Proselytism and Cultural Integrity
Makau W. Mutua
SUNY Buffalo Law School
FACILITATION FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF: A DESKBOOK, Tore Lindholm, W. Cole Durham Jr., Bahia G. Thazib-Lie, eds., Oslo Coalition, 2004
On March 12, 2000, Pope John Paul II issued a historic statement in which the Catholic Church publicly acknowledged for the first time some of the gross human rights violations that it has committed, perpetrated, condoned, or tolerated over its two thousand year history. While a step in the right direction, the confession and plea for forgiveness failed to address the basic contradictions between proselytizing, universalist faiths and indigenous religions and cultures, and the underlying arrogant and inflexible assumption of the moral, ethical, and racial superiority of the former over the latter. It is this vexed relationship between imperial faiths and the indigenous beliefs and moral universes of non-white, non-European, and non-Arabic peoples of Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas that is subject of this inquiry. Using Africa as an illustration, this chapter deconstructs the meaning of the freedom of religion or belief at the point of conflict between the universalist faiths and African religions. It argues that the meeting of the two universes resulted in cultural genocide. It problematizes the concept of the right to the free exercise of religion, which includes the right to proselytize in the presumed marketplace of religions.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 20
Keywords: Proselytism, Culture, Religion, Catholic, Human rights, Faiths, indigenous, Africa, GenocideAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: December 25, 2009
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