‘Great sins cast long shadows’ is a Spanish proverb which conveys a universal truth.
The proverb is quoted by historian Roger Crowley in his new book ‘Conquerors’ ( available as a ‘Buy one get one half price’ at Waterstone’s!).
The book details how Portugal forged the first global empire.
While Christopher Columbus was obsessed with an unknown continent beyond the western horizon, the Portuguese were keen to find a shorter way to the spice islands of the east, via the south of the African continent.
Foremost among the Portuguese explorers was Vasco da Gama, known to history as the first man to round the Cape of Good Hope.
Further across the Indian Ocean he landed on the Malabar coast of India.
There he had expected to find a Christian presence. Instead, he encountered Hinduism, and energetic Muslim traders, whom he cordially hated.
His aggressive attitude won few friends, as Crowley highlights in telling of the destruction of a ship called the ‘Miri’, with about two hundred Muslims on board.
The ship was captured, and stripped of its rudder. Gunpowder was laid, and ignited as part of Gama’s plan to burn the Muslims alive.
While the crew fought the fire, Gama’s men maintained a constant bombardment until the stricken ship went down.
The treatment of the ‘Miri’ was never forgotten nor forgiven along the Malabar coast. The great sin cast a long shadow.
Despite recent harmony, is it not true to say that Anglo-Irish relations have suffered from memories of Cromwell’s ruthlessness in the seventeenth century and Great Hunger of the nineteenth?
The memory of Trevelyan and his corn still resonates in Irish minds.
Likewise, the events portrayed in television’s ‘The Secret’ has cast a long shadow over countless innocent lives, as well as those of us who care for the reputation of the church of Jesus Christ.
In God’s world, all actions have consequences. Not only do we reap what we sow(Galatians 6;7) but those following us also reap a bitter harvest.
When contemplating any unworthy deed, let’s remember that ‘great sins cast long shadows’.
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