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A Man’s Last Letter Before Being Killed on a Forbidden Island

Before he was killed by an isolated tribe on a remote Indian Ocean island, John Allen Chau, a young American on a self-propelled mission to spread Christianity, revealed two things: that he was willing to die, and that he was scared.

“You guys might think I’m crazy in all this,” he wrote in a last letter to his parents. “But I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people.”

Part letter, part journal, in 13 pages with many cross-outs and messy scrawl, Mr. Chau laid out a disturbing account of his final days on North Sentinel Island in the Andaman Sea east of India.

He tried to give gifts. A boy shot an arrow at him. He expressed fear, fatalism, frustration and some humor.
The people Mr. Chau chose for his mission are among the most impenetrable communities in the world, known for their intense hostility to outsiders. They have killed or tried to kill many outsiders who attempted to step on their rugged island 700 miles off India’s mainland, where they are one of the last undiluted hunter and gatherer societies.

On Friday, Indian police officials shared Mr. Chau’s last writing, part of which has been published by other news organizations over the past two days.

North Sentinel Island is a far-flung territory of India, and for years the Indian authorities have declared it off limits in an attempt to preserve its culture. The Indian Navy patrols the waters around it, making sure no one gets close.

But that didn’t stop Mr. Chau.

[The Sentinelese tribe that killed John Allen Chau have a history of guarding their isolation.]

Last week, he paid some fishermen to take him to the island. He set off from Port Blair, the Andaman chain’s main port, under the cover of darkness.

“The Milky Way was above and God Himself was shielding us from the Coast Guard and Navy patrols,” he wrote.

Mr. Chau, 26, from Washington State, was an ambitious adventurer. He loved climbing mountains, camping in isolated places, hiking, canoeing, seeing the world.


A graduate of Oral Roberts University, he was fixated on spreading Christianity to North Sentinel, telling friends he had been working for years to make the right contacts.

It seems that he was working on his own and that no large organization had sent him. For this mission, he made sure to take his waterproof Bible.

But the fishermen refused to land him on North Sentinel. The last fishermen who accidentally drifted ashore, in 2006, were killed.

So Mr. Chau arranged for the boat to take him close and then jumped in a kayak and paddled in. His first moments didn’t go so well.

“Two armed Sentinelese came rushing out yelling,” he wrote in the letter. “They had two arrows each, unstrung, until they got closer. I hollered, ‘My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you.’ ”

He gave them some fish, but the islanders kept coming toward him: “I turned and paddled like I never have in my life,” he said.

“I felt some fear but mainly was disappointed,” he admitted. “They didn’t accept me right away.”

Mr. Chau was trying to accomplish the impossible. The people on North Sentinel have not accepted anyone outside their society. Anthropologists, filmmakers and government officials have tried to approach them. Just about all have been driven back by bows and arrows.

Some years ago, a few anthropologists managed to give the islanders some coconuts, but that was about the extent of the contact.

The North Sentinel people have sealed themselves off from the modern world. They hunt turtles and pigs, wear loincloths and live in huts. Beyond that, very little is known.

In the late 19th century, a British naval officer working in the Andamans was so intrigued that he basically kidnapped several islanders. Some soon died, and the officer later wrote that his experiment had failed.

Anthropologists have struggled to decode their language and their history. The best guesses are that for centuries they have lived alone on their island, about the size of Manhattan, thick with forests and ringed by beautiful white sand beaches.

Anthropologists say the islanders’ ancestors possibly migrated from Africa more than a thousand years ago.

The population size? Estimates range from 50 to 100, but no one really knows.

Indian officials say any contact with the islanders could wipe out their culture and possibly even their existence since their immune systems may be no match for modern microbes.

Indian policy is to keep North Sentinel and a few other islands in the archipelago totally isolated, with no school, aid, development or government services.

Mr. Chau hoped to break through. He took a careful selection of gifts: scissors, safety pins, fishing line and a soccer ball.

But the people seemed variously amused, hostile and perplexed by his presence, he wrote.

He described a man wearing a white crown possibly made of flowers taking a “leadership stance” by standing atop the tallest coral rock on the beach.

The man yelled, and Mr. Chau tried to respond, singing some worship songs and yelling back something in Xhosa, a language he apparently knew a few words of from when he coached soccer in South Africa a few years ago.

“They would often fall silent after this,” he wrote. Other efforts to communicate with tribe members ended with their bursting out in laughter.


Encounters became more fraught. When Mr. Chau tried to hand over fish and a bundle of gifts, a boy shot an arrow “directly into my Bible which I was holding.”

“I grabbed the arrow shaft as it broke in my Bible and felt the arrow head,” he said. “It was metal, thin but very sharp.”

Mr. Chau stumbled back and shouted at the boy.

Over the next two days, Mr. Chau paddled back and forth in his kayak between the fishing boat and the island, unsure what to do.

At times personal and open, at other times colder and more scientific, his long letter is filled with cultural observations, directions, distances, raw feelings and details from his exercise regimen (3 X 20 push-ups, 50 leg tucks, 20 wide push-ups, 20 squats).

The fishermen said he had told them to give the letter to a friend, in case he did not come back.

