Murdered in Peru, missionary who gave away his MBE
‘He gave us everything’
THE burnt body of a British environmental activist and Catholic missionary has been found at the youth hostel he set up in Peru.
Paul McAuley, 71, was found by students in the Amazon city of Iquitos.
Six residents of the hostel are being questioned by the state prosecutor’s office.
One of the students understood to have found his body told the news outlet El Comercio that it had been a ‘painful scene’. He added: ‘We want to investigate because he, who has taken us for so many years and has given us everything, has been murdered.’
Mr McAuley, who was born in Portsmouth, had founded the hostel for indigenous students in the poor neighbourhood of Iquitos. He moved to Peru in 1995 and worked to encourage local tribes to resist powerful oil and mining interests.
He was made an MBE a short time after his arrival in the country, for setting up a school in the capital, Lima. He later said that he would have returned the honour to the Queen in protest at British companies’ presence in the rainforest – but he had already given the medal away.
The activist came to international attention in 2010 when the Peruvian government ordered his expulsion. It tried, unsuccessfully, to strip him of his residency for allegedly inciting unrest after he fought attempts to open up the Amazon to drilling. Environmental activists were among those to pay tribute to Mr McAuley yesterday, following the discovery of his body on Tuesday.
Julia Urrunaga, of the Environmental Investigation Agency, tweeted: ‘What tough news. A great man who did a lot for indigenous communities, their rights and the forests. It has been a privilege to meet and work with Brother Paul.’
Mr McAuley was a lay Catholic brother with the De La Salle teaching order. In a statement the group said he had been burned to death. Brother Laurence Hughes, a fellow member who was a close friend, said: ‘He was a wonderful guy – he encapsulated everything to do with being a La Salle brother by the work he did in schools and on missions. I’m in shock.’
In a statement, the order said: ‘Brother Paul worked among young people in Peru for many years in the tradition of our founder, St Jean Baptiste De La Salle. We are keeping him, his family and his many friends in Peru in our thoughts and prayers. May he rest in peace.’
In 2010 Mr McAuley told The Guardian he felt at home in the region and that his Catholic faith had fused with elements of an Amazonian spiritual belief based on the concept of energy.
Activist: Paul McAuley