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India

‘Why are they so angry’: US man John Allen Chau, killed by remote Sentinel Island tribe, was trying to convert them to Christianity

  • Notes by John Allen Chau, shot dead with arrows last week on India’s North Sentinel Island, show he hoped to ‘establish the kingdom of Jesus on the island’
  • Chau’s notes reveal bafflement at ‘aggressive’ responses from the tribe when he had ‘been so nice to them’
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 2:16am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2018, 12:45pm

A young American adventurer who was killed with arrows by a tribe of remote hunter-gatherers on an Indian Ocean island was trying to bring Christianity to the tribe, according to notes written by the would-be missionary.

North Sentinel Island, which is out of bounds for visitors, is home to the Sentinelese community, believed to be the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world.

The American, identified as 27-year-old John Allen Chau of Alabama, was killed last week after being illegally ferried to the island by fishermen, according to Dependra Pathak, the director general of police in Andaman and Nicobar, an Indian territory.

A source with access to handwritten notes that Chau gave to the fishermen to pass on to a friend said that Chau described taking scissors, safety pins and a football as gifts to the tribe.

Idealist or fool: who was John Allen Chau, US Christian killed by Stone Age tribe?

In his notes, the source said, Chau wrote that some members of the tribe were good to him while others were very aggressive.

“I have been so nice to them, why are they so angry and so aggressive?” the source quoted Chau as saying.

The source, who asked not to be named, said Chau wrote that he was “doing this to establish the kingdom of Jesus on the island … Do not blame the natives if I am killed.”

Chau’s social media posts identify him as an adventurer and explorer. Responding to a travel blog query about what was on the top of his adventure list, Chau said: “Going back to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India.”

Chau also said in the blog: “I definitely get my inspiration for life from Jesus.”

“A murder case has been registered against unknown persons,” said Pathak, adding that seven fishermen had been arrested.

Based on his social media posts, Chau appears to have visited India multiple times in the last few years, exploring many parts of southern India and preaching in some places too.

The police said in a statement late on Tuesday that they had started an investigation after being contacted by the US consulate in the southern city of Chennai.

American tourist John Chau killed by Indian tribe firing arrows

“We are aware of reports concerning a US citizen in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands,” a consulate spokeswoman said in an email, but declined to provide further details.

North Sentinel Island is about 50km (31 miles) west of Port Blair, the capital of the island cluster.

In 2006, two fishermen, whose boat strayed onto the 60 sq km island, were killed and their bodies never recovered. An Indian Coast Guard helicopter sent to retrieve the bodies was repelled by a volley of arrows from the community.

Pathak said a Coast Guard vessel with police and experts on the tribe had gone to scout the island and formulate a plan to recover Chau’s body.

Chau made two or three trips to the island by canoe from November 15, making contact with the tribe but returning to his boat. He told the fishermen on November 16 he would not come back from the island and instructed them to return home and pass on the handwritten notes he had made to a friend, Pathak said.

Last tribe stuck in a Stone Age time warp

The next morning they saw his body being dragged across a beach and buried in the sand, the police chief said, adding: “This was a misplaced adventure in a highly protected area.”

International Christian Concern released a statement calling Chau a missionary. William Stark, ICC’s regional manager, said: “We here at International Christian Concern are extremely concerned by the reports of an American missionary being murdered in India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Our thoughts and prayers go out to both John’s family and friends.”

Additional reporting by staff reporter