Proselytizing has always been a complicated endeavor. An American missionary found this out the hard way when he tried to take his Christian beliefs to a secluded island in the Indian Ocean. He claimed he’d been called to convert the natives, but he did not. They killed him before he’d had the chance to minister to any of them.
John Allen Chau, 27, was not supposed to be on North Sentinel Island. Travel there is restricted by the Indian government. He paid local fishermen to take him near the island, though, last week.
When he was close to shore, Chau set off in a canoe, alone. He was hoping to meet the Sentinelese, the indigenous people on the island, and convert them to Christianity.
The tribesmen on the island are cut off from the rest of the world and protected by India. Efforts were made to communicate with them back in the 1980s and 1990s, but those efforts were met with hostility from the isolated tribesmen who would attack the researchers and emissaries. Now the Indian government performs the equivalent of welfare checks, annually, from off shore and prevent outsiders from landing on the island.
As Chau stepped onto the island, the natives shot him with arrows.
The fisherman who took him to the island claimed he was killed, and then drug around on the beach by a rope the tribesmen had strung around his neck.
Indian authorities arrested the fishermen who took Chau to the island and have opened a case against an unknown tribesman in connection with the murder.
There will likely be no prosecution of the murder itself, as the Sentinelese are protected and contact with the island is illegal and part of the effort to keep them free from disease and preserve their way of life.
Reports from Chau’s friends claim the young preacher felt called to go to the island and had been planning the trip for three years.
“The Sentinelese attracted international attention in the wake of the 2004 Asian tsunami, when a member of the tribe was photographed on a beach, firing arrows at a helicopter (pictured),” The Daily Mail writes.
“I saw him reading some Christian literature and I’m a Christian and we started talking,” Neil MacLeod said about the time he met Chau.
“He mentioned that he wanted to go to these islands, the islands where he has now died,” MacLeod added.
“I had heard of these islands and I know how dangerous they are, so I was surprised by that.”
“He recognized the dangers of traveling there, but I think he had a sense of call.”
“This was something he was working on for three years. He was committed to going there. In his view, he was trying to help these people.”
“There are islands that are nearby and he was making relationships and connections to help him get to the islands.”
Chau had made it to the island chain weeks before. He’d been posting Instagram updates that showed some of the remote parts of the islands, and even some encounters with leeches.
“Adventure awaits. So do leeches,” Chau wrote on November 2.
By all accounts, Chau was a giving person. He worked as an EMT in the US, responding to tragedies and disasters around the country and helping how he could. He felt called to minister to the islanders, though, and let nothing stand in his way to reach them.