|"Sister Dorothy Stang did not set out to be a martyr, but she was deeply committed to doing God’s
work of defending human rights and promoting justice." - from VISION tribute to Stang
A decade ago, Ohio-born Sister Dorothy Stang, of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was slain because of her tireless work for the poor and landless in Brazil. She advocated for the small-scale farmer who is still, 10 years later, the frequent victim of harassment, forced evictions, threats, physical violence, and even killings.
However, according to the Huffington Post, "In recent years, independent civil society truth commissions have begun investigating the history of violence in the Brazilian countryside, grappling with the roles of unequal land distribution, poor documentation of land rights, and expulsion and killings of indigenous peoples. These investigations were inspired by Brazil’s National Truth Commission, which reported human rights abuses under the 1964-1985 military dictatorship."
For Girolamo Treccani, a law professor at the Federal University of Para and a member of Para State’s Rural Truth Commission, the question of prison time was less important than ensuring that all cases are acknowledged and investigated.
“The right of justice demands denouncement and recognition,” he said, “even if individuals can’t go to prison." This denouncement is key as "in Brazil defendants are sometimes granted liberty while the lawyers exhaust all of their options of appeal, which often takes years."
Stang’s case was, in many ways, exceptional, because her killers were identified and brought to trial. Of the 1,270 cases of homicide of rural workers documented by the Pastoral Land Commission between 1985 and 2013, less then 10 percent were ever prosecuted. Stang’s case was one of the first times a mandante (someone who orders a killing) was convicted in Para.
From a tribute to Sister Dorothy Stang in the VISION article, Sister Dorothy Stang: Her dying shows us how to live: "Stang’s faithfulness to the gospel and commitment to her community’s mission to educate and stand with the poor is a profile in courage and true Christian discipleship. Stang is her community’s first martyr. They have pledged to continue the struggle for a world of justice and peace."