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February 14, 2005
His Excellency Roberto Abdenur
Ambassador of Brazil
3006 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008-3634
Dear Ambassador Abdenur,
I write to express our deep concern and revulsion over the killing of Sister Dorothy Stang, S.N.D.deN. on February 12 near Anapú in the State of Pará.
The 73-year old Ohio-born Sister Dorothy, a naturalized Brazilian citizen, had worked tirelessly for more than two decades on behalf of the poor farmers of the region, reportedly threatened by powerful ranchers and loggers seeking to claim vast tracts of rain forest. She had worked with the Church’s Land Pastoral Commission (CPT) since its beginning.
In a recent television interview, Sister Dorothy was quoted as saying that “any person who tries to stay in areas invaded by land speculators is threatened with death. They are highly armed and no one is disarming them.” She herself had been the object of death threats since 1999.
The Bishops of the Northern Region II (Pará and Amapá) said that the assassination of Sister Dorothy brought back memories of a past that was thought to be finished, reminiscent of the murder of Francisco “Chico” Mendes, the famed leader of the Brazilian rubber tappers union on December 2, 1988.
We are encouraged by press reports that President Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva has called an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the killing and that Environment Minister Marina Silva has insisted that governmental officials will push hard for justice in the case. People in many parts of the world will be waiting eagerly for news of such developments.
I would be grateful if you would communicate our concerns to your government. Thanking you, I remain
Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
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