Last year, the members of the Sentinelese tribe killed John Allen Chau, an American missionary. Apparently, John wanted to take his religion to the tribe to bring them peace and harmony. A few months later, as I take one more look at the unfortunate incident, I am compelled to wonder – in the death of this adventure blogger and the messenger of Christianity, do human beings have a few more lessons than originally understood?
Instead of going to the Sentinelese, what if John had come to me? I have never killed anyone, so this is a difficult thought to entertain. Of course, the constitution gives me the right to practice my religion and if John had come to me to proselytize, my first reaction would have been to ignore him. If John had persevered, I would have indulged him in a debate. Had I turned out to be a tough nut to crack, John would have perhaps quit accosting me. That would be the end of the meeting with John. I would have continued the chaotic life I had been living. However, John would not have stopped. John had a mission. He would have knocked on the doors of my neighbor. The neighbor, if gullible or genuinely impressed, would have converted to Christianity, or would have tried what I did. If this hypothetical neighbor were my friend, he would have called me to help with John. You would think John would have given up here and gone back to his home. However, John knocks on the third house. At this point, the entire community gets to understand John’s motives and they come together to drive John away. John goes back. Where? A different city. John is a committed missionary. He does not stop!
So, where does John stop? Sadly, John stops only where the Sentinelese stopped him. In a world where evangelism is not a crime, it might become difficult for some people to draw red lines for themselves. It is terrifying to see the scale of power the church wields over these promising young men who could have done anything else in their lives but chose to civilize the world and bring Jesus to ‘Satan’s last stronghold’. The Sentinelese people perhaps do not engage in debates with people they do not know and are smart enough to understand the dangers posed by such attempts to ‘civilize’ them. They fear obliteration of their race. They perhaps know that the meeting with Christ does not end with meeting with the Christ. They know that Jesus Christ will bring in a lot of not-so-Christ-like Christians to their land. Sentinelese might not have a Penguin or a HarperCollins but they remember their history well.
If I had killed John, I would have been, according to Indian law, sentenced to death or life imprisonment. This would be so because I am part of the civilized world and I had other means at my disposal to stop John. John, like me, was also part of the civilized world. In the civilized world, John has the freedom of speech and expression and I have the ability to forgive and forget. In our civilized world, John also has the responsibility to understand that people like their own kind of ‘peace’ and ‘civilization’, Satan is at best a philosophical idea, and if at all a Satan exists, he lives in and off the church.
John was just an innocent face of a much deeper crusade to create a world order controlled by the church. This order has the money and muscle power to allure people who are not ‘tribal’ enough to resist violently and not ‘civilized’ enough to resist peacefully? Fortunately for us, the ‘Satan’s last stronghold’ is still intact. But the church has an army of Johns operating to civilize the lesser Sentinelese of the world who do not kill at first contact. John Allen Chau has left us but the church lives to fight another day.