World Council of Churches (WCC) Statement On The Doctrine Of Discovery And Its Enduring Impact On Indigenous Peoples

WCC Executive Committee
14-17 February 2012
Bossey, Switzerland

1. Indigenous Peoples have the oldest living cultures in the world. Three hundred to five hundred million Indigenous Peoples today live in over 72 countries around the world, and they comprise at least 5,000 distinct peoples. The ways of life, identities, well-being and very existence of Indigenous People are threatened by the continuing effects of colonization and national policies, regulations and laws that attempt to force them to assimilate into the cultures of majoritarian societies. A fundamental historical basis and legal precedent for these policies and laws is the “Doctrine of Discovery”, the idea that Christians enjoy a moral and legal right based solely on their religious identity to invade and seize indigenous lands and to dominate Indigenous Peoples. More

World Council of Churches disowns doctrine used against Indigenous Peoples

27.02.12

From a stamp engraved on copper by Th. de Bry, 1590: “Discovery of America, 12 May, 1492, Christopher Columbus erects the cross and baptizes the Isle of Guanahani by the Christian Name of St. Salvador.”

In a recent meeting, the World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee denounced the “Doctrine of Discovery”, which has been used to subjugate and colonize Indigenous Peoples. The Executive Committee issued a statement calling the nature of the doctrine” fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus”.  

The statement was issued in a meeting from 14 to 18 February in Bossey, Switzerland, urging to repudiate this doctrine, which has permitted the enslavement of Indigenous Peoples in the name of Christianity.

The origin of the doctrine goes back to the papal bulls issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1452 and 1455 respectively, allowing the invasion and killing of the Indigenous Peoples. More

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