Sister Dorothy: unfinished business

Feature story - 13 February, 2006
One year since the violent death of Sister Dorothy at the hands of hired gunmen in the Amazon, little has changed for the rural workers and activists trying to protect the rainforest from ranchers, landgrabbers and loggers.

A young boy stands amongst the 772 white crosses, each representing murdered rural workers and activists at a ceremony to mark the murder of Sister Dorothy one year ago.

At a memorial in the remote rural area in the Amazon where SisterDorothy lived and worked, Greenpeace activists, community people, andother environmental and human rights advocates planted white crossesfor each rural worker who has been assassinated in land conflicts overthe last 33 years in the Amazon state of Pará alone.  Theyerected  red crosses for every community leader currently under adeath threat in the state.

By the end of their labours, there were 772 white and 48 red crosses at the site.

Parástate in the Amazon is one of the most violent areas in the world wheredisputes are routinely settled with weapons. At 72 years old and aveteran of more than 30 years of activism, Sister Dorothy Stang was nostranger to the dangers of her work, and she had been threatened manytimes. On the morning of February 12th last year, she was shot sixtimes by Rayfran das Neves with his accomplice, Clodoaldo Batista.

Thetwo gunmen have since received sentences of 27 and 17 years of prison,respectively, for her murder. The two landowners accused of orderingthe murder have managed to postpone their trials through judicialappeals.

At the timeof her death, Sister Dorothy was working to create sustainabledevelopment projects, which encourage Amazon communities to use theland in an environmentally friendly way by combining food productionand sustainable exploitation of forest resources, without destroyingthe forest.

"The creation and implementation of protected areasare important to stop land grabbing, deforestation and the violencerelated to illegal land occupation and environmental destruction in theAmazon", said André Muggiati, Greenpeace Amazon Campaigner, in Anapu.

TheBrazilian Government made many promises about the implementation of thetwo Social Development Projects that Sister Dorothy was working tocreate at the time of her murder.

Her work remains unfinished. The violence continues. In the year sinceher death at least another 18 rural workers have been murdered in thestate.

In a region marred by land grabbing, human rights abuses,environmental degradation and land conflicts, Sister Dorothy alwaysfought for the protection of the Amazon. It is now time for theBrazilian Government to make good on their promises and help SisterDorothy finish her work. 

Light a 'virtual candle'

You can light a 'virtual candle' to show your support for the creation and implementation of protected areas and effective presence of the rule of law in the State of Pará.