One day before a young American died during an attempt to make contact with a remote tribe in the Indian Ocean, his waterproof Bible had been pierced by an arrow loosed by one of the young tribe members. Still, he appeared determined to visit North Sentinel island, according to multiple reports.
“You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people,” he wrote Nov. 16 in a last note to his family that his mother shared this week with The Washington Post.
Chau, 26, paid a group of fishermen to take him to North Sentinel, an isolated, heavily forested island about 800 miles from the coast of India, according to The New York Times. The newspaper reported that fishermen warned him not to go, as islanders were known to greet strangers with the tips of their spears and arrows.
In Chau’s journal, he said the Sentinelese became angry when he tried to sing “worship songs” to them and speak in their language, of which little is known, according to the Post.
“I hollered, ‘My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you,’” he wrote in his journal. A boy then shot an arrow at him, according to the Post.
Fear and faith: Inside the last days of an American missionary killed by a remote island tribe https://t.co/5pVYWPTgXr— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) November 22, 2018
"I DON'T WANT TO DIE," he wrote last week in a note left with the fishermen who brought him to the island, according to The Associated Press. "Would it be wiser to leave and let someone else to continue. No I don't think so."
The next day, Chau returned to the island. He never returned to the fishing boat. One of his fellow missionaries wrote in an email to Chau’s mother that fishermen saw the tribe burying Chau’s body on the beach, according to the Post.
Indian law protects North Sentinel, which is off-limits to visitors, and its isolated inhabitants. Since Chau’s death, seven people believed to have helped him reach the island have been arrested and charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder and with violating rules protecting aboriginal tribes, the Times reported.
Members of Chau’s family said in statement posted Thursday to Instagram that they forgive the people responsible for his death and asked that charges against the seven be dropped.
“He ventured out on his own free will and his local contacts need not be persecuted for his own actions,” the statement said. “He loved God, life, helping those in need, and had nothing but love for the Sentinelese people.”
Scholars know almost nothing about the island, from how many people live there to what language they speak. The Andamans once had other similar groups, long-ago migrants from Africa and Southeast Asia who settled in the island chain, but their numbers have dwindled dramatically over the past century as a result of disease, intermarriage and migration.
The Sentinelese killed a pair of Indian fishermen who accidentally washed up on the island in 2006, according to the Times. In the 1970s, a National Geographic documentary director was shot in the leg with an arrow on the island, the newspaper reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
© 2018 Cox Media Group.