The search for the body of missionary John Chau on India’s North Sentinel Island is on hold, for now.
The BBC reports that an unnamed Indian official says the government has called off the effort over concerns about safety and objections raised by tribal and anthropological experts.
One rights group, Survival International, called the search “incredibly dangerous” for both the islanders and searchers.
All Nations Defends Chau
The news comes as the missions organization that supported Chau, Kansas City-based All Nations, is forcefully defending Chau’s attempts to contact the isolated islanders. The North Sentinelese are known for a complete lack of contact with the modern world and have shot arrows at anyone attempting to land on their beaches, including Chau.
His diary from earlier this month chronicles how an island boy attempted to shoot him while he preached in his kayak during an initial contact. The arrow hit his Bible. Authorities believe that the islanders shot and killed Chau during a later visit when he traveled to the island with the help of local fisherman.
Missions Experts Cite “Red Flags” in Chau’s Method
Since Chau’s death was reported last week, some critics and missions organizations have publicly spoken out against the missionary for his approach and for even attempting to contact the islanders. Tunku Varadarajan, the executive editor of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Chau was a fanatical Christian who was illegally attempting to access North Sentinel.
“No one is permitted to land on the island,” he wrote earlier this week.
But All Nations tells CBN News that Chau’s contact was legal, citing numerous news accounts published in August which report that the Indian government had lifted its Restricted Area Permit (RAP) on North Sentinel and a number of other inhabited islands.
India’s The Week magazine announced the change with a glowing headline — “the move will allow foreigners to visit these islands without prior permission” it said.
Missions organizations have also criticized Chau for traveling alone, not establishing a wide network of contacts, failing to reach out to the Indian government and potentially exposing the islanders to modern disease.
Dr. Mary Ho, the international executive leader of All Nations, tells CBN News that the organization supported Chau and his plans. When asked Tuesday if All Nations stands by Chau and his work she responded, “John Chau did the best he could, just like all of us.”
But the criticism will likely continue, as missions organizations that attempt to reach what are known as unengaged and unreached people groups and those that support them, reconsider the best ways to initially contact these groups.
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SOURCE: CBN, by Heather Sells