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Mass crimes against humanity and genocides

A list of atrocities: 1450 CE to 1903

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bullet"There are times, young fellah, when every one of us must make a stand for human right and justice, or you never feel clean again." Lord John Roxton in The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle .
bullet"Traditionalists must do more. I've got to do more. We've all got to speak up in this respect, or else we'll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda." John Ashcroft, in a defense of "southern patriots" like Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee who fought with extreme dedication to preserve the institution of human slavery. 1


The descriptions below, of mass crimes against humanity, are sorted by the starting date of the atrocity. 

The numbers of victims are not particularly accurate; often records are very incomplete.

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1450 to 1792 Europe, New England, S. America Christians "Satan worshipers" & other heretics Perhaps 50,000 to 100,000

For about 300 years, during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, the Roman Catholic and Protestant faith groups were directly or indirectly responsible for the arrest, torture and execution of persons believed to worship Satan or express heretical religious ideas. Most of the death sentences were passed by civil courts, not by the churches. However, the Christian churches were indirectly involved:

bulletThey provided the theological foundation for the persecution of heretics in civil courts. 
bulletThey created a false and unsupportable belief that large numbers of worshipers had sold their soul to Satan and were committing evil and homicidal acts.

Belief in Witches gradually dissipated during the Age of Enlightenment, as people began to question the reality of many long-held religious beliefs. Estimates on the number of victims range from 3,000 (from a Roman Catholic source) to 9,000,000 (from various Neopagan sources). More information.

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1492 to now Western Hemisphere Western European Christians Aboriginals Millions or tens of millions

"For his second voyage to the Americas, Columbus took the title Admiral of the Ocean Sea and proceeded to unleash a reign of terror unlike anything seen before or since. When he was finished, eight million Arawaks -- virtually the entire native population of Hispaniola -- had been exterminated by torture, murder, forced labor, starvation, disease and despair." 2 Later European Christian invaders systematically murdered additional tens of millions of Aboriginal people, from the Canadian Arctic to South America. The exact number is unknown. Natives were murdered by warfare, forced death marches, forced relocation to barren lands, intentional and accidental spread of disease, poisoning, the promotion of suicide through the destruction of their cultural and religious heritage, etc. Even today, Canadian Natives have the highest suicide of any population group in the world. 

The genocide against American Aboriginals is one of the most massive, and longest lasting genocidal program in human history. More details

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1607 to 1865 (U.S.) The Americas & Caribbean Mainly Caucasians Mainly African Aboriginal people 645 thousand brought to the U.S.

African slaves were transported to what is now the Caribbean, North, Central & South America, starting very early in the 16th century. The transportation of slaves, and slavery itself were brutal institutions. It was  not unknown to have a 50% mortality rate during the passage from Africa. Slaves who were too ill to survive the trip were sometimes executed by being thrown overboard to drown. Slaves were largely treated as property, to be freely bought and sold.  Slave children were sent into the fields at about 12 years of age where they worked from sun up to sun down. Slavery was phased out in Canada as a result of government action early in the 19th century. It ceased in the U.S. after a civil war in the 1860s. The negative after-effects of slavery continue to the present day. See our section on slavery for more information.

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1770 to now Australia British invaders Aboriginal people 720 thousand

The European invasion of Australia started in 1788. The population of Aboriginals in the country was approximately 750,000 at the time. By 1911, the number had been reduced to 31,000. Most were decimated by diseases introduced by the invaders, against which the Aboriginals had no defense. Some 20,000 were murdered. In those days:

"The Sydney Herald claimed that blacks had 'bestowed no labour upon the land-their ownership, their right, was nothing more than that of the Emu or the Kangaroo.' Courts rejected Aboriginal evidence, because non-Christians could not swear oaths, and white killers used 'the defense that Aboriginal morality did not exist'.

The extermination of Aboriginals in Tasmania was particularly brutal; many white settlers would shoot them on sight. In 1830, the remaining 300 Aboriginals were ethnically cleansed from Tasmania. They were kinapped and transferred to Flinders Island. They signed a treaty which guaranteed their later return. It was never honored. By 1843, only 50 remained alive.

The atrocities continued into the 20th century. Between 1910 and 1970, "between one in three and one in ten indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families." They were placed with white families in order to absorb "these people into the general population." Aboriginals were finally granted citizenship in 1967.

On a positive note, they received an apology from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Parliament on 2008-FEB-13. He said:

"The time has come, well and truly come ... for all Australians, those who are indigenous and those who are not to come together, truly reconcile and together build a truly great nation."

Referring to the report "Bringing Them Home" commissioned by the previous government under Paul Keating, he said:

"There is something terribly primal about these first-hand accounts. The pain is searing, it screams from the pages -- the hurt, the humiliation, the degradation and the sheer brutality of the act of physically separating a mother from her children is a deep assault on our senses and on our most elemental sense of humanity. ... These stories cry out to be heard, they cry out for an apology. Instead from the nation's Parliament there has been a stony and stubborn and deafening silence for more than a decade. A view that somehow we the Parliament should suspend our most basic instincts of what is right and what is wrong. A view that instead we should look for any pretext to push this great wrong to one side. To leave it languishing with the historians, the academics and the cultural warriors as if the stolen generations are little more than an interesting sociological phenomenon. But the stolen generations are not intellectual curiosities, they are human beings, human beings who have been damaged deeply by the decisions of parliaments and governments." 3

Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1885 to early 1900s Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Belgium Congo and Congo Free State King Leopold II of Belgium and his colonial administration Congolese population Unknown. Estimates range from 3 million during part of the period, to 30 million.

Many millions of Congolese died in a massive genocide, starting in 1885 and continuing into the 20th century. The Congo Free State was controlled at the time by King Leopold II of Belgium. It was a regime of widespread forced labor, mass murder, mutilation and torture. MoreOrLess.au.com estimates that the population of the Congo declined from about 20 to 30 million to under nine million during this time of atrocity.

The Congress of Berlin gave King Leopold II administrative powers over the Congo Free State. According to the Siracd.com web site:

Leopold was interested in the Congo's natural resources. He used the native population as forced labor to acquire those resources. The human toll under Leopold's administration was staggering. People who resisted were beaten, tortured, mutilated or killed. Writer Algis Valiunas described the situation as "wickedness triumphant." 4

Author Conan Doyle was inspired to write The Crime of the Congo -- a book which he finished in eight days. It is "filled with graphic descriptions of violence and illustrated with photos of mutilated people, dealt with the atrocities committed in the Belgian Congo on behalf of King Leopold II." Doyle later campaigned for and end to the atrocities in the Congo. The situation gradually improved. 4

More details about this genocide

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "20th Century Democide," at: http://www.mega.nu:8080/ampp/rummel/20th.htm 
  2. "#671 - Columbus Day, 1999," at: http://www.rachel.org/bulletin/bulletin.cfm?Issue_ID=1591 
  3. "Kevil Rudd says sorry," Sydney Morning Herald, 2008-FEB-13, at: http://www.smh.com.au/
  4. "Conan Doyle and the Belgian Congo," at: http://www.siracd.com/

Site navigation: Home page > Laws & religionGenocide > here

or: Home page > Religious violence Genocide >  here

Copyright © 2001 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JAN-1
Latest update: 2010-JAN-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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