Martyr or Colonialist? It’s Not That Simple

So about this missionary who died as he tried to preach the Gospel on the North Sentinel Island.

I see some calling him a martyr and a hero of faith.

I see others calling him a dangerous colonizer.

Personally, I can’t fully side with either camp.

My impression of this guy, John Allen Chau, had good intentions and genuinely loved and cared for the Sentinelese people. Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center, writes in the Washington Post:

Chau’s intent – according to others I’ve spoken with who knew him, went to school with him and helped him prepare – was to live among the North Sentinelese, learn their language, attend to their physical needs and then seek to share his faith with them.

Still, the way he illegally approached them was dangerous due to him possibly bringing diseases that they don’t have immunity against.

It’s easy to romanticize isolated tribes. I understand the appeal of keeping them isolated, due to all the downsides with modern civilization like stress, individualism and environmental destruction. But if we genuinely care about human rights – women’s and children’s in particular – I don’t think it’s realistic that isolation continues forever.

However, reaching out to these kinds of people groups need to be done with respect, sensitivity and a willingness to learn from them.

We have wiped out enough cultures already.

That being said, it is my genuine theological conviction that everybody needs Jesus. He brings us a fulfillment, peace and eternal life that nothing else can bring.

Thus, I do support reaching out to the Sentinelese people, with aid, education and the Gospel. But it needs to be done in a very wise way.

The killing of John Allen Chau was extremely tragic – evil, even. But it reminded us of the existence of a people that should not be forgotten.

I do think that, in some ways, they need us just much as we need them.

Micael Grenholm is editor for PCPJ.

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ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

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