American Killed by Remote Tribe Told His Parents 'Not to Be Angry if I Get Killed'
John Chau, from Alabama, was fatally wounded by arrows after attempting to share Christianity with the tribe on North Sentinel island.
The American who was fatally wounded by arrows while trying to spread Christianity with a remote tribe knew he might pay the ultimate price, according to his journal entries.
John Allen Chau, an Alabama missionary in his 20s, was killed last week when he kayaked to heavily protected North Sentinel Island after paying local fisherman to ferry him there, according to police on India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
On his first attempt at speaking with the tribe, he was shot at and managed to retreat. He detailed the experience in journal entries his mother shared with news outlets, including The Washington Post.
“If you want me to get actually shot or even killed with an arrow then so be it,” he wrote, addressing God. “I think I could be more useful alive though … I don’t want to die. Would it be wiser to leave and let someone else continue? No. I don’t think so.”
He also wrote to his parents, imploring them not to be angry should he lose his life.
“You guys might think I’m crazy in all this, but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people,” he wrote. “Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed. ... This is not a pointless thing. The eternal lives of this tribe is at hand and I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshiping in their own language.”
In the journal, he described approaching the tribe and seeing about six people, who shouted and laughed at him.
“I hollered, 'My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you,'” he wrote, but when he saw them string their bows, he fled, paddling frantically away from them. A child about the age of 10 fired an arrow at him that hit his Bible.
“I felt some fear but mainly was disappointed. They didn’t accept me right away," he said.
Chau’s family released a statement, saying they forgive the tribespeople for killing him.
“Words cannot express the sadness we have experienced about this report," his family said in a statement posted to his Instagram account. "He loved God, life, helping those in need, and had nothing but love for the Sentinelese people."
They continued: “We forgive those reportedly responsible for his death. We also ask for the release of those friends he had in the Andaman Islands. He ventured out on his own free will and his local contacts need not be persecuted for his own actions.”
Chau reportedly paid the fisherman $325 to illegally take him to waters just off the island on Nov. 15. From there, police said, he boarded a kayak and paddled to shore, bearing gifts of a football and fish.
The fishermen have been arrested for helping Chau reach the island, where the Sentinelese live in isolation and are known to attack anyone who comes near them. The Indian government restricts visitors to the remote island. The men were charged with endangering Chau's life by taking him to the prohibited area, police said.
After his first interaction with the tribe, he gave pages from his journal to the fishermen and again set off for North Sentinel Island, according to police. What happened afterward is not known.
On Nov. 17, the fishermen watched from afar as Chau's body was dragged onto the shore by members of the tribe. The men left for Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where they told a friend of Chau's what had happened. The friend notified Chau's family.
Authorities have yet to retrieve Chau's body.
On The Outbound Collective, Chau had posted about his overseas adventures, saying he loved "to explore, so whether it's trekking through dense old growth forests near the Chilliwack River (on the U.S. border with Canada), finding a rumored waterfall in the jungles of the Andamans, or just wandering around a city to get a feel for the vibes, I'm an explorer at heart."
The travel and explorer blog also posted about his death.
"We are shocked and deeply saddened to hear of John Chau's recent death. John was an active contributor to our community of adventure travelers, sharing many wonderful adventures and photos from around the world. He was always kind and energetic, and he will be truly missed," the post said.
"We had no prior knowledge of John’s intention to visit North Sentinel island and do not condone visiting prohibited areas or breaking local laws. Our hearts go out to his family and everyone affected by this tragic event," the statement concluded.
The Sentinelese are believed to number only about 39 and have never been exposed to modern diseases or technology. The Indian government has made it illegal to upload video of them and heavily restrict the island in an effort to preserve the indigenous group.
But every so often, images do manage to make their way onto social media or into news accounts. In 2004, after a horrific tsunami ravaged southern India, Indonesia and Thailand, aid helicopters flew low over North Sentinel to see if the tribe was in danger. The aircraft were met with a hail of arrows, which aid workers took as a positive sign the people were safe.
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