The US will not press charges against the Indian tribe that killed an American Christian missionary.
John Allen Chau was 26 when he was ventured onto the country’s North Sentinel Island last year in a bid to spread his faith among the Sentinelese – the world’s most isolated tribe.
Illegally taken there by fishermen, he was killed in a deadly bow and arrow attack soon after stepping onto their shores, and was buried in the sand the morning after.
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While prosecution was always unlikely, the US ambassador-at-large for religious freedom Sam Brownback confirmed to reporters the case would not be pursued.
“The US government has not asked or pursued any sort of sanctions that the Indian government would take against the tribal people in this case. That’s not been something that we have requested or have put forward,” Mr Brownback said, according to Faithwire.
Indian authorities said days after the November 2018 killing that they had no plans to retrieve Mr Chau’s body.
It was feared their presence could antagonise the tribe further, with the Sentinielese having always resited the presence of outsiders.
They came to prominence in 2014 following a 2004 tsunami when a tribal member was photographer firing arrows at a helicopter assessing the damage.
“We have decided not to disturb the Sentinelese,” an anthrolopolgist working with the investigation at the time told The Guardian.
“We should not hamper their sentiments. “They shoot arrows on any invader. That is their message, saying don’t come on the island, and we respect this.”
Earlier this month, Mr Chau’s father blamed his son’s Christian Evangelicalism for his death.
“If you have (anything) positive to say about religion, l wish not to see or hear,” Dr Patrick Chau told The Guardian.
In his final message to his family, the young Mr Chau wrote: “You guys might think I am crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people … This is not a pointless thing – The eternal lives of this [Sentinelese] tribe is at hand and I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshipping in their own language as Revelation 7:9-10 states.”
The tribe’s island is part of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago in the Bay of Bengal – a region home to five Stone Age tribes.
For years, India’s government prohibited people from travelling there. But last year, it announced foreign nationals could travel to a number of islands, including North Sentinel, without a permit.
Conservationists were alarmed over the move, fearing it could put indigenous inhabitants at risk.
“A wealth of indigenous knowledge has already been lost because of intrusions, and trying to integrate them into our way of life, and the loss of traditional habitats,” Andaman Nicobar Environment Team senior researcher Manish Chandi said, according to the ABC.
Further, outsiders could expose them to 21st century diseases, with the common cold even threatening the tribe’s existence.
The flu could threaten to wipe out their ancient tribe of 50 to 150 people altogether.
“They [the Sentinelese] are not immune to anything,” said PC Joshi, an anthropology professor at Delhi University. “A simple thing like flu can kill them.”
Following the incident, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson backed the remote tribe’s border protection measurers that lead to Mr Chau’s death.
“The Sentinelese people of the remote North Sentinel Islands are likely the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world, and possess a unique culture and way of life that should be cherished and protected,” Ms Hanson wrote in a senate motion.
“Even small levels of migration would have a devastating and irreversible effect on the beautiful and unique culture and way of life of the Sentinelese people.”
Will the Senate support the proud Sentinelese people in their desire to protect their way of life through the enforcement of strong border protections? Or will the Senate condemn them for their “intolerant immigration policies” & “lack of diversity”? We’ll have to wait & see! -PH pic.twitter.com/nb8Qk0jPsN
— Pauline Hanson 🇦🇺 (@PaulineHansonOz) November 26, 2018