John Allen Chau, 27, tried to get in touch with the Sentinelese, a pre-Neolithic people. Indian media claim he was a missionary who wanted to convert the islanders to the Gospel. Other sources cannot confirm his vocation goals.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - A 27-year-old American, John Allen Chau, was killed by arrows on North Sentinel Island, India, as a result of an encounter with islanders.
Chau’s social media posts identify him as an adventurer and explorer. His case has sparked a debate in Indian after some Indian media reported that he was a missionary who wanted to convert the island’s tribe to Christianity.
Shibu Thomas, founder of the Persecution Relief network, told AsiaNews that the dead man was a Christian, a Protestant".
Nehemiah CS, a Christian activist and coordinator of the Tamil Nadu of Alliance Defending Freedom, cited local sources saying "that this is not a case of persecution. We found out that the young man had a copy of the Bible with him, but there is no confirmation that he went as a missionary with the goal of converting people to the Gospel."
What at the beginning seemed a straight, albeit tragic crime story, has acquired religious connotations, causing havoc and confusion.
Raising more doubts, Reuters published some of Chau’s notes. “I have been so nice to them, why are they so angry and so aggressive?” Chau was quoted as saying, adding that he was "doing this to establish the kingdom of Jesus on the island... Do not blame the natives if I am killed".
A message posted by his family on Chau’s Instagram profile sowed further doubts (picture 2). “He was a beloved son, brother, uncle, and best friend to us,” the post reads. “To others he was a Christian missionary, a wilderness EMT, an international soccer coach, and a mountaineer. He loved God, life, helping those in need and had nothing but love for the Sentinelese people.”
North Sentinel island is part of the Andaman archipelago, in the Indian Ocean, and is one of the most inaccessible places in the world. It is home to the Sentinelese people (about 150 members), considered the last pre-Neolithic community in the world.
Indian authorities have made the island an exclusion zone, banning outsiders, to protect the community. Anyone who tries to approach the island could get up to three years in prison.
For this reason, Indian authorities acknowledge that it will be difficult to recover the young man’s body since it is unclear how they can approach the shore where his body was last spotted.
Meanwhile, the police have arrested seven people, including six fishermen, for helping the young man reach the protected area.
According to Shibu Thomas, another missionary named Alex was among those arrested. The activist reports that John had previously visited the archipelago five or six times and "had a strong desire to meet the Sentinelese tribe".
On Instagram, Chau’s family end their message saying, "We forgive those reportedly responsible for his death. We also ask for the release of those friends he had in the Andaman Islands. He ventured out on his own free will and his local contacts need not be persecuted for his own actions."