By now you’ve surely heard about the missionary who was killed by a tribe who he attempted to convert to Christianity. John Allen Chau made not one, not two, but three attempts to contact the isolated Sentinelese tribe, met with arrows from them every time, before he died.
More details are emerging about the situation, showing that he knew it was dangerous, but he wanted to spread Christianity to the tribe regardless of the risk to himself – or to the tribe.
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And now, Christians are calling him a “martyr,” because of course they are. As CNN reported:
Chau’s zeal to spread the Christian gospel took him back to the remote island, where he apparently was killed last week by tribespeople after trespassing, authorities said. Contact with the isolated tribe is prohibited. But those who knew the American missionary are calling him a martyr for the Christian faith.
“He was someone who died out of love for these people to bring the good news of Jesus Christ,” Ramsey, 22, said in an interview Wednesday from Cologne, Germany.
I think he was greeted appropriately, and wonder what the world would look like today had more Europeans been greeted in this manner back in the 1500s.
William Stark of International Christian Concern made the following statement:
“We here at International Christian Concern are extremely concerned by the reports of an American missionary being murdered in India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Our thoughts and prayers go out to both John’s family and friends. Every day, new reports of persecution are being documented in India. Many Christians fear this may be the new normal for their community as Hindu radicals and others have been allowed to attack Christians and other minority communities with impunity. India must take steps to counter the growing wave of intolerance and violence.”
Thoughts and prayers.
The amount of willful ignorance here is astounding.
For one, Chau was not murdered. He was killed because he was doing something incredibly reckless and stupid. Murder implies intent, and the only intent by the Sentinelese tribe was to protect themselves from an invader. An invader who, unbeknownst to the Sentinelese people, likely would have killed them.
The Sentinelese people very likely aren’t even aware that India even exists in the first place, nevermind that India has laws. The Sentinelese don’t even have money.
One can even make a compelling argument that Stark is outright lying. He’s deliberately misrepresenting the situation to unfairly villainize the tribe who were simply defending themselves from a foreign intruder. I thought these conservative types loved it when people stand their ground?
Another missed hint by Chau was when they literally shot an arrow into his Bible. And yet, he persisted.
Encounters became more fraught. When Mr. Chau tried to hand over fish and a bundle of gifts, a boy shot an arrow “directly into my Bible which I was holding.”
“I grabbed the arrow shaft as it broke in my Bible and felt the arrow head,” he said. “It was metal, thin but very sharp.”
Mr. Chau stumbled back and shouted at the boy.
The New York Times continued, giving excerpts from Chau’s personal journal:
In one passage, he asked God if North Sentinel was “Satan’s last stronghold.” In another: “What makes them become this defensive and hostile?”
“It’s weird — actually no, it’s natural: I’m scared,” Mr. Chau wrote. “There, I said it. Also frustrated and uncertain — is it worth me going a foot to meet them?”
He added, “I don’t want to die!”
And the Times also noted the final entry before Chau was killed:
Before setting off that final day, Mr. Chau finished his note with a message to his family.
The handwriting gets sloppier, the lines more crooked.
“Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed,” he wrote.
“I love you all.”
The fact is that Chau likely carried diseases that the Sentinelese people’s immune systems had never experienced. This would likely have killed many, if not all, of them.
In the late 1800s, the British made first contact with the Sentinelese people, at which time they captured six members of the tribe. Two of the adults died from illness while in British custody, and the four children they captured were returned. It’s possible that the children were infected with the same illness that killed the two adults, but there’s no way for us to know.
If anything, the members of the tribe are heroes, and Chau is the villain in this situation. If you ask me, he’s less of a martyr for Christianity, and more a Christian terrorist. He intentionally sought to make contact with people he knew he shouldn’t, regardless the risk to their biological safety.
But it’s no surprise that Christians are projecting their persecution complex onto the situation.