Nun Assassinated Defending Amazon

Greenpeace calls on Brazil to stop violence in rainforest

Feature story - February 14, 2005
Sister Dorothy Stang, a longtime advocate for the disempowered in the Brazilian Amazon, was assassinated on February 12, 2005 in the State of Pará, Brazil. The 74-year-old American-born nun was shot by two gunmen as she was traveling to a sustainable development project in Anapú.

74-year-old American-born missionary Sister Dorothy Stang was assassinated on February 12, 2005 for defending the Amazon and rural workers.

Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Sister Dorothy had worked in the Amazon for the past 37 years, living in Anapú since 1972. We worked with Sister Dorothy to oppose corrupt logging companies in the region. She was an outspoken critic of land grabbers and illegal loggers who use intimidation and violence to force small landowners off their land.

We are extremely sorrowed by her death. John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace in the U.S. said, "I send our deepest condolences to her family, friends and members of her order. And I promise that we will not let her death be in vain."

Her assassination occurred 16 years after the murder of Chico Mendes, an environmentalist whose death drew worldwide attention to the dangers faced by activists in the Amazon. 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 the ultimate price for it," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon coordinator who had worked with Sister Dorothy. "She worked selflessly for many years supporting the rights of rural workers and defending the Amazon from deforestation."

Her work made her the target of many death threats.

"The Pará government failed to protect her," said Adario. "But she was not alone. There are many others who risk their lives fighting against forest destruction and for the rights of local communities. The violence and intimidation must stop."

In a letter sent to Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva yesterday, Passacantando, Gerd Leipold, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, and Frank Guggenheim, Executive Director of Greenpeace Brazil, called on the Brazilian government and Pará authorities to bring the killers to justice and put an end to the lawlessness that rules the remote areas of the Amazon.

For years, we have worked with local communities and federal authorities in Brazil to stop illegal logging and other destructive operations in the Amazon. Approximately one third of the deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon takes place in Pará, and the state is notorious for both environmental abuse and human rights violations. In October 2003, we published State of Conflict, a report detailing the criminal practices used by major logging companies in Pará to usurp land, threaten residents and decimate the rainforest, often with the complicity of the local officials.

Tell the Brazilian government to stop the violence in the Amazon