Sunday, March 27, 2005

Sister Dorothy Stang, SND Murdered in Brazil

“It was three shots at point-blank range,” reported Sr. Betsy Flynn, SND from Fortaleza, Brazil. "She received so many threats; I just never thought it would happen." The Brazilian Order of Lawyers, a nationwide lawyers group, had included Sr. Dorothy on a list of human rights workers who faced possible assassination.

Sr. Dorothy lived in Anapu, Para, a young county created by peasant farmers who migrated from the northeast of Brazil into the Amazon Forest following agrarian land reform. About 173,000 acres of the forest had been declared unproductive three years ago and was given to the farmers by Brazil’s National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform. The farmer’s organization, “Sem Terra” (Without Land), has 600 member families involved in the project. The land, which is rich in cedar and mahogany, is of interest to loggers and corporate landowners. Sr. Dorothy and the farm families had received death threats connected with their protection of the land.

BBC News reported early Sunday that Brazil’s Human Rights Minister Nilmario Miranda said two suspects in the case had already been identified and that putting those responsible behind bars was "a matter of honour" for the Brazilian government.

Another member of the Brazilian cabinet, Environment Minister Marina Silva, compared Sr. Dorothy's murder to the killing of trade union leader Chico Mendes, a campaigner for the rainforest whose death in 1988 sparked worldwide outrage.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has sent ministers and police teams to the area to investigate the murder. The early morning attack came less than a week after Sr. Dorothy met Secretary Miranda to report that four local farmers had received death threats from loggers and landowners.

Sr. Dorothy, who was from Ohio, received an “Honorary Citizenship of the State” from the state of Para, Brazil earlier this year.

In August, 2004, Sr. Dorothy spoke about the danger associated with her work. “It is not my safety but that of the people that really matters,” she said. “All of the Sisters of Notre Dame working in Brazil work very closely with our people and want to be a sign of hope. It is wonderful to be a part of this struggle and this is the contribution of Notre Dame.”
A memorial mass for Sister Dorothy will be celebrated on April 2, 2005 at 1:30 pm in the Cunningham Chapel at the Notre Dame de Namur campus in Belmont.

Suggestions for Action:

1. Fax or write the Brazil Ambassador to the United States, telling him you deplore the death of Sr. Dorothy Stang, and congratulate the government for setting aside land for the people. Ask that the government ensure prolonged federal protection for the poor farmers in Anapu faced with the anger of the powerful landowners and the loggers. Request that this case be investigated by the Federal police and judged by the Federal Court.
Address and Fax:
The Honorable Roberto Abdenur
3006 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009-3634
Fax: 202-238-2827
2. The Sisters of Notre Dame are establishing a fund in memory of Sr. Dorothy. Gifts to the funds provide support for sisters continuing her work and for Sisters working in other countries of Latin America and Africa.
Sr. Dorothy Stang Fund
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
1520 Ralston Avenue
Belmont, CA 94002


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