The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 BC to 146 BC. At the time, they were probably the largest wars that had ever taken place. The term Punic comes from the Latin wordPunicus (or Poenicus), meaning “Carthaginian”, with reference to the Carthaginians’ Phoenician ancestry. The main cause of the Punic Wars was the conflicts of interest between the existing Carthaginian Empire and the expanding Roman Republic. The Romans were initially interested in expansion via Sicily (which at that time was a cultural melting pot), part of which lay under Carthaginian control. At the start of the first Punic War, Carthage was the dominant power of the Western Mediterranean, with an extensive maritime empire, while Rome was the rapidly ascending power in Italy, but lacked the naval power of Carthage. By the end of the third war, after more than a hundred years, and the loss of many hundreds of thousands of soldiers from both sides, Rome had conquered Carthage’s empire and completely destroyed the city, becoming the most powerful state of the Western Mediterranean. The Roman Empire took unoccupied or undefended land (terre nulles) for the emperor. With the end of the Macedonian wars – which ran concurrently with the Punic Wars – and the defeat of the Seleucid King Antiochus III the Great in the Roman–Syrian War (Treaty of Apamea, 188 BC) in the eastern sea, Rome emerged as the dominant Mediterranean power and one of the most powerful cities in classical antiquity. In 1095, at the beginning of the Crusades, Pope Urban II issued an edict-the Papal Bull Terra Nullius (meaning empty land). It gave the kings and princes of Europe the right to “discover” or claim land in non-Christian areas.
In the early 4th century, Emperor Constantine established the orthodoxy of the Christian church in the Roman Empire. Christianity was decreed the exclusive state religion of the Empire in 380 CE. The Roman victories over Carthage in these wars gave Rome a preeminent status it would retain until the 5th century AD. According to the Roman Christian story of Jericho is told in Joshua 6:1-27. The first five books of the Bible (the Torah) tell how Noah cursed Canaan to become a slave, and how God gave the land of the Canaanites to Abraham and his descendants. The children of Israel (i.e., the descendants of Abraham) themselves became slaves in Egypt, but through Moses God brought them out of Egypt and to the borders of the promised land of Canaan. There Moses instructed them to seize the land by conquest, and placed them under the command of Joshua.
Middle ages: The Church converted pagan kings in Europe and the British Isles, often by force of arms and threat of eternal damnation. The Church acquired vast tracts of land from them.
11th–13th centuries: Crusades attempted to control the Holy Land. Lands not occupied by Christians were deemed vacant. The Church arbitrated land claims among Christian monarchs.
15th century: Papal bulls (1452, 1453, 1493, and following) authorized only Christian monarchies as sovereign, and encouraged them to vanquish and place in perpetual slavery/servitude any heathens, pagans, Saracens, or other non-Christian peoples. For example, Portuguese developed the slave trade along the west African coast. The Church required “discovery” of land that was not occupied by Christians and to bring it under Church dominion. The peoples in Asia, Africa, and the Americas were not deemed sovereign as they were not Christian. The papacy authorized military conquest to assist conversion to Christianity.
1452 This policy was extended in 1452 when Pope Nicholas V issued the bull Romanus Pontifex, declaring war against all non-Christians throughout the world and authorizing the conquest of their nations and territories. These edicts treated non-Christians as uncivilized and subhuman, and therefore without rights to any land or nation. Christian leaders claimed a God-given right to take control of all lands and used this idea to justify war, colonization, and even slavery.
Then Catholic King Ferdinand of Castille and Queen Isabella marshaled a Christian army to impose their rule. Castillian soldiers charged into battle with the cry “Santiago Matamoros” or “Kill the Moors.” By January 1492 Christian soldiers stood poised for victory and an era of ethnic cleansing. On January 2, 1492 Ferdinand’s troops captured the splendid Moorish Alhambra castle, the last Arab power bastion in Grenada. An enthusiastic Columbus who stood in the cheering crowd later recorded the triumphal moment in the first sentence of his Diary. “I saw the Royal banner of your Highness placed on the towers of Alhambra . . . and I saw the Moorish King come forth and kiss the royal hand of your Highness . . . . “In 1537 pope Paul III explicitly condemned enslaving non-Christians in Sublimus Dei. In 1686 the Holy Office limited the bull by decreeing that Africans enslaved by unjust wars should be freed.
