Tribal Rights Organization Begs Authorities to Leave Missionary John Chau's Body on Remote Island
A tribal rights organization is calling for officials to not try to recover the body of John Allen Chau — the American missionary who was allegedly killed by an Indian tribe earlier this month — claiming the attempt would be “incredibly dangerous” to both authorities and the Sentinelese people.
Stephen Corry, Survival International’s Director, issued the precautionary statement on Monday.
“We urge the Indian authorities to abandon efforts to recover John Allen Chau’s body,” Corry wrote. “Any such attempt is incredibly dangerous, both for the Indian officials, but also for the Sentinelese, who face being wiped out if any outside diseases are introduced.”
“The risk of a deadly epidemic of flu, measles or other outside disease is very real, and increases with every such contact,” he continued. “Such efforts in similar cases in the past have ended with the Sentinelese attempting to defend their island by force.”
“Mr. Chau’s body should be left alone, as should the Sentinelese,” he finished. “The weakening of the restrictions on visiting the islands must be revoked, and the exclusion zone around the island properly enforced.”
North Sentinel Island, which is also a part of the Andaman Islands, is about the size of Manhattan. Those who 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.
As of Monday evening, Indian police have not yet confirmed whether or not Chau, 27, is dead, but they believe he is and have been actively trying to recover his body. However, due to the fact that the Sentinelese people are threatened by outside contact and have little to no interaction with the outside world, 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.
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Chau allegedly paid a group of local fishermen to take him to North Sentinel Island approximately two weeks ago, in hopes to convert the tribespeople to Christianity.
The missionary journaled about his experience of attempting to reach the tribe in the days leading up to his death, which was obtained by The Washington Post.
After first discovering the Sentinelese people, Chau wrote that they allegedly reacted angrily when he tried to preach to them.
“I hollered, ‘My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you,’” Chau explained in his journal on Nov. 16, according to the entries.
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He then wrote that one of the tribespeople struck him with an arrow, which pierced through his Bible. “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people,” Chau wrote before adding, “God, I don’t want to die.”
The following day, he tried to make contact again. Tragically, local fisherman watched as the Sentinelese people attacked and dragged Chau away, CNN reported.
CNN also reported that the fishermen who helped Chau travel to the island had 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 to protect outsiders from possible violent incidents.
Dependra Pathak, director general of police of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, told CNN that 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.
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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.”
“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.”
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