A Christian missionary has been killed by what is thought to be the world’s last pre-Neolithic tribe. The endangered Sentinelese People of the Andaman Islands are well-known for their refusal to assimilate with modern civilisation and their steadfast, often violent resistance to outsiders. Twenty-seven-year-old Alabamian preacher John Allen Chau experienced that hostility for himself when he shored up on North Sentinel Island, some 1,700 kilometres east of India recently, with righteous intentions of delivering the word of God. The tribespeople shot at him with arrows and left him dead on the beach.
Visits to North Sentinel are strictly prohibited by the Indian Government, and seven fishermen have since been arrested for illegally ferrying the American out to the island, the ABC reports. A source allegedly told local police that John had a strong desire to preach to the Sentinelese People, and had travelled to the area in 2015 and 2016 to do just that. It wasn’t until last week that he made landfall on North Sentinel for the first time—arriving by kayak and offering a football as a gift—and was very promptly fired upon.
John’s kayak was damaged in the skirmish, according to local director-general of police Dependera Pathak, and he was forced to swim back to the fishermen’s boat after a loosed arrow struck a book he’d been carrying. He reportedly wrote about his experiences that night, and set out again the next day—November 16—to try and strike up a connection with the tribespeople and tell them all about his Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.
On the morning of November 17, the seven fishermen watched from the boat as John’s body was dragged out onto the beach. The details of his death are unconfirmed, as his body is yet to be recovered—although SBS reports that a source claims “[John] was attacked by arrows but he continued walking… The fishermen saw the tribals tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body. They were scared and fled but returned next morning to find his body on the seashore.”
It’s estimated that there are between just 50 and 150 Sentinelese People, according to the BBC, and they are totally cut off from civilisation. It is illegal to have any contact with them. Police director-general Pathak has described John’s mission as “a case of misdirected adventure.”
John’s family, meanwhile, have published a statement on his Instagram declaring their forgiveness for those who killed him.
"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," it reads. "Words can't express the sadness we have experienced about this report… he was a Christian missionary... He loved God, helping those in need and had nothing but love for the Sentinelese people. We forgive those reportedly responsible for his death.”