Inter-Religious Dialogue in 16th-Century Guatemala

Garry Sparks,Journal of Inter Religious Dialogue, Feb.28,

There are, in fact, very few times in human history when two or more sizably significant groups of people encounter each other and neither one has any actual idea who, or even what, the other group is.

At the turn of the sixteenth century, Spaniards had no idea where they were or what they were encountering, and the indigenous peoples of the Americas had no idea what had washed up on their shores. While an encounter with the radically cultural and religious “other” is not new within the history of Christianity, the arrival of mendicant missionaries – namely Franciscan and Dominican – to Mesoamerica is unique because it provoked and provided a paper trail authored by both voices of western Christianity from late medieval and early modern Iberia and, to a lesser degree, their indigenous American hosts, resisters, and converts.

While Christian thought has always addressed, in some form, the intersection between aspects of cultures and the claims of a Christian faith, the encounter between Hispano-Catholicism and Maya religion is one the earliest – if not the earliest – incidents to include contemporaneous minority reports by survivors of Christendom or colonial Christianity.

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