What Should We Learn from the Death of a Missionary?

John Allen Chau, a 27-year-old man, was recently killed by the Sentinelese people off the coast of India. Chau, who was well aware of the Sentinelese’s use of deadly force as self-defense, illegally paid fishermen to take him to the island. The purpose of going was to teach Christianity to a tribe that has been isolated for about 50,000 years. His death was a tragedy, but there are a few things we can learn from his costly mistake.

For starters, why do we, as humans, feel the need to impose our beliefs on others? He did not try to understand the natives or learn about their culture, he allegedly walked on to the island carrying a book and screaming “Jesus loves you!” In America, if someone breaks into your home holding a strange object and screaming at you in a foreign language, shooting said person is called self defense. While there is nothing wrong with spreading the word of God, we do not invade people’s homes to do so.

Aside from not establishing himself as an ally, his actions were a health risk. With 50,000 years separating the Sentinelese from the rest of the world, our immune systems have evolved differently. There are microorganisms that the modern world is immune to that could be catastrophic to the natives and vice versa. For insance, when the pilgrims first came to America, a large portion of Native Americans died because they had no immunity to small pox.

The last thing we can learn from Chau, is to leave people alone. In the Bible, Jesus did not go where he was not wanted. He did not force acceptance on to people and spoke to whoever would listen. Disregarding the Sentinelese’ desire to be left alone is not practicing acceptance. We have to respect the boundaries that people set regardless of what we think they should be or do. We have a right to choose our own path and the Sentinelese have chosen to remain isolated.

Hopefully, after observing the actions of Chau, we all can grow and learn from this tradgedy. His death is a grim reminder that we cannot change everyone. Nor do we need to change everyone. If the Sentinelese have survived this long without the interference of the modern world, then they will continue to be fine without us. We have to accept that there is more than one way of life .