Dorothy Mae Stang
(July 7, 1931–February 12, 2005) was an
American-born, Brazilian sister of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur order,
who was murdered in Anapu, a city in the state of Pará, in the Amazon Basin
of Brazil. Stang was outspoken in her efforts on behalf of the poor and the
environment, and had previously received death threats from loggers and land
Life work and her murder
Sister Dorothy, born in Dayton, Ohio, USA, but a naturalized Brazilian
citizen, worked as an advocate for the rural poor beginning in the early
1970s, helping peasants make a living by farming small plots and extracting
forest products without deforestation. She also sought to protect them from
criminal gangs who were after their land. Dot, as she was called by her
family, friends and most locals in Brazil, is often pictured wearing a
t-shirt with the slogan, "'A Morte da floresta é o fim da nossa vida,"
which is Portuguese for "The death of the forest is the end of our life."
They Killed Sister Dorothy
On the morning of February 12, 2005, Dorothy and Ciero woke up early to
walk to a community meeting to speak about the rights for the Amazon. Ciero,
the farmer Stang invited to the meeting, was going to be late because of
some interruptions. As Ciero was a couple minutes away from Dorothy, he was
able to see her but hid within the bushes from the two armed men. She
progressed on and was blocked by the two men, Clodoaldo and Raifran. They
asked if she had any weapons, and she claimed that the only weapon would be
her bible. She then read a passage from the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the
poor in spirit..." She continued a couple of steps but was suddenly stopped
when Ciero called her, "Sister," as she was held at gun point by Raifran. As
Clodoaldo approved of discharging at Dorothy, Raifran fired a round at
Dorothy's abdomen. She fell face down on the ground. Raifran fired another
round into Dorothy's back, then fired all four rounds into her head.
||I don't want to flee,
nor do I want to abandon the battle of these farmers who live
without any protection in the forest. They have the sacrosanct right
to aspire to a better life on land where they can live and work with
dignity while respecting the environment.
In June 2005, two men were charged with conspiracy to murder an American
outside the United States in connection with her death. These men, Rayfran
das Neves Sales and Clodoaldo Carlos Batista, were convicted on December 10,
On 15 May 2007, a court in the city of Belém sentenced Vitalmiro Bastos
Moura, age 36, to the maximum term of 30 years in prison for paying gunmen
to shoot Sister Dorothy. Stang's brother David, who was at the trial, said
"justice was done." Rayfran das Neves Sales was retried on 22 October 2007.
He was again found guilty, and a judge in Belém sentenced him to 27 years in
prison–the same punishment as in the first trial in 2005. Prosecutors said
Moura had ordered Stang's death because she had sent letters to the local
authorities accusing Moura of setting illegal fires to clear land, which led
to his receiving a substantial fine.
At a third trial, on 6 May 2008, Rayfran das Neves Sales was sentenced to
28 years in prison, and Vitalmiro Bastos Moura was declared innocent. Moura
was set free because the gunman, Rayfran das Neves Sales, declared in court
to have killed Dorothy Stang for personal motivation.
Regivaldo Pereira Galvao, a rancher suspected of ordering the killing,
was arrested in December 2008 and was to be charged with the murder. He had
been arrested previously for the murder but released.
In 2008, the American filmmaker Daniel Junge released a documentary
titled They Killed Sister Dorothy. The film is narrated by Martin
Sheen in the version in English and by Wagner Moura in the version in
Portuguese. It was prized twice in the 2008 South by Southwest Festival.