Mexico's president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has written a letter to Spanish king Felipe VI and Pope Francis urging them to apologise for massacre of the indigenous people during the conquest of the region 500 years ago, reports BBC.
The current territory of Mexico was under Spanish rule for around 300 years before gaining independence in the early 19th Century. At the time of the conquest, a fiercely Roman Catholic Spain had its mission to spread Christianity around the world.
A leftist Obrador tweeted a video address on Monday (25 March) from an archaeological site in Comacalco, Tabasco, saying "There were massacres... The so-called conquest was done with the sword and the cross. They raised churches on top of temples,” adding, “ "The time has come to reconcile but first they should ask forgiveness."
While Mexico has the world's second biggest Roman Catholic population after Brazil, and only one-fifth people identifying as ‘indigenous’, a large percentage of population has some pre-Hispanic ancestry.
The government in Madrid promptly rejected Mexico’s request for an apology asking to read the shared past “without anger and with a constructive perspective."
There was no immediate comment from the Vatican but three years ago, on a visit to Mexico the Pope had indirectly admitted to atrocities on the indigenous people. "Some have considered your values, culture and traditions to be inferior. Others, intoxicated by power, money and market trends, have stolen your lands or contaminated them. How sad this is," he said, and then asked for forgiveness.
The video shared by the Mexican president on Twitter sparked wider debates on colonialism, Christian inquisitions and proselytisation. Many pointed out the Goan inquisition by Portuguese which saw persecution of non-Christian natives. Many natives were accused of practising Hinduism secretly, criminally-charged and imprisoned for numerous years, publicly flogged or sentenced to death, often by burning at the stake. Catholic Christian missionaries also burnt any books written in Sanskrit, Arabic, Marathi, or Konkani that they could find.
Many Hindus who joined official positions in Delhi Sultanate after conversion to Islam were also accused and punished for ‘crypto-Hinduism’. That many contemporary Arabic Islamic scholars consider the form of Islam followed in South Asia ‘corrupted’ by elements of Hinduism, and therefore, liable to be reformed shows the continuity of Hinduphobia and relevance of debates over interaction between the two faiths in the subcontinent centuries ago.