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Ferdinand and Isabella: the Reign in Spain that Changed the World

July 22, 2010

Grenada, Spain                Jan and I stood today in the reception room where Christopher Columbus made his audacious appeal to Ferdinand and Isabella, Spain’s monarchs in 1492, for ships to sail west through an uncharted ocean. All the royal scientists roundly scoffed at Columbus’ maps, not because they thought the world flat, but because they knew the globe was bigger by far than what Columbus realized. But when Isabela said “Si Señor,” the Italian ship captain sailed into history.

Also well-known and much celebrated here in Grenada is the victory in 1492 of Spanish Christians over Muslims who had occupied this part of Spain for 700 years. The tide of Islam had been ebbing for thee centuries as Catholics reclaimed more of Spain—more about the “Reconquista” another time.  It’s a fascinating history of a “Crusade” in Europe.

However, we must denounce the decision of Ferdinand and Isabella to forcibly remove all Muslims and Jews from Spain in that very year, 1492. “Convert or depart,” was the order of the day. True, the last Muslim sultan of Grenada was a horrible man; he killed 36 of his relatives, including all his sons, to win the heart of his newest bride (we saw the fountain in his palace where he piled their heads). But the Catholic Church had need of a humble invitation to Muslims to put their faith in Jesus. The Spanish Christians failed to remember that Arabs came to faith on the Day of Pentecost, and heard the gospel in their own language (Acts 2:11).

But the expulsion was long ago. Today there are 700,000 Muslims living in Spain (“Bienvenidos!”).  Their freedom to worship and share their religion is guaranteed by Spanish law. Would that this freedom were reciprocated in North Africa: during the last four months 120 Christians have been deported for “being a danger to society.”

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