American Missionary Intending To Proselytize Killed By Isolated Tribe Near India

Ross Island, Andaman Islands.Sthakur88/CC BY-SA 4.0

John Allen Chau, 27, went to India on a tourist visa but intended to illegally visit the tribe on North Sentinel Island.

Hoping to convert tribespeople on a remote island off the coast of India, an American Christian missionary is believed instead to have been killed by the inhabitants, CNN reported on Wednesday.

> The 27-year-old American, identified as John Allen Chau, came to India on a tourist visa but came to the Andaman and Nicobar islands in October with the express purpose of proselytizing, Dependra Pathak, director general of police of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, told CNN.


> "We refuse to call him a tourist. Yes, he came on a tourist visa but he came with a specific purpose to preach on a prohibited island," Pathak said.

According to officials, Chau neglected to inform police of his true intentions.

North Sentinel Island, inhabited by the Sentinelese, is a protected area, with restrictions stipulating that no one may come within 5 nautical miles of the island due to previous acts of aggression by the tribespeople toward outsiders.

In 2006, the tribe killed two fishermen, CNN reported.

> Pathak said the American missionary had asked one of his local friends, an electronic engineer, to arrange a boat and find some fishermen who could take him to the island. The contact found a boat and the fishermen, along with a water sports expert, to help with the expedition.


> All seven locals who facilitated the trip have been arrested.


> "According to the fishermen, they used a wooden boat fitted with motors to travel to the island on November 15," Pathak said.


> "The boat stopped 500-700 meters (1,640 - 2,300 feet) away from the island and (the American missionary) used a canoe to reach the shore of the island. He came back later that day with arrow injuries. On the 16th, the (tribespeople) broke his canoe.


> "So he came back to the boat swimming. He did not come back on the 17th; the fishermen later saw the tribespeople dragging his body around."

Authorities have not verified that Chau was killed but based on the fishermen’s stories, they believe he is dead.

> Survival International, a nongovernmental group that says it is dedicated to tribal peoples' rights, said Indian authorities should ensure outsiders not make contact with the tribe, because of the risk of disease or threats to their land.

> "The Sentinelese have shown again and again that they want to be left alone, and their wishes should be respected," the group said. "The British colonial occupation of the Andaman Islands decimated the tribes living there, wiping out thousands of tribespeople, and only a fraction of the original population now survive. So the Sentinelese fear of outsiders is very understandable."

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