American Missionary Allegedly Killed by Endangered Tribe Living on a Remote Indian Island
A missionary named John Chau was allegedly shot and killed with arrows by a tribe on a remote Indian Island
A young American missionary was allegedly killed by a tribe after he attempted to go preach to them on a remote Indian Island.
On Nov. 15, authorities believe John Allen Chau, 27, traveled to the protected North Sentinel Island in hopes of converting the inhabitants to Christianity.
North Sentinel Island is inhabited by the Sentinelese Tribe — a group of people with very little contact with the outside world, News 18 reports.
North Sentinel Island is about the size of Manhattan but those that live on the island are known to fiercely protect themselves if anyone or anything attempts to come close to their village, according to Survival International. Reports on their numbers vary from as little as 15 to over 100.
The group first gained national attention in 2004 when authorities flew by helicopter to check on the island after the Asian tsunami. A member of the tribe was photographed firing arrows at the helicopter.
While India has banned people from interfering with the indigenous tribe whose numbers are believed to be in severe decline, Chau allegedly paid a group of local fisherman to take him to the Island, which is also a part of the Andaman Islands, India Today reported.
The fisherman brought Chau as close as they could to the Island and Chau made his way to shore using a canoe, CNN reports.
After arriving at the secluded territory, the fisherman claim they saw Chau being attacked with arrows. Chau quickly fled, but reportedly returned the next day on Nov. 16.
This time, according to CNN, the Sentinelese people broke Chau’s canoe and local fisherman watched as the tribespeople dragged his body away.
At this time, Indian police have not confirmed whether or not Chau is dead, but believe he is and they are doing their best to recover his body, CNN reported.
However, due to the fact that the Sentinelese people are threatened by outside contact, it’s been very difficult to find Chau’s remains.
“We have a team out in the waters for reconnaissance and to strategize how to recover his body. The team consists of coastal guards, officials from tribal welfare department, forest department officers and police officials,” Indian police told CNN.
CNN also reported that the fisherman who helped Chau travel to the island have been arrested as India has passed laws banning people from going near the island and its inhabitants to protect the tribe’s health and way of life and also to protect outsiders from possible violent incidents.
Dependra Pathak, director general of police of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, told CNN, while Chau came into the country on a tourist visa he was clearly a missionary.
“We refuse to call him a tourist. Yes, he came on a tourist visa but he came with a specific purpose to preach on a prohibited island,” Pathak said.
Chau’s family has since released a statement regarding Chau’s death on his Instagram page.
“We recently learned from an unconfirmed report that John Allen Chau was reportedly killed in India while reaching out to members of the Sentinelese Tribe in the Andaman Islands. Words cannot express the sadness we have experienced about this report,” the statement read.
“He was a beloved son, brother, uncle and best friend to us. To others he was a Christian missionary, a wilderness EMT, and international soccer coach, and a mountaineer.”
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“He loved God, life, helping those in need, and had nothing but love for the Sentinelese people. We forgive those reportedly responsible for his death. We also ask for the release of those friends he had in Andaman Islands. He ventured out on his own free will and his local contacts need not be persecuted for his own actions.”
“As a family, we ask for your understanding and respect for him and us during this time,” the statement concluded.
Chau’s family did not immediately respond to PEOPLE request to comment further.