Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Sister Dorothy Stang: 1931-2005

"They stopped her car, and she got out and they were pointing guns at her. So she took out her Bible and said, 'This is my weapon,' and started reading to them."

The world has lost a great advocate for justice. Sister Dorothy Stang, who spent forty years fighting for the rights of peasants in Brazil who were being forced off their land by cattle and timber barons, was ambushed Saturday by masked gunmen who shot her at least six times at close range.

Dorothy Stang stood in solidarity with the poor in the rich tradition of liberation theology. Liberation theology, for those who are not familiar with the term, is basically patristic theology, the teachings of Sts. Basil, Gregory, and Chrysostom on wealth and poverty, within a South American context. It is a theology that rejects the Manichean separation between "spiritual" matters and the bodies of the poor, insisting that the proclamation of the Gospel in an oppressive and death-dealing environment cannot merely offer a comforting hope for the future, but must proclaim liberation in the here and now. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’" (Luke 4:18-19).

"She had a soft voice that belied her will of steel. She was an extremely strong woman who wouldn't be silenced, ever, about anything. They finally silenced her for good because they couldn't silence her in life."

What Dorothy Stang's killers failed to understand is that her voice cannot be silenced with bullets. Like Archbishop Oscar Romero and other martyrs of South America, she will continue to give inspiration to legions of others. Her struggle for the rights of the oppressed will go on. The blood of the martyrs is still the seed of the Church.

Way down south where the Maya reign
Zapata readin' poetry in his grave
They say we're stealin' from the best to feed the poor
Well they need more.

--Amy Ray, The Indigo Girls

Please consider sending a letter to the governor of the state of Para, Simão Jatene, asking him to bring those responsible for Sr. Dorothy's death to justice. Go to the governor's website to write a letter by email. Hints for Portuguese: "Nome do remetente" is your name. When asked "Local de Residência," select the third option, "Outro País," and scroll down to find your country of residence. "Area de interesse" is "outros," the last option on the list (other, since they do not offer a justice subject). In the "assunto" line (subject), write "assassinato de Ir. Dorothy Stang, 12 de feveiro." "Mensagem" is your message, which can written in English. (Contact information courtesy of

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