16th–18th centuries: Church-based claims to sovereignty by Spain, Portugal, and France became transferable to other Christian monarchies through treaty. Protestant monarchies, such as the British Crown under Henry VIII, reasserted themselves as Christian sovereigns, a status further bolstered by treaties and dynastic marriages.
1783: The Treaty of Paris between the British Crown and the United States of America recognized the United States of America as a “sovereign” government (though not a monarchy).
1823: US Supreme Court case Johnson v. M’Intosh made “discovery doctrine” explicit in US law. The court denied individuals permission to buy land from American Indian tribes [nations]. Under the doctrine, the court assumed only a sovereign United States could acquire the land, should the Indians choose to sell. In this decision, Indians were given a limited right of “occupancy” without full title to their own land, and could thus lose their land if they could not prove continuous occupancy. The doctrine was reframed in secular terms, in which the criterion for sovereignty became “cultivators of land” instead of “Christians.”
1955: US Supreme Court case Tee-Hit-Ton Indians v. United States relied on the doctrine of discovery. The court ruled that because “Tee-Hit-Tons were in a hunting and fishing stage of civilization” they had only a limited right of occupancy, and therefore the US was not required to reimburse the Tee-Hit-Ton for timber harvested from their land. [Tee-Hit-Ton are Tlingit people in Alaska. See http://www.utulsa.edu/law/classes/rice/USSCT_Cases/Tee-Hit-Ton_v_US_348_272.htm.]
2005: US Supreme Court case City of Sherrill v. Oneida Nation of Indians relied on doctrine of discovery to limit the Oneida Nation’s sovereignty. The Oneidas had documented their sovereignty through US treaties. The court ruled that due to an interval of nonoccupancy, land in question was not sovereign Oneida territory. Under the doctrine, the land could have federal trust status. Trust status exempted the land from taxation, in this case by a municipal government, the City of Sherrill.
2007: UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples acknowledges many rights, yet is not explicit on sovereignty issues. Although U.S. support for the Declaration is relatively recent, it is surprising that the Declaration has yet to be invoked in our domestic courts—which Walter Echo-Hawk has aptly dubbed “the courts of the conqueror”—where laws do affect American indigenous peoples’ lives—in an increasingly negative way. In defense of unlawful federal agency action (or inaction) in Indian Country, the United States’ lawyers will quickly rejoin that the Declaration “is not a law or even a binding document in the United States.”Marrakush Soc. v. New Jersey State Police(D.N.J. 2009).
2014: Pope Franics signs joint declaration calls modern slavery a “crime against humanity,” and says that eradication in less than a decade is achievable. Pope Francis has joined 12 other world faith leaders in a ground-breaking initiative “to eradicate modern slavery” by 2020. The Pope, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew from Greece and senior representatives of the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist faiths, gathered at the Vatican this morning to adopt the Joint Declaration Against Modern Slavery. The declaration stated: “Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity.”
Pope Francis on Twitter: No more slavery. We are all brothers and sisters.
Pope Francis’s speech was followed by statements from the major religious leaders, beginning with the Indian guru Mata Amritanandamayi, also known as Amma, which means “mother” in Hindi. “Destroying the life of another person is an act of abuse against the gifts of God,” Amma stated, seated next to the Pope. “We need to develop empathy, allowing the divinity within each person to be realized […]. For the new generations and victims of human trafficking, we need to establish a practical education that will help them develop a greater awareness. We need to arouse their dormant courage and faith in themselves, to help them rise up again. They must realize that they are not weak and powerless lambs, but can be courageous lions […]. What we need is a culture of love.”
As Andrew Forrest, president of Walk Free Foundation, pointed out, the signing of the declaration also represents a moment of great cooperation between Shiite and Sunni Muslim leaders. Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grant Imam of Al Azhar, recalled the words of the Prophet: “An Arab is not superior to a non-Arab, just as a non-Arab is not superior to an Arab.”
Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi (one of the five Grand Ayatollahs of Iraq) linked modern slavery to the plague of terrorism: “Modern slavery is a corrupt social phenomenon, a method of spreading terror throughout populations. Prostitution, like organ trafficking, is illegal and must be eliminated. Some existing systems are responsible for these social ills, because that have not succeeded in protecting the rights of the people and distance themselves from the institutions which are just in the eyes of God.”