The Common Good
June 2005

Earth Martyr: Sister Dorothy Stang

by Emily R. Hershberger | June 2005

More than 2,

More than 2,000 poor Brazilian farmers marched to the remote jungle town of Anapu in February for the funeral of Catholic Sister Dorothy Stang, SND, whom they called the "angel of Trans-Amazonia." Stang, 73, was shot to death Feb. 12 by Rayfran das Neves Sales. Police said a group of Brazilian landowners may have pooled $19,000 to hire Sales to murder Stang. She had defended the rights of the poor and the earth for more than 30 years. "I feel like a river without water, a forest without trees," Fernando Anjos da Silva told the Associated Press. "It’s like losing a mother." Stang had helped da Silva obtain medical care after a logging accident.

Stang had worked with the Catholic Pastoral Land Commission in Brazil since 1966 to protect the rainforest community and resist illegal logging and ranching. "Sister Dorothy’s life and death were about protecting the people she loved and the rest of creation," Marie Dennis, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns in Washington, D.C., told Sojourners. "She was tied to the people of the Amazon, tied to the land. She kept going back even as danger became more apparent." According to witnesses, Stang died reading scripture to her assailants.

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