Environmentalist and Catholic missionary, Paul Mc Auley, was found dead and his body burned inside a residence for indigenous students in Peru. Brother Mc Auley, 71, had travelled to Peru for the first time in 2000 to support indigenous activists. In statements to the BBC in 2010, he maintained that he hoped to teach the Peruvians their human and environmental rights.
For its part, the Peruvian Episcopal Conference (CEP) expressed its condolences for the death of the De La Salle missionary and asked “the authorities to clarify the facts and find those responsible for this event.” Meanwhile, the Peruvian church also expressed “its condolences to visiting brother, Jorge Aguilar, Superior of the Congregation in Peru and to all the members of De La Salle community.” It was a statement by the De La Salle community which confirmed that the body had been burned.
So far, the authorities have initiated an investigation in which they are questioning six students who lived in the hostel. It belongs to the Loretana Environmental Network, founded by Brother Mc Aley himself. The activist was born in the town of Portsmouth, in southern England. For more than 20 years, he lived in Peru. Previously, he had received the Order of the British Empire for having founded a school in a poor area of Lima.
Numerous environmental groups paid tribute to him after hearing the news of his death. “It has been a privilege to meet and work with Brother Paul,” Julia Urrunaga, who works for the Environmental Research Agency (AIA) of Peru, posted on Twitter. In 2010, the Peruvian government ordered the expulsion of Brother Mc Auley. He was accused of inciting disorder among the Indigenous peoples, for protesting against the destruction of the environment. After a long legal battle, and with the support of hundreds of people, he was allowed to stay in the country.
Brother Paul had said: “Education is often accused of inciting people to understand their rights, to be able to organize themselves to demand their human rights.” “If that’s a crime, then, yes, I’m guilty”. “He added. “As a member of a Catholic order, my life has been dedicated to human and Christian education.”
“Brother Paul”, as he was usually known, was known for his deep commitment to the defence of the environment. In addition, he was deeply committed to helping to address many of the major social problems facing the Loreto region. Apart from presiding over the Loretana Environmental Network, he was an adviser to the Student Organization of the Peruvian Amazon. He was not only a religious, he was also a philosopher, mathematician and theologian. Since he moved to Iquitos he gave his last years to the people of the Peruvian Amazon, by promoting a model of inter-cultural education for young indigenous people.