In 1493, Pope Alexander VI created the Doctrine of Discovery, which gave European explorers the right to claim any “discovered” lands. The Doctrine of Discovery was used by Western colonial governments to justify the genocide, enslavement, and oppression of indigenous people.
For hundreds of years, Indigenous people were literally hunted and killed, their bodies buried, and their languages and cultures obliterated. Much of what Europeans knew about the “new world” was based on the brutalities of conquering Native people. And, through the efforts of missionaries, they were ethnically cleansed from the majority of their traditional lands.
Indigenous nations around the world are continuing to experience genocidal government policies and severe environmental degradation. Pope Alexander VI wrote the Doctrine of Discovery, and our governments now claim ownership of the land stolen from Indigenous nations.
Religion is responsible for the genocide of millions of Indigenous people around the world. On July 9, 2015, Pope Francis apologised to the Indigenous people of America for the Catholic Church’s role in the brutalities of colonisation in America.
“I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offences of the church herself but also for crimes committed against the Native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”
Acknowledging and apologising is the first step, but we have an opportunity to make amends for all the wrongs that were done to the Indigenous people; actions speak louder than words… We can do this in many ways, but one way is by taxing churches and giving the money to Indigenous nations.
Imagine all that could be done with a small percentage of church funds.
Churches have a moral obligation to pay for past mistakes
Not everyone believes that churches have a moral obligation to pay back their ancestors for the wrongs done to Indigenous people. Some feel that churches have a right to be exempt from paying taxes and forgiven for past wrongs and “get over it”.
However, it doesn’t matter what you think of religion or how much you enjoy church on Sundays. The fact is that the churches established in Indigenous territories helped to destroy the Indigenous nations living there. The lack of laws for this issue is appalling. It is beyond belief that there are no laws that specifically deal with the issue of churches paying for past wrongs.
The theory of taxation as an equitable mechanism for the distribution of public funds to fund social, economic, and cultural needs has evolved over centuries to serve the needs of society.
With billions in wealth from donations and stolen land, why do churches struggle to pay for justice? The Catholic Church itself is a global organisation with an estimated net worth in the trillions. It’s one of the wealthiest institutions in the world, and they’ve been able to amass this wealth through a vast property portfolio, insurance and investment arms.
Laws need to be created, and legislation needs to be implemented to see justice. Why not make rules for churches that say the churches operating on stolen Indigenous land have to pay for reparations?
It’s not enough to just say sorry and promise not to do it again. The church needs to make amends for its past mistakes.
How will Indigenous nations benefit from a church tax?
Many Indigenous nations are in desperate need of clean water, housing, jobs, education, infrastructure, health care, and internet access. The benefits of the church tax for Indigenous nations is immense. It will help make sure that Indigenous communities receive the services, resources and education they deserve.
The church tax funds would go directly into programs that help people — programs to improve their lives and ensure a better future for all. This is a Christian value.
The church tax can also be used to make investments that positively impact the world and benefit everyone. Such investments often happen in land use, pollution prevention measures, infrastructure improvements, economic development, and housing.
Indigenous people make up just 5% of the world’s population, but they protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity, which is a massive responsibility for the most disadvantaged demographic on the planet.
With the help of Allies, we can continue to push for Indigenous peoples’ rights and self-determination. Together we can make a difference.