British missionary found dead in Iquitos

08 April 2019

(Written by Martin Scurrah from Lima)

Sallesian brother Paul McAuley was found dead last week in the centre he founded in Iquitos for poor indigenous youths who had left their communities to pursue high school or university studies in the city. His burnt body was found on the premises and police are investigating the circumstances of his death, regarded as suspicious.

Brother Paul, a British national aged 71, moved to Iquitos some 20 years ago and dedicated his considerable capacities and energies to the passionate defence of the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon and the environment. In addition to working with indigenous youth so that they could succeed in their studies and conserve their identities and customs he was also founder and president of the Loretan Environmental Network which coordinates activities in defence of the natural environment.

During the government of President Alan García (2006-2011), McAuley was an outspoken critic of state policies which promoted private investment in the Amazon without regard for the impacts on indigenous peoples and the environment. García accused him of being a terrorist and attempted to have him deported but the public outcry, both national and international, in his defence dissuaded the president from pursuing the matter. Nevertheless, Church authorities ordered McAuley to moderate his public criticisms and concentrate on his pastoral work.

When systematising the work of an indigenous-run Amazonian Human Rights School some ten years ago I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Brother Paul and the indigenous youth who worked with him and enjoyed subsequent exchanges by email. He was a well-loved and highly respected figure in Iquitos and his absence will be sorely felt, especially amongst the indigenous youth resident in the city or pursuing their studies there.

The Associated Press cites a forensic doctor saying that it appears that McAuley’s body was burned after his death. He was buried in Iquitos on 3 April following a ceremony attended by fellow environmentalists and members of the Sallesian brotherhood.


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