US missionary was “training” to meet Sentinelese tribe, says missionary group

By: | Updated: November 30, 2018 7:48 PM

His diary entries reveal that he was already researching the isolated tribe and how they lived

John Alley Chau was killed by the tribesman last week as he attempted to make repeated contacts with the tribe at the North Sentinel Island, which is one of the world’s most isolated regions in the area and is off-limits to visitors. (Instagram/johnachau)

On November 22, DGP Deepender Pathak, Andaman and Nicobar Police informed Ministry of Home Affairs of India that a man named John Allen Chau who had come to Port Blair on November 16 was killed at in the highly restricted area – North Sentinel Island – whose residents are known for resisting human contact for centuries.

As per the local police, no religious material was recovered in his belongings and neither the churches in the area were aware about his presence. His social media was also scanned but nothing appeared out of place.

But soon, the police report turned on its head as a Christian missionary group, All Nations, which is based in Kansas, released a statement that said that the 27-year-old was a missionary with the organisation since 2017 and had been training to convert the isolated tribe to Christianity since he was in college.

His death made headlines around the world, sparking heated debate about the rights of the remote tribes in the modern world.

At the Janglighat jetty near Port Blair. (Express Photo by Ravik Bhattacharya)

Not only that, the organisation revealed that Chau spent years “training” for his visit to the island. His friend also confirmed that Chau had visited the Havelock Island, which is a part of Andaman and Nicobar island, in 2016 to “learn scuba diving.”

Mary Ho, the group’s international executive leader, told Washington Post that Chau learnt emergency medicine, linguistics and cultural anthropology and “wanted to live with them for years and learn the language” of North Sentinelese people.

His friend has claimed that Chau avoided romantic attachments “because of his planned mission.”

The missionary organization said that Chau was a “seasoned traveller who was well-versed in cross-cultural issues” and “had previously taken part in missions projects in Iraq, Kurdistan and South Africa.”

Chau was already researching the North Sentinelese tribe, Remco Snoeij, Chau’s friend told the paper.

READ ALSO | Who are Sentinelese? Here’s how American John Chau described one of the last isolated tribes in the world

Another friend, John Middleton Ramsey, 22, confirmed that the same year Chau lived with him in Washington and that isolated island in the Andamans was on his mind. Ramsay has claimed that Chau avoided romantic attachments “because of his planned mission.”

Much has been said about his diary and the Andaman police recovered a note which was titled “Observations” from the fisherman who took Chau to the forbidden island. While his notes have been termed immature at best, the notes detailing his first interaction with them, the number of people in the tribe and the topography around their habitat have been shared with the anthropologists.

North Sentinel Island is home to the pre-Neolithic Sentinelese people, seen in a picture taken by a Coast Guard helicopter. (Reuters Photo)

The first day, he saw the tribe, their women began “booing and chattering,” his notes read, and as men attacked him with bows and arrows, he shouted, “My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you,” before he retreated. The second day, he went with gifts of “fish, scissors, cord and safety pins” and sung “worship songs and hymns” but he was attacked again. The third day, after asking the fisherman to drop him at the island again, he didn’t return and the fisherman saw the tribesman taking his body.

Police also confirmed that on his final trip to the island, he spent time studying how to evade military patrols around the island.

DGP Deepender Pathak further added that Chau had a “very meticulous plan to camouflage his expedition as fishing activity.”

The accounts of his two friends, the missionary group’s statement and the detailed note of Chau’s observations clearly point that the 27-year-old had made elaborate plans to contact the tribe. It is unclear what made Chau loose caution and make repeated unwelcome contact with the North Sentinelese tribe who made it clear that they didn’t want to be contacted.

The fishermen who helped him have been arrested by the police.

After much effort, the government finally decided to not retrieve Chau’s body, so that the tribe is not disturbed, reported The Guardian.

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