Genocides: Th e Extreme Cases of Ethnic and Religious Confl icts
Looking at genocidal massacres will not only allow us to understand these bet-ter, but also point the way to a more hopeful conclusion that spells out the ways in which to diminish con ict. ough the term genocide rst appeared in print only in 1944 to describe what was
happening to the Jews in German-occupied Europe during World War II, the phenomenon is much older. Murdering all of a targeted group-men, women, childrenbecause its members share a common ethnicity, religion, nationality, or simply because they all happen to be in the same place has been going on for a long time. e Bible describes genocides of the tribes or ethnic groups called Amalekites, Canaanites, and Midianites (though in this last case virgin women were to be spared to be distributed among Moses’ men) in response to the Lord’s commandments to wipe them out for religious reasons. Caesar massacred certain tribes in Gaul in the 1st century b.c.e. if they did not surrender and accept Roman rule. In the late 11th century Western Crusaders slaughtered the people in Jerusalem, mostly Muslims and Jews, when they seized it. Other Crusaders from northern France wiped out entire populations of some of the southern French towns they conquered during their war against Albigensian heretics, following orders from the Pope’s emissaries. is was to exterminate a Christian heresy, but it was also part of the northern conquest of a part of what would become France that spoke a di erent language than in the north. Mongols in the 13th century sometimes ordered massacres of entire cities if these had not surrendered or were believed to have betrayed prior agreements, and Tamerlane, a Turkic Muslim ruler descendant from the Mongols, did the same in Central Asia and Persia a century later. European conquerors killed whole tribes in the Americas and Australia; and though it was not genocide in the sense that the intent was not to kill them all, millions of Africans captured as slaves to be brought to the Americas died in the process of being transported and from being overworked.