The death of ‘missionary’ John Chau has been one of the most disturbing stories of 2018. The American was killed by tribesman living on North Sentinel Island – reportedly one of the most remote and isolated communities on the planet.
Chau had reportedly journeyed to the Island, which lies off the coast of the Andaman Islands to the south of Burma, to preach Christianity to the tribespeople. In a note to his family written before his death, Chau stated: “You guys might think I’m crazy in all of this but I think it’s worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people … God, I don’t want to die.”
Chau was later shot with arrows while trying to convert the indigenous people, and died of his wounds as a result. His body has not yet been recovered, although at least three individuals are thought to have been arrested for helping Chau reach the island, which those without permission from officials.
Following the incident, Indian investigators released a statement in which they claimed that: “Police will interrogate [the accused] to investigate various aspects of the case, including the sequence of events, the sea route followed for North Sentinel Island, the location where the victim landed and the place of the incidence, the location where John Allen Chau was last seen. Further, the personal diary/journal of Chau will be analysed afresh accordingly. It will also be ascertained whether the victim had taken the help of these fishermen or others to venture to the North Sentinel Island on earlier occasions.”
Indian officials are currently attempting to retrieve Chau’s body, but according to a new report, the police have been driven away by the Sentinelese tribesmen. The police stationed their boat approximately 400 metres off-shore, before armed tribesmen confronted them. Police chief Dependra Pathak told Agence France-Presse: “They stared at us and we were looking at them … We have mapped the area with the help of these fishermen. We have not spotted the body yet but we roughly know the area where he is believed to be buried.”
In his diaries, which have been recovered by the police, Chau wrote that the tribe had been extremely aggressive towards him long before his arrival there. Discussing his first expedition, Chau wrote: Two armed Sentinelese came rushing out yelling. They had two arrows each, unstrung, until they got closer. I hollered, ‘My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you.’ I felt some fear but mainly was disappointed. They didn’t accept me right away.”
The tribe is famously hostile to outsiders. In 2006 two fishermen were killed by them when they ventured too close. Their naked corpses were later hung from bamboo stakes like scarecrows, to deter other visitors. Chau’s family is still determined to see his body returned to American soil, but they say that they have forgiven the Sentinelese.