Sister Cleusa Carolina Rody Coelho was born in Brazil in 1933 into a Catholic family with a strong commitment to human rights and social justice. From a young age, Cleusa felt a great passion for nature and environmental protection, and decided to dedicate her life to the defense of Indigenous Peoples and the biodiversity of the Amazon.
She studied literature and languages, then joined the Augustinian Recollect Missionary Sisters and became a missionary in the Amazon region of Brazil. There, she worked to denounce the violence and oppression suffered by Indigenous Peoples at the hands of mining and logging companies.
She worked to raise awareness on the importance of conserving the biodiversity of the Amazon and the need to preserve natural ecosystems. Her work always showed the courage she had inside, especially because of how dangerous it could be. She even received death threats. Despite this, Cleusa continued her work and became a leading voice in the struggle for human rights and environmental justice in Brazil.
In 1985, Cleusa was killed. Her death was a severe blow to activists and human rights defenders in Brazil, but her legacy and fighting spirit continued to inspire others to continue fighting for environmental justice and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Cleusa Carolina Rody Coelho is still remembered as a martyr in the struggle for the environment and human rights in Brazil, which is why we call her an “eco martyr”.