After Nun's Murder, the Church Asks: "How Much Longer?"

Statement of Archdiocese of Belem

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BRASILIA, Brazil, FEB. 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A statement from the Archdiocese of Belem expressed profound consternation over the murder a 73-year-old, U.S.-born woman religious, and asked: "How much longer?"



"At the height of the 'Campaign of Fraternity,' with the theme Solidarity and Peace, the Para society is feeling a blow that marks our nation negatively and stuns the civilized world: the murder of Sister Dorothy Stang, missionary of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, American, defenseless, naturalized Brazilian citizen, and recognized by all as a fighter for human and social rights, who had been awarded the title Citizen of Para," noted the statement.

The text was signed by Archbishop Orani João Tempesta of Belem and by Bishop Carlos Verzeletti of Castanhal.

"It is incredible that solutions to social conflicts are sought with the pure and simple elimination of human lives, dedicated to the service of the poorest, the excluded, and the abandoned," added the bishops of the Amazonian region.

"What happened on Saturday in Anapu challenges the authorities, given the impunity of the murderers and their commanders," continued the bishops, who called for the assailants to be punished.

"It is well known that impunity is the vitamin for new events that degrade humanity," the prelates stated.

"The situation of threats, reported by Sister Dorothy, questions the state's protection service for those receiving 'death threats' from criminals," they lamented. "The person who is threatened, even if she reports what she is suffering, is given no security by the state, which should protect its citizens.

"This event affects all those of us who believe in life, in dialogue, and in the building of the civilization of love."

The bishops continued their plea. "It is necessary to cry out, in every possible way, that this is not the world we want! It is important to struggle so that Life will triumph over death! It is urgent that we all take a position and are not accomplices of these situations of bloodshed on our Amazonian soil!"

The prelates expressed the hope that "our part in the construction of a more just and solidaristic homeland, in a climate of peace, will make our Lent an even greater responsibility, so that our Christian life may be a transforming presence of that society that kills innocents and leaves murderers unpunished."

The bishops concluded with the hope that "the sign left by Sister Dorothy Stang may mark our lives even more at this time, and help us to be even more coherent with our life as baptized persons. 'May peace reign within its borders!'"

Sister Dorothy, who for 40 years carried out her apostolate in small communities of the Amazonian hinterland, was killed in the Esperanca settlement, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the town of Anapu, in the southwest of the state of Para.

She died after being shot three times in the head, purportedly for having reported death threats against four peasants of the area.

Nilmario Miranda, human rights national secretary, said Saturday that those who killed the missionary were two hired killers known as Eduardo and Pogoio, paid by an intermediary known as "Tinair," according to the Brasil agency.

Over the past year, there have been 11 murders in the state of Para, at the hands of hired killers who work for timber merchants who, using false land deeds, seize others' tracts.