Kairos 1998


In 1498, Vasco da Gama opened the way for Western colonization of Africa and Asia. Five hundred years later the peoples of these continents are still divided and dispossessed. The greed and acquisitiveness of the colonial masters and their will for power have inflicted much pain and suffering. Our peoples have been witness to the pillaging of their resources, the rape of their women, children, culture and Nature.

Both colonizer and colonized have become victims of this colonial legacy. Its very mode of being is domination and subjugation. This has produced a world of conflict and war where hatred and violence are the norm.

Today, while we are conscious of the positive contribution of the colonizer-colonized relationship, we note with a great sense of pain the magnitude of the damage wrought by the same relationship, which clearly outweighs the former.

As we assess our losses, we celebrate the survival and resistance of our peoples in spite of centuries of Western hegemony which could not break our spirit of self-determination, our sense of human dignity and our hunger for justice and peace.

This is a time for a new beginning for both colonizers and colonized. Nothing less than a radical transformation of consciousness and of our ways of life is required. Then can we return to an equitable redistribution of land and wealth, a sharing of intellectual and technological resources and to the restoration of an abiding respect for Nature.

The diminution of the Earth’s resources, the exploding chain of natural upheavals, brings us to face our common humanity and to what stares us in the face: that, indeed, we have a world to heal.

This healing must start with naming the illness. What then is the illness of our present context in Asia and Africa?

The colonizers brought the illness of conquest. We became their suppliers of bullion and raw materials to feed their industrialization. We became their captive markets for their finished products.

From the outset, we were robbed of our lands. Their laws altered our ownership patterns and restructured our practices. Our lands became sources of revenue. But not for us.

Plantation economies and monoculture insured that our colonizers grew rich and our lands and people grew poor. Our network of labor and relationships was deformed. We became a people without a plot to till and with no industrial infrastructure to absorb our skills. Our excess labor was exported and indentured. In slave-like conditions, we tilled the soil and worked the plantations in other lands across the seas. But not for us.

We have been cheapened - our lands and our labors.

Our indigenous peoples saw the links that they had nurtured with Nature around them severed. They suffered their marginalization and degradation. They became the wretched in their own lands.

Among our own, we witnessed the policy of divisiveness that exacerbated and entrenched the divisions of religion, caste, race, language and gender. We saw the rise of the elite collaborator, educated with colonial values and foreign ties. We rebelled as they took over the reigns of power from the colonial masters.

And when we resisted and when we protested, we paid the price in human lives lost, in ecology destroyed, in culture demeaned.

We now seek, claim and demand material and moral compensation unequivocally.

In the spirit of mutual respect and with the vision of a common future for humankind, we call all peoples to strive for a just and sustainable world order.

(Ed note: The following document was produced at the African and Asian Forum on Spirituality: Jubilee 1998, July 1994, Colombo, Sri Lanka.)