New information has surfaced about the zealous religious beliefs of John Allen Chau, the American missionary who was recently found dead after trespassing on the restricted North Sentinel island in the Andamans in a bid to convert local tribals.
Chau was heavily involved with a Christian organisation called Covenant Journey from his University days, reports CNN. He had also travelled to other countries previously as part of missionary groups with his evangelical friends now labelling him a ‘martyr’ of the Christian faith.
"I see him as a martyr," said John Middleton Ramsey, Chau’s friend. "He was someone who died out of love for these people to bring the good news of Jesus Christ,” he added.
He had graduated from Oral Roberts University, where he became a dedicated member of Covenant Journey and took an immersion trip with the group to Christian holy sites in Israel. Chau is also said to have travelled as part of a missionary group, ‘All Nations’, to South Africa and the war-torn Kurdistan region to evangelise.
Chau had not disclosed his missionary plans to Indian authorities when he entered the country, but he had shared his aims with friends from Christian groups for many years. John Ramsey, a close friend of Chau from Covenant Journey, stated that Chau had wanted to bring ‘gifts’ to the Sentinelese tribals, and then preach the gospel to them, and possibly even translate the Bible into their language.
Mat Staver, founder of Covenant Journey, stated that “Ever since high school, John wanted to go to North Sentinel to share Jesus with this indigenous people."
Government officials, however, are critical of Chau’s actions. DGP Andaman & Nicobar islands, Deependra Pathak, stated, "We refuse to call him a tourist. Yes, he came on a tourist visa, but he came with a specific purpose to preach on a prohibited island.”
Survival International, an international tribal rights NGO, has expressed concern about how contact with outsiders can decimate the Sentinelese population due to disease and land encroachment. The NGO said that the Sentinelese have repeatedly shown that they want to be left alone, and the government should make sure their wishes are respected.