Missionary impossible: Why the Sentinelese warrior should be a role model for Indians

Hindus must internalise the thought that just like the Sentinelese, they too are entitled to protect their multiple ways of life – in any way they deem appropriate. For too long, Christians have been treated with kid gloves. This has to end.

A lone Sentinelese tribesman belonging to a Stone Age culture has shown a billion Hindus how to deal with impudent missionaries. Armed with a rudimentary bow and arrow, he heroically defended his tribe’s way of life that has remained unchanged for more than 70,000 years. Instead of nodding his head, listening to drivel about Jesus, god and paradise, he aimed an arrow right through the black heart of American evangelist John Chau. In fact, by his quick action he may have saved his entire tribe from diseases the Westerner may have introduced.

The defining takeaway from the incident is this – had the forefathers of Hindus welcomed the first Christian and Sufi missionaries in a similar manner a thousand years ago, India would never have been colonised. This is why Japan – which killed every single Christian convert and missionary and banned the entry of Europeans for several centuries – remains remarkably free of religious strife while India is facing, to borrow author V.S. Naipaul’s words, a million mutinies.

Audacity of Christians

The American missionary didn’t come with noble intentions. For him, the Sentinelese were simply playthings, his next conquest for Christ, his “must-do adventure”.

But incredibly this wasn’t Chau’s first trip to this remote island in the Andaman Islands; a few days earlier he had tried to contact the inhabitants, paying fisherman to break the law and ferry him there. (North Sentinel Island is off limits for perpetuity to everyone, including Indian citizens, as the government wants to protect the reclusive tribe from outsiders.)

The American man wrote in his journal that the first day he’d arrived on the island, a tribesman shot at him with a bow and arrow and pierced the Bible he was carrying. “I hollered, ‘My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you’,” Chau wrote in his diary. Moments later a young child also shot at him (How many Hindu children are as committed to protect their family and way of life similarly?). That’s when the American swam back to the fishing boat he’d arranged, probably with the help of converted Christian fishermen from Tamil Nadu. But before leaving – not caring that he could introduce harmful pathogens – he left “gifts” of a pair of scissors, safety pins and a plastic football.

“Why did a little kid have to shoot me today?” Chau wrote in his notes. He added, “Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?”

Observe how he becomes so frustrated that he compares the tribe to Satan’s followers. Quite ironical considering that unlike Westerners the Sentinelese have never ventured out of their little atoll to pillage, murder and rape.

In the missionary’s diary, he indicated that he knew the trip was illegal and believed that God was helping him dodge the authorities. “God sheltered me and camouflaged me against the coast guard and the navy,” he wrote.

But Jesus wasn’t as omnipotent as Chau had believed. On his next visit, the angry tribesmen felled him with poison arrows, and the following day they buried his body further down the beach.

Chau, who had attended a Christian high school in Vancouver and the evangelical Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma in the US, frequently posted about his escapades on social media. His last note he wrote before he was killed read: “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people. God, I don’t want to die.”

World disgusted with conversion attempt

For a change – and this is because the slayer of this Christian was not a Hindu but a Stone Age tribesman – the rest of the world did not condemn the act. In fact, many expressed their anger at the missionary’s attempt to convert innocent people who had meant no harm to him, and his putting their lives at risk by potentially infecting them with pathogens.

Survival International, an advocacy group on behalf of tribal peoples’ rights, condemned the irresponsibility of the American in exposing the islanders to possible disease, saying in a statement, “It’s not impossible that the Sentinelese have just been infected by deadly pathogens to which they have no immunity, with the potential to wipe out the entire tribe.”

Describing Chau’s behaviour as “the worst advertisement for Christianity you could imagine”, Janet Street-Porter of the UK-based newspaper The Independent wrote: “This was an act of cultural imperialism and insane arrogance, assuming that people whose descendants can be traced back 70,000 years would enjoy life more kicking a manmade ball and pinning clothes on their naked bodies. I want to weep at the outcome of this disastrous act of folly – and not just because of the death of Chau, which is regrettable, even while being avoidable and predictable. I despair because here’s another example of two of the worse kinds of environmental pollution: aggressive pushing of faith to another culture and the introduction of “gifts” which undermine their way of life. (1)

Even as secular Indians acted as Christianity’s useful idiots and said Hindus must abstain from criticising Chau’s actions, many ordinary citizens on Western websites blasted the missionary to shreds. (2)

Smartenup: “The arrogance of these Christian missionaries sometime backfires on them.”

Aviator52: “And they are not ‘cut off’ from civilisation. They have their own civilisation which, quite clearly, they value highly.”

TeeJay82: “If he loved the North Sentinelese people then he should have left them alone, as opposed to attempting to force his own religious beliefs on them. What he did was reckless and has jeopardised the existence of the North Sentinelese, who have no immunity to western viruses.”

Playing with fire

Christian evangelists are so brainwashed and fired-up with the zeal to convert non-Christians that they are willing to jump into fire – or the firing zone – if required.

