus on" oppressed people.
Voices from Islam and Judaism make it clear that there are approaches to self-reflection on their history in matters of racism that go beyond their own experiences of discrimination. The rabbi of the Vienna Jewish Community, Schlomo Hofmeister, mentioned the problematic way Israel dealt with Ethiopian-born black Jews. Only last year, thousands of Ethiopian Jews protested against police violence after fatal shots were fired at a Jew with Ethiopian roots.
Nadim Mazarweh, head of the Contact Point for Prevention of Extremism and Deradicalization of the Islamic Faith Community in Austria (IGGÖ), mentioned the involvement of Muslims in the "terrible history of the slave trade, kidnapping and slave hunting that took place in North and Central Africa". For him, self-criticism was justified on religious grounds and even "worship", said Mazarweh.
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