FROM THE PIONEER – THE MAGAZINE OF ST AUGUSTINE’S
To this day many villages and towns in the south of Spain still hold a Moor’s and Christian’s day when the local people dress up and re-enact their own local day of freedom from their Moorish oppression, of course to the victor belongs the spoils, but I wonder just how influenced this tradition is by the fact that within weeks of their conquering the south their majesty’s started the inquisition against all who refused to become Christians!
In truth though it must be pointed out that it was not against the Muslims that the inquisition was at first directed, but against Spain’s vast Jewish population, many of whom had fled to it centuries before when the Holy City had been attacked. The intention was that the Jews like the Muslim’s should convert to Christianity and although some did they were regarded with suspicion and contempt. After convicting some 13,000 people and burning at least 2,000 for secret ‘Jewish deviations’, Thomas Torquemada, the Chief Inquisitor recommended that the King and Queen expel all those who refused to convert. Somewhere between 75,000 and 150,000 people packed their bags and left for more tolerant countries, although as most of Western Europe began to copy Spain’s example so they moved further east until they wound up either in Holland, Poland-Lithuania or back under a very tolerant Ottoman Muslim control in parts of Turkey and the Middle East, including to the surprise of many Jerusalem itself. These Sephardic Jews (Sepharad is Hebrew for Spain) are still one of the major groups in Israel to this day. The damage done to the wealth of Spain was immense and out of all proportion to that which had been anticipated, however it’s loss was offset by the discoveries that were soon flowing back to Spain from the New World.
In April 1492, just three months after ‘liberating’ Granada their majesty’s appointed the son of a Genoese inn-keeper as Admiral of the Ocean Sea. He was, of course, better known by his anglicised name of Christopher Columbus. Two months into his historic voyage, in October 1492 he discovered the West Indies and the rest of the Americas, as they came to be called, followed soon after though named after another rival explorer.
What is not so well known is that Columbus persuaded the King and Queen to support him with the promise that the vast wealth he expected to discover would enable them to mount a crusade to free the Holy City of Jerusalem from its Islamic occupation. Ferdinand did indeed mount a crusade along the coast of North Africa and that is why Spain still has two sovereign enclaves in Morocco. The Crusade was known as the Maghrebi expeditions and succeeded in capturing Oran then Tripoli (now in Libya) in the year 1510. It was reported that the crusaders were led by a fierce old cardinal who rode on a donkey and brandished a silver cross before him. (Sadly I cannot find a record of his name.)
The pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land that Jan and I took part in earlier this year has caused me to re-examine the history of the area where we come for our annual break. In so doing it has reminded me of the way that man and indeed woman have at times used the so called ‘Will of God’ to serve their own purpose, frequently to the extreme detriment of others. This abuse is not unique to our Christian faith but is perpetrated by many individuals of various faiths, all of claim it is the will of their divine being. They do so to bolster their own ambitions and to impress those gullible enough to believe them, so that they will follow them into battle. Such tactics are still being used today by organisations like Al-Qaeda.
I do not claim to know the ‘Will of God’, in my own life I have had the opportunity to do a great many things and never once did I see myself as a Priest, yet here I am. I was recounting my journey of faith just a few short nights ago, in response to some questions from a group of fellow holiday makers as we sat under the stars in the little courtyard by our small little cluster of villas and apartments.
No, I may not know the will of God but I am convinced that it is that we try to live in peace and harmony, one with another, and that we stop using his name as an excuse to further our own ends to the detrainment of others.
May God be with you -