Take Iraq. Christian groups are treating the window of US occupation of the once secular country as a god sent opportunity for them to ship in as many copies of the Bible as they can. John Brady of the International Mission Board, the missionary arm of the Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination in America, appealed in his church bulletin Urgent News: “Southern Baptists have prayed for years that Iraq would somehow be opened to the gospel. (We) must understand that there is a war for souls under way in Iraq.” (3)

Such conversion attempts are a recipe for disaster. In Afghanistan, which is under US occupation, Taliban terrorists gunned down 10 foreigners, all non-combatants, in 2011. (4) The victims weren’t as innocent as the Western media headlines screamed. The dead included six Americans, a German and a Briton, and were members of the International Assistance Mission, which is registered as a non-profit Christian organisation. A Taliban spokesman said they killed the foreigners because they were “preaching Christianity”. The Taliban also said the team was carrying Dari language bibles and “spying gadgets”.

Missionaries have attempted to ply their trade in civil war-torn Somalia, with predictable results. Some have been taken hostage, and the local pirates have inflicted unspeakable horrors on them – they were hung upside down, drowned in the sea, locked up in freezers, and beaten after clamping plastic ties around their genitals.

Missionaries in India

Unlike the Sentinelese ‘welcome’, every Hindu ruler welcomed the Europeans – with disastrous results. After the local Hindu ruler gave their chief proselytiser, Francis Xavier, land to build a church, this is how the saintly Xavier repaid his generosity. Xavier wrote: “I order that everywhere the temples of the false gods be pulled down and idols broken. I know not how to describe in words the joy I feel before the spectacle of pulling down and destroying the idols by the very people who formerly worshipped them.”

The arrival of Portuguese missionaries in India is a story of deceit, perfidy and unspeakable cruelties. From his tiny enclave of Goa, Xavier launched the Inquisition, during which over a million Hindus are reported to have been murdered.

After completing their conquest of India, the English eased into the conversion business. Thomas Babington Macaulay, Head of the Education Department of British India, was of the firm opinion that British evangelists should be allowed to convert Hindus to Christianity. In 1834, he said, “No Hindu who has received an English education ever remains sincerely attached to his religion. Some continue to profess it as a matter of policy but many profess themselves pure deists and some embrace Christianity. It is my firm belief if our plan of education is followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respectable class in 30 years hence.” (5)

In 1878, Monier Williams, professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University, said the enormous territory of India has been committed to England for a great purpose – that every Indian man, woman and child may be elevated, enlightened and Christianized. His frustration at the lack of progress in that mission can be gauged from this statement: “The chief obstacle to spread Christianity in India is that these people are proud of their tradition and religion.” Why, thank you Mr Williams!

While colonialists have been kicked out, their detritus remains in the shape of the conversion mafia – the large pool of Christian priests and their backers, advisers and funders from the West. Despite the ban on conversion in a number of states and the coming to power of the anti-conversion BJP, the Christian population in India seems defiant. The interests of Indian Christians are so strongly connected with that of Westerners that they are prepared to fight the centre and states to succeed in their mission – the complete conversion of Hindus.

In this backdrop, Hindus should emulate the Sentinelese who are after all fellow Indians. Every missionary in the world must be made to understand that India could turn out be a one-way ticket for him. Every Hindu should be like the Sentinelese child who didn’t suffer from a secular reflex – he just aimed and shot at a person who was threatening his community.

On a micro level, Hindu parents should advise their children about the dangers of missionary activity to the country’s security as many Christian evangelists work for the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies. They should be taught that Christianity is a faith that is completely at odds with logic, promising paradise simply for accepting Jesus as lord, despite absolutely zero evidence of such a person ever having lived. Worse, Christians want you to believe the omnipotent god created the earth in six days but ironically the all-powerful being got so tired that he had to rest on the seventh day.

Hindus should be outraged that the followers of such a puerile philosophy want them to abandon their great Upanishads, the sublime Gita, the mighty Mahabharata and the noble Ramayana. They must internalise the thought that just like the Sentinelese, they too are entitled to protect their multiple ways of life – in any way they deem appropriate. For too long, Christians have been treated with kid gloves. This has to end. The missionaries may be in a tearing hurry to evangelise India, but they must realise that in the real world bullets – and arrows – travel faster than the gospel.

Sources

  1. The Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/john-allen-chau-death-tribe-missionary-christian-north-sentinel-island-uncontacted-a8648691.html?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR2F4UIEScPraEY3PFAU7r8jhdcxpJJ2lbDAG029sINos5sOibAlYcA-NZU#Echobox=1543000436
  2. Stuff, https://www.stuff.co.nz/world/americas/108798293/a-life-of-adventure-and-religion-for-american-killed-in-india
  3. The Telegraph, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1450359/Bible-Belt-missionaries-set-out-on-a-war-for-souls-in-Iraq.html
  4. YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnGo9Nf-cpU
  5. Bharathi, IIT Madras, http://home.iitk.ac.in/~hcverma/Article/Article%20by%20IITM%20student%20in%20Indian%20education.pdf

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Rakesh is primarily a defence analyst. His articles have been quoted extensively by universities and in books on diplomacy, counter terrorism, warfare, and development of the global south; and by international defence journals.
Rakesh’s work has been cited by leading think tanks and organisations that include the Naval Postgraduate School, California; US Army War College, Pennsylvania; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC; State University of New Jersey; Institute of International and Strategic Relations, Paris; BBC Vietnam; Siberian Federal University, Krasnoyarsk; Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi; Institute for Defense Analyses, Virginia; International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Washington DC; Stimson Centre, Washington DC; Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia; and Institute for Strategic, Political, Security and Economic Consultancy, Berlin.
His articles have been published by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi; Foundation Institute for Eastern Studies, Warsaw; and the Research Institute for European and American Studies, Greece, among others.