The power of the major Christian religions became awesome in colonial British Honduras because, not only did these religions essentially control the destiny of our immortal souls, they owned the schools which transferred some education and technology from the colonial masters to selected native children. The major Christian religions here, then, were in charge of a process which enabled the children of some members of the working classes to escape the manual drudgery of their parents and rise into the clerical classes. This was the desire of most working class parents in the colony – an educated life for their children.
It is said that the first school in British Honduras was opened around 1814 or so by the Anglican Church in Belize Town. (Slavery was still firmly in place then in the settlement of Belize.) The Anglicans were followed by the Methodists in the 1830s where the matter of schools was concerned. To the best of our knowledge, the Roman Catholics began opening schools in Belize in the second half of the nineteenth century, after the mostly Catholic refugees from the 1847 Caste War in Yucatan began populating the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts.
The point is that it was not the secular authorities in the settlement of Belize who began opening and maintaining schools in Belize: it was the major Christian churches – Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic. Of these three it should be noted that in Great Britain, the British monarchy/state and the Anglican Church are as one. Buckingham Palace and St. John’s Cathedral, therefore, are the same thing: Queen Elizabeth II is the boss. The Methodist Church has more of a less aristocratic, more roots, Caribbean flavor than the Anglican Church. The Roman Catholic Church in Belize is perhaps the oldest and definitely the most powerful Christian denomination in the world. It is led by the Pope of Rome. In the case of Belize, the Roman Catholic Church ministered to and educated the children of the two segments of our population who were considered refugees in the settlement of Belize – the Garinagu and the Mestizos (Maya).
In the matter of slavery and the majority African (Creole) population of the settlement, it should be noted that in Great Britain and its colonial possessions, before the abolition of slavery between 1834 and 1838, it was Christian clergy and their more devout Christian faithful who earned the goodwill and gratitude of enslaved African descendants because they led the early campaigns amongst the British at home and abroad to end slavery. More sincere Christians amongst the Europeans found the teachings of Jesus Christ to be inconsistent, so to speak, with the brutal, inhumane practice of human enslavement.
When African and Mayan descendants in self-governing Belize demanded in 1969 that the Christian schools here begin the teaching of African and Indigenous history in their schools, it was considered a radical demand by the masses of the Belizean people. African and Mayan people here, who had experienced centuries of slavery, oppression and colonialism in the settlement of Belize and in the Yucatan of Mexico, were not aware that there were important historical narratives to be told about our ancestors. All our Belizean people knew in 1969 was that they wanted their children to be educated, as a matter of urgent priority, and they knew that it was the major Christian religions who owned and controlled the schools. Because the people of Belize were alarmed by any challenging of the churches, it was easy for the Christian missionaries to ignore the 1969 demands of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) and the People’s Action Committee (PAC). The power of the Christian churches in education was almost absolute.
The power of the Christian churches was almost absolute in education because the historical ignorance of our people was almost absolute. Our people believed in 1969 that it was a given that the Europeans were, by birth and by definition, intellectually superior to us Belizeans, and that it was only by ensuring the benevolence of the Europeans towards us that they would transfer some of their education and technology to our Belizean children. In Belize in 1969, then, there was still a colonialism of the mind, and it was entrenched and seemingly unassailable.
By 1969, the electoral politicians who had begun fighting in 1950 against British colonialism in Belize had dearly decided not to challenge the power of the Christian churches in any manner, way, shape or form. Those young graduates who challenged the curricula of the Christian schools in 1969 which ignored African and Mayan history, were entering territory which was uncharted where Belize’s socio-politics was concerned.
In 2017, in what some people call the post-modern world, education is not focused on traditional clerical skills per se. In today’s world, knowledge is dominated by all kinds of technology – agricultural, computer, engineering, electrical, electronic, medical, nuclear, and other forms of technology. In Belize, however, we are still adoring attorneys and politicians. We are terminally afflicted with colonialism of the mind. That is because we are victims of an educational system whose priority is religious indoctrination, and the electoral politicians who supposedly liberated us between 1964 and 1981, left that outdated school system in place. Our politicians were and are still afraid of the power of the Christian churches, and rightfully so: Belize, if you think carefully about it, may therefore not only be considered a monarchy, but also a theocracy.
To the ancient world, human knowledge reached its highest levels in Asia, the lands that we now refer to as the Middle East, Africa, and Mayan America. A thousand years ago, which was a thousand years after the birth of Christ, the Europeans were basically barbarian tribes. The Spanish, for instance, were educated and civilized between the eighth and fifteenth centuries by the Moors, Islamic North Africans who had crossed the Mediterranean into southern Europe. In explaining how they moved from ignorance to intellectual brilliance, the other European peoples usually cite the Greeks as the source of their knowledge. The question is: who educated the Greeks? Liberated minds know that it was from the Egyptians that the Greeks acquired their education, and liberated minds also know that the Egypt which was arguably planet earth’s most spectacular civilization before the birth of Christ, was an African civilization, one which reached south to Nubia along the Nile and all the way to Ethiopia.
The enslavement of Africans gave a great boost to European learning, because the wealth derived from the slave labor of our ancestors financed research and technology in Europe. The same Africans the Europeans began enslaving five hundred years ago, had been the intellectual superiors of the Europeans, not only in Egypt (North Africa), but in Mali (West Africa) and Zimbabwe (Southern Africa).
So now, God did not create the minds of Europeans as congenitally superior constructs to the minds of Africans and Mayans. In fact, in the previous paragraphs we have not even mentioned the fabulous intellectual achievements of Mayan civilizations in the centuries and millennia before the Europeans emerged from their caves.
The point of our essay is this: we Belizeans are still suffering from a massive colonialism of the mind 36 years after political independence. Belize’s education system is, at the level of the masses, a complete disaster. Our education system is elitist. Every year, we produce a few bourgeois scholars, and simultaneously we condemn the majority of our children to ignorance, poverty, disease, jail cells, and death. We call this process self-rule: at this newspaper, we can only see it, to repeat, as colonialism of the mind.
Power to the people.Amandala