King Leopold II of Belgium used forced labor to build his empire in the Congo.
When you think of the world’s worst mass murderers, King Leopold II doesn’t usually come up. But due to his forced labor practices in the Congo, nearly 10 million people lost their lives. He did this by pretending that his actions in that region were a missionary effort. In reality, he forced Africans to harvest wild rubber or risk having their hands cut off.
The truth is even darker than that: it turns out that Leopold was far from the only person doing this. This same era was marked by many major world powers engaging in forced labor. From the US in the Philippines to Arab countries in eastern Africa, much of the modern world was built on forced labor.
Author Adam Hochschild joins us for this episode to discuss his book “King Leopold’s Ghost“.
I first heard about this story on the Noble Blood podcast and their episode “The Red Paint on Leopold II”.
- Had you heard of King Leopold II before this?
- Leopold did send missionaries to the Congo. Was that a positive or negative thing for our Christian witness?
- Did you know that other major countries were engaged in forced labor into WWII?
- What do you think of the US-backed coup in Congo? Is it okay for the US to get involved in the politics of another nation?
Christian missionaries sometimes export the United States with their messages.
Melani McAlister, author of “The Kingdom of God Has No Borders” and Professor of American Studies and International Affairs at George Washington University, joins us to discuss how we export Christianity. In the 1950s and 1960s, American denominations sent white missionaries to Africa to share the good news. But with them went their bias and racism. This was the era of Jim Crow laws. Some missionaries took those laws to Africa, not allowing black people to eat at their tables.
In this episode, we examine the problem of tying the United States to Christianity. When the US makes mistakes or does evil, how does that reflect back on the church?
Christian missionaries sometimes export the United States with their messages. What else is going with our missionaries?
- Have you ever been on a mission trip before? What was your motivation for going?
- Do you think that it is possible to marginalize the people we are trying to witness to?
- How do you feel about showing pictures of poor people in church presentations? How might that practice encourage churchgoers to marginalize a people group?
- Do you think poor people in other countries are happier?
- Is it okay for us to export the American way with the gospel? If yes, then which things should we export?