Peru: Paul McAuley, British Priest Defending the Amazon

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon.

On June 2010, British priest from the De La Salle Brothers, Paul McAuley, received a Ministry of Interior resolution [es] announcing his residence in Peru had been terminated. The priest had been threatened with this measure before, bringing about rejection and solidarity of a considerable part of the population when the problem was about to get worse. His supporters participated in marches and sit-ins to protest the measure.

Fortunately, this was just a threat: Brother Paul – as he is known in Iquitos, the city where he lives – is still in Peru. He is devoted to defending indigenous communities and the Amazonian rainforest of Loreto. He is the head of Loreto Environmental Network (Red Ambiental Loretana [es] in Spanish) since 2004. This organization aims to:

informar y educar a la población de la región Loreto hacia una conciencia ambiental que sepa valorar los recursos naturales, promoviendo la sostenibilidad de las comunidades rurales e indígenas.

Inform and educate the population from the Loreto region to acquire environmental awareness and cherish natural resources, promoting sustainability of rural and indigenous communities.

Thanks to these environmental awareness activities, carried out in the region first and then on the Internet, McAuley and the Loreta Environmental Network have built a good reputation among institutions and people concerned about these issues, and also among those who have gained awareness as a result of its work.

However, the opposite has happened among state institutions and companies that have seen their interests affected by the work carried out by the Network; this was probably the reason behind the repeated attempts to deport McAuley. Regarding this aspect, he talks about his current status in Peru:

This expulsion odyssey Brother Paul had to live through was widely reported internationally; this video from English television is an example.

Something many do not know about McAuley is that he was devoted to founding Fe y Alegria schools in the north of Lima in his early years [es] in the country.

In this video, he talks about the Network's relationship with the Internet and his plans and activities for the future:

In the interim between the date that this interview was conducted and the date of its publication, some of the things he mentioned have already happened. For instance, the Environmental Network now has a Facebook page [es]. In addition to that, the project Maloca del Aprendizaje (“Maloca of Learning”) was finished:

This picture shows the structure of the “Maloca de Aprendizaje”, a community Huitoto-style house. The maloca is a place to meet, celebrate, socialite, and above of all, share traditional wisdom. Our new maloca already houses Good souls.

This beautiful resource is the result of the resistance and vision of Ruben Medina. Ruben founded the Asociacion Curuinsi [es] last year seeking to revalue the culture and wisdom of all indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon.

Finally, Brother Paul talks about the Amazon and its future:

He discusses this same issue in English in this video.

McAuley is not a “rebel priest”, as people who have questioned his stay in Peru have claimed. He has a concrete and informed vision regarding what is happening in the Amazonian rainforest, not just in national terms, but also internationally. It is clearly a Christian vision, but it is very different from that of other Catholic members in the country.

An example of this is a fragment from the manifesto [es] that was published due to the ‘Cristo del Pacífico’ Controversy:

Nuestro Cristo es el Cristo indignado de la Amazonia.

Nuestro Cristo es de la gente excluida, marginada, sin consulta. Representa a ese Jesús que se parcializó con gente concreta, real y necesitada. Nuestro Cristo no es de los poderosos. Es el Cristo de los pobres, de los pobres de corazón que sí saben compartir entre todos

No es el Cristo de los ortodoxos (religiosos o económicos) que ocupan los primeros lugares, compartiendo sus cocteles en palacios y embajadas. Nuestro Cristo es de los pueblos ribereños e indígenas que “no existen”, que no figuran en los mapas y cifras gubernamentales.

Our Christ is the outraged Christ of the Amazon.

Our Christ is the Christ of the excluded, marginalized and ignored people. He represents that Jesus who was fond of real people and people in need. Our Christ is not the Christ of the powerful people. He is the Christ of the poor, of the poor-hearted people who know how to share with each other.

He is not the Christ of the orthodox people (religious or economic orthodox) occupying high ranks, sharing their cocktails in palaces and embassies. Our Christ is of the people from the River and the “nonexistent” indigenous peoples. Those who are neither in maps nor in government figures.

Follow the Loreto Environmental Network [es] on Facebook [es] and Twitter [es] to learn more about these issues.

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon.

Helen Siers and Silvia Viñas subtitled the videos in this post

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