Tag:religious right

Even In Face Of COVID, Christianists Still Remember Missionary Who Infected Indian Island

At first glance, it may seem that the religious right’s obstinate support for Donald Trump is the starkest example to date of fundamentalism–or rather, Christianism–in its most unacceptable form. Indeed, with it becoming more apparent that Trump is in danger of being voted off the island in November, it is equally apparent that his fundie supporters will have to answer for continuing to prop him up. But believe it or not, there’s an example more outrageous than that. It takes some effort to get more outrageous than continuing to rally around a man who plastered a private cell phone number on social media, mocked the disabled, condones violence, revels in degrading women, and engages in blatant racism. But as outrageous as it is, it did not directly put innocent people in mortal danger. I’m about to tell you about a case of Christianism run amok that actually put innocent people on a remote island in danger of being wiped out–all in the name of being reached for Jesus. And it looks even more outrageous when you consider that the coronavirus pandemic should have erased any doubt about why it was so outrageous. On Thanksgiving Day 2018, the nation learned that John Allen Chau, a young Christian missionary, had died in a hail of arrows four days earlier while attempting to minister to the Sentinelese, an isolated tribe who live on North Sentinel Island off the coast of the Indian mainland. At first glance, it looked like another case of Christians being persecuted in a country where Christians had frequently been targeted for persecution long before Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014. But any sympathy for Chau–at least in the reality-based world–quickly evaporated when more details of his adventure dribbled out. The Sentinelese are among the few peoples who have never had any sustained contact with the outside world. Numbering anywhere between 15 and 500 people, they have lived as hunter-gatherers on North Sentinel for over 60,000 years. One side effect of this prolonged isolation is that they have no genetic immunity to diseases; something as mundane as a cold could kill them. According to Survival International, an NGO that advocates for indigenous peoples, this was proven in brutal fashion during the British colonial era. A colonial administrator took some Sentinelese adults and children to his base to Port Blair, capital of the island chain that includes North Sentinel, ostensibly for research. The adults died in short order, but the children were sent back to the island with gifts. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that the kids brought pathogens back with them as well–with catastrophic results. The Indian government has long barred any travelers from coming within three nautical miles of the island. After numerous attempts to contact the islanders from the 1960s onward, it largely abandoned any effort to reach out to them after it appeared they survived the 2004 tsunami. New Delhi dispatches naval patrols to the area. As it turns out, Chau was well aware of this. He’d actually spent several years trying to network with people who could help him reach out to what he called “Satan’s last stronghold on Earth.” He’d spent a year training with All Nations, a missionary group based out of Kansas City, before traveling to India in 2018. He even bribed two fishermen […]

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