“It’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people”: John Chau
The American missionary tragically killed in attempts to preach the gospel to an isolated island tribe said that his risk was “worth it to declare Jesus to these people” in a letter he wrote before his death.
After attempting several visits to North Sentinel island and already repelled by arrows, one of which pierced his Bible, 27-year-old Christian John Chau was tragically killed on 17 November by the island’s reclusive tribal people.
“Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed,” wrote John to his parents on the fishing boat before he returned to the remote island for the third and final time. In a phrase reminiscent of the missionary Jim Elliot, killed in the Ecuadorian jungle by the Auca tribe in 1956, “This is not a pointless thing,” John wrote in his journal, “the eternal lives of this tribe is at hand.”
John was taken to the island by local fisherman, who he described as “believers” in his detailed journal notes, who informed the authorities of his death. According to news reports seven individuals, including five fishermen who witnessed his killing, have since been arrested for their part in assisting in his journey to the island.
It is impossible for Indian authorities to investigate his murder due to laws prohibiting all travel to the island and hopes are fading for the recovery of John’s body.
Chau’s family have responded with forgiveness, “He [had] nothing but love for the Sentinelese people. We forgive those reportedly responsible for his death.”
An isolated island in the Andaman archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, North Sentinel Island is home to one of the world’s last uncontacted peoples. The tribe has a history of violent attacks on visitors. In 2006 two fishermen were killed by the islanders when they anchored their boat too close to the shore.
Contact with the tribe has been made illegal by the Indian government in order to protect their indigenous way of life, of which very little is known, and because of their likely susceptibility to pathogens which are common in the outside world.