In one passage, he asked God if North Sentinel was “Satan’s last stronghold.” In another: “What makes them become this defensive and hostile?”

“It’s weird — actually no, it’s natural: I’m scared,” Mr. Chau wrote. “There, I said it. Also frustrated and uncertain — is it worth me going a foot to meet them?”


He added, “I don’t want to die!”

Still, he went back.

On the afternoon of Nov. 16, the fishermen told police officers, Mr. Chau reassured them that he would be fine staying on the island overnight and that the fishermen could go. They motored out, leaving Mr. Chau alone for the first time.

When they passed by the island the next morning, they saw the islanders dragging his body on the beach with a rope.

No one knows what exactly happened. Police officials said the islanders most likely killed him with bows and arrows.

Mr. Chau’s body is still on the island, but several police officers said they were worried about retrieving it, lest the same thing happen to them.

The police have flown helicopters overhead but not set foot on shore.

Before setting off that final day, Mr. Chau finished his note with a message to his family.

The handwriting gets sloppier, the lines more crooked.

“Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed,” he wrote.

“I love you all.”

John Chau
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紐約時報中文表示:
26歲的約翰·艾倫·周(John Allen Chau)來自美國華盛頓,喜歡爬山、露營、徒步旅行,劃獨木舟和欣賞世界。他是一位雄心勃勃的冒險家,但更願意做一名基督教的傳教士。
他漂洋過海,前往印度洋一座與世隔絕的島嶼,一心向島上的原始部落傳教。但這個原始部落有難解的語言和神秘的習俗,而且自我武裝,對外界充滿敵意,不讓任何一個外來者靠近。沒有人知道這個部落的社會結構、生活方式和人口規模,許多人將它稱作世界上最危險的小島。
周也沒有打破這個神秘島嶼的禁忌。他決心要使這原始之島變為耶穌的國度,等待他的卻是致命的箭矢。

在被拒絕接受他的原住民射殺之前,周發現了兩件事:他願意死去。但他也很害怕。在給父母留下的絕筆信裡,周似乎已將死亡視為宿命。他寫道,「如果我被殺,不要對他們生氣,也不要對上帝感到憤怒,我愛你們。」
時報講述了這位年輕人的故事,稱他在最後留下的文字裡表達了恐懼、宿命論、沮喪和些許幽默感。(He expressed fear, fatalism, frustration and some humor.)
根據韋氏詞典,fatalism即宿命論,認為萬事萬物皆已事先確定,人類無力改變,也被稱作命運論、命定論。宿命論者認為,該發生的終會發生,誰都無法改變或阻止,故任何積極的作為都沒有必要。
哲學中還有一個決定論(determinism)的概念,認為每個事件的發生,包括人類的認知、舉止、決定和行動,都有條件決定它發生,有因必有果。這與宿命論看似有一定相似之處,實質卻完全不同。相比宿命論的消極悲觀,決定論強調客觀規律和因果關係,推動了自然科學的發展。
你對宿命論和周的死亡有什麼看法?歡迎來信與我們分享,也歡迎對「每日一詞」這個欄目提出你的意見和建議。我們的讀者信箱地址是:cn.letters@nytimes.com



這事甚麼說呢......我個人是相當不喜歡強行普及自己的宗教給別人的行為的,比如強硬的傳教,無論是佛教或者基督教甚麼的......雖然身邊有基督徒朋友,但他們 對於偏激類的傳教也比較反對,這人呢......我覺得不是強硬的,而是鍥而不捨,長期蒐擾(?)型的......
另外我也很不喜歡宿命論,所以.....對這事情呢,雖然當事人滿可憐的,但是我實在不能認同啊......

 


快把萌燦抱回家!
笑著坦然展示一身淋漓的鮮血和殺戮的罪孽。心是烈火鑄成的。


 

哦这件事之前在微博上看到了
不过这个结局和传教没什么关系,因为对象是原始部落!
对,没错,真的是故意被印尼政府保护起来、保留起来,用作人类原始社会发展研究的,还在用弓箭和长矛、没有正规衣物的原始人!
别说传教了,你就是开直升机过去、怼军舰过去,人家都会拉弓射你
完全无法沟通,也完全不懂和敌视外界文明,因此印尼政府表示没救了等死吧告辞,放弃了对这个部落的现代化(?),也禁止了所有人登岛
据说这个传教士登岛之前,当地渔民也警告过他,但是他不听
所以这个受害者不是死于锲而不舍令人讨厌的传教,而是死于不守规矩就像在猛兽区下车的游客一样(X)WWWWWWWWW
欢迎来到Dragicland,【总版规】请记得要看哦
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用作人类原始社会发展研究的,还在用弓箭和长矛、没有正规衣物的原始人.......這說得難道不是方舟的燦之助?

我感覺這樣保護也是滿好的,我支持繼續不允許文明登島WWWWWWWWWWWW
看上面英文的內文,其實我覺得當地人是有阻止他的,至少有告訴他那裏危險,但他因為奇怪的宿命論而堅持去WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

猛獸區下車的遊客,說得好WWWWWWWWWWWWW

快把萌燦抱回家!
笑著坦然展示一身淋漓的鮮血和殺戮的罪孽。心是烈火鑄成的。

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