Forgiveness is the call of the day from the family of John Allen Chau, the US missionary killed last week by a hostile tribe on India's North Sentinel Island. The BBC reports that the Chau family posted an Instagram photo Wednesday of their "beloved son, brother, uncle, and best friend," along with a caption that noted, "We forgive those reportedly responsible for his death." They also implored Indian authorities to release "friends" who were detained, including at least five fishermen who helped him access the island. "He ventured out on his own free will and his local contacts need not be persecuted for his own actions," they wrote. More on Chau's ill-fated visit to the Andaman Islands:
- Indeed, Chau, said to be 26 or 27, knew the risks, including that his trip to the protected island wasn't permitted—people aren't allowed to go within 5 nautical miles of it, per CNN. The founder of a Christian ministry Chau was involved with says Chau purposely didn't ask anyone to go with him, because he knew the dangers, while friend John Middleton Ramsey says the risks didn't seem to faze him: "He believed he was going to heaven, going to be with God if he died."
- It was that Christian faith that appears to have drawn him to the island in the first place, with the Guardian noting a letter he penned to his parents shortly before he died about his mission to convert the Sentinelese. "You guys might think I'm crazy in all this, but I think it's worth it to declare Jesus to these people," he wrote. "Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed. … This is not a pointless thing. The eternal lives of this tribe is at hand and I can't wait to see them around the throne of God worshipping in their own language."
- Still, Chau didn't seem to have a death wish. "God, I don't want to die," he wrote in a journal that his mother has since shared with the Washington Post. In his notes, he said the tribe members didn't seem very receptive to his arrival, especially when he tried to speak in their language and grace them with "worship songs." "I hollered, 'My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you,'" he wrote, noting that following those words, a young tribe member shot his waterproof Bible. CNN's report indicates he visited the island Nov. 15 and 16 and is believed to have been killed on the 17th.
- While everyone is now remembering Chau, not everyone is lionizing him. Some say he should've known better, both for his sake and for the Sentinelese. "This hagiographic description of a man who put people in mortal danger solely for his own ego is unconscionable," Glitch CEO Anil Dash tweeted. "This tribe wants no contact, and has *repeatedly* suffered deaths by exposure to outside diseases from arrogant colonizers like this one."
- The Post notes Chau started leading missionary trips for his alma mater, Oklahoma's Oral Roberts University, and that his travels led him to some of the world's most far-flung locales, which he documented on his Instagram. There, he described himself as a "wilderness EMT," "open water diver," "Outbound Collective explorer," "Perky Jerky ambassador," and "snakebite survivor."
- The challenge now: getting Chau's body off the island. "It's a difficult proposition," a police supervisor in the Andaman and Nicobar islands tells the AP, with police, fire officials, and the Coast Guard surveying the island from the sea and air to figure out how to get his body off the beach it's reportedly buried on. Both legal concerns and worries about the tribe members—who can easily fall ill from outside diseases—are in play.
(Read more on Chau's background here