Questions to ponder after American Missionary was killed by isolated Andaman tribe in India

The media is all abuzz about American Missionary, John Allen Chau who was killed by killed by isolated tribals on island in Andamans in India.

First things first, RIP, Mr. Allen Chau !

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John Allen Chau

A post shared by John Chau (@johnachau) on

This incident and Mr Chau’s death brings up a couple of questions that we need to ponder:

How far will zealous missionaries go to convert isolated tribals? 

Mr Chau was attempting to “convert” to Christianity, a band of highly reclusive tribals. According to a letter, which he wrote to his parents about his attempt at converting remote tribe, Mr. Chau said “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people.”  A copy of the letter was obtained by DailyMail.com,

This incident has left many wondering about the role of Christian missionaries in converting ‘tribals’ who want to remain reclusive and isolated.

The Sentinelese, are extremely passionate about their culture and way of life. According to NYT, “Islanders Who Killed American Have a History of Guarding Their Isolation – The episode appeared to be a culture clash between an adventurous foreigner, who may have been trying to spread Christianity, and one of the most impenetrable communities in the world.”

While one can empathize with the faith of Christian missionaries, and their enthusiasm, many in India and elsewhere are wondering why the missionaries shouldn’t also exhibit empathy towards local cultures.

The tribal people, with their culture going back thousands of years probably have a system of faith and values that you and I don’t understand. This doesn’t give any of us a the right to intrude and enforce our religion or values to them.

 Do foreign missionaries have a right to break local laws?

This incident also raises questions about legality and rights local citizen. According to media accounts and statements by local police, Mr. Chau’s visit to the island was illegal. The Instagram feeds shared by Mr. Chau before he went missing, also indicates that was aware of the risks he was taking.

“Despite knowing fully well about the illegality of the action and the hostile attitude of the Sentinelese tribesmen to the outsiders, these people collaborated with John Chau for this visit to North Sentinel Island without any permission from the authorities,” Dependra Pathak, director-general of India’s Andaman & Nicobar Police, said . (ABC)

Even officials don’t travel to North Sentinel, where people live as their ancestors did thousands of years ago, and where outsiders are seen with suspicion and attacked.

The story doesn’t end here. Chau’s family will want closure by arranging for a proper burial and funeral. However, the Indian Police are going to have a hard time getting Mr. John Chau’s body out of the island.

“It’s a difficult proposition,” said Mr. Pathak, director-general of police on India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where North Sentinel is located. “We have to see what is possible, taking utmost care of the sensitivity of the group and the legal requirements.” (NavyTimes)

 


More about Andamans and Sentinelese tribesmen

 

sentinelese
Image from Google maps

The Sentinelese, also known as the Sentineli and the North Sentinel Islanders, are an indigenous people who inhabit North Sentinel Island, located in the Bay of Bengal in India. As North Sentinel Island is part of the Andaman Islands, the Sentinelese are considered to be one of the Andamanese peoples. They are designated as a Scheduled Tribe. (Wikipedia)

sentineleseMap
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