Luke J. Wilson | 03rd December 2018 |
You've probably seen it in the news lately: John Chau, the American guy who tried to evangelise the secluded Sentinelese tribe off the coast of India. Much of the debate in secular media has centered around the grief of his friends and family; how he could have brought outside disease to the tribespeople and potentially killed them all (despite this not being their first contact with outsiders, with no known ill effect), or that he ventured there completely in ignorance with no preparation or wisdom — something which the missionary agency, All Nations, has recently debunked.
But the question I want to look at is this: was Chau's mission total madness or is he a modern-day martyr?
Well first, what is a martyr? The dictionary definition is simply: “a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs”, and the word itself comes from ancient Greek meaning “witness”.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the whole story (as much as we can see), John Chau had said since 2011 that he felt called by God to go and tell the good news of Jesus to the Sentinelese people. After many years of preparation, about two weeks ago in late November, he succeeded in getting to the remote island via a fishing boat (which was illegal to visit under normal circumstances). But after a few attempts at making contact, he is believed to have been killed. The fishermen saw some tribespeople dragging Chau’s body across the beach, so it has been assumed that he is dead – and no one knows any differently to date.
So in the strictest sense as the definition above, he may not be a martyr as he wasn’t necessarily killed because of his beliefs, as the tribespeople couldn’t even understand his preaching, and on the face of it, it does seem like madness.
In the broader sense of the word, I think it’s fair to call him a martyr, as that would be one who “sacrifices his or her life, station, or something of great personal value, for the sake of principle or to sus...