Nun assassinated defending Amazon

Greenpeace: the state government of Para has failed to protect her

Feature story - 13 February, 2005
74 year old American missionary Sister Dorothy Stang was assassinated on Saturday in the Amazon state of Para, Brazil. Sister Dorothy was travelling to a sustainable development project in Anapu with some colleagues when she was shot three times by two gunmen.

This tragedy occurred 16 years after the murder of Chico Mendes, who was also a defender of rural communities. Mendes was also a colleague of the current Minister for the Environment Marina Silva. Marina Silva is in Anapu meeting with State authorities, following the news of Sister Dorothy's death.

"Like Chico Mendes, Sister Dorothy refused to be intimidated and she paid an enormous price," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon co-ordinator. "She selflessly worked for many years supporting the rights of rural workers, and defending the Amazon from reckless deforestation and we can't let her death be in vain."

Originally from Dayton, Ohio, US, Sister Dorothy was a Brazilian citizen and has worked in the Amazon for the past 37 years, living in Anapú since 1972. For 56 years she has been a member in good standing in the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, an international Catholic religious order of approximately two thousand women who work on five continents. She opposed land grabbers and illegal loggers who use intimidation, violence and guns to force small landowners off their land. She worked in an area that is remote and lawless and she has received many death threats.

"She had been on a death list for years, yet the State government of Para has failed to protect her. She was not alone either, as there are many others fighting against the forest destruction and the rights of local communities, whose lives are in danger", said Adario. "The violence and intimidation must stop. We cannot accept more martyrs in the Amazon."

Para is the Amazon state with the highest murder rate related to land disputes. According to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), a Catholic organisation campaigning for landless people and the poor, 1,237 rural workers died in Brazil from 1985 to 2001, and 40 percent of these occurred in Para.

Para State is responsible for approximately one-third of the deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and plays a leading role in both environmental abuse and human rights violations.

More information

View the animation of the threats to the forest in Para State.

View the threats to the forests in Para State.

Logging in the Amazon

Sisters of Notre Dame, Ohio

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