Deforestation in Pará and the death of Sister Dorothy Stang, Brazil

Anapu was the place that Dorothy Stang called home for over 30 years, where she is buried, and where she tried to protect the forest and its people from illegal exploitation by loggers and ranchers.


This case is one example in Parà of how resistance to deforestation and land grabbing is repressed on the ground, to the extent of killing a nun of USA origin, Dorothy Stang, who had become Brazilian. As explained by one another nun, "Dorothy moved into the Amazon area when the government had been giving land to peasant farmers in order to populate the Amazon area somewhat (after openning the TransAmazon road).

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Basic Data
NameDeforestation in Pará and the death of Sister Dorothy Stang, Brazil
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsHere the issue was resistance to deforestation and land grabbing, exercised by means such as appeals to the land reform authorities and support for sustainably productive projects (like the settlement at Boa Esperança). Dorothy Stang was gunned walking to the Boa Esperanca settlement where she worked to organize some 400 poor families, in a so-called agricultural sustainable development project. She was inspired by Liberation Theology, fighting peacefully but intensely for poor people and for the environment.

She opposed the deforestation "project" which was a byproduct of the TransAmazonian road, and that was carried out by local land grabbers (grileiros) and loggers. Not by very big firms.
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date1982
Relevant government actorsINCRA (land reform institute)

Courts of Justice

Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCPT, Pastoral Land Commission (Commissao Pastoral da Terra)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Romaria da Floresta (Pilgrimage of the Forest), after her death
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
"Pilgrimage of the Forest"
Development of AlternativesSister Dorothy Stang and the people's embodied hope: Romaria da Floresta, by Kristin Matthes, 11 Febr. 2016. [3] "Eleven years ago on February 12, 2005, Sr. Dorothy Stang, my sister in the congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was murdered. She was gunned down by assassins hired by local ranchers. Dorothy's tireless work for the rights of the dispossessed and the protection of the Amazon rainforest stood in the way of the profits of logging and cattle ranching. Since her murder, people gather each year in late July to remember Dorothy and to recommit to the work of justice and land reform by walking the Romaria da Floresta (Pilgrimage of the Forest), a 34-mile journey from Anapu, Pará, Brasil, where Dorothy is buried to the middle of a dirt road in the Boa Esperança Sustainable Development Project where she was murdered. Last July I had the opportunity to go to Brazil and walk the same roads Sister Dorothy walked in her last days, to walk with the people for whom she lived and died. Over 200 people took part in this 10th pilgrimage: families and friends who knew Dorothy, youth groups, university students and professors, priests and sisters from many dioceses and religious congregations, journalists, environmentalists, young and old. As each day began, we gathered to sing and pray, to listen to Scripture, and to ponder questions that connected the ongoing struggle for justice to our lives of faith. We walked together, up and down the hills that led us through mile after mile of land that only two decades ago was lush rain forest. I saw the remnants of trees in hastily cleared acres, burned down to make way for cattle ...".
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The killing of Dorothy Stang is part of a pattern of extreme violence in Pará against those who resist deforestation, land grabbing and logging. In this case, the "mandante", nicknamed Bida, was finally sentenced to jail. But the pattern continues.
Sources and Materials

The life and brutal death of Sister Dorothy, by Andrew Buncombe. (The Independent)
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Nun's murder mobilizes Amazon activists. Associated Press. 15 Febr. 2005.
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[3]Sr. Dorothy Stang and the people's embodied hope: Romaria da Floresta, by Kristin Matthes
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[1] Sister Dorothy Stang (obituary in The Guardian)
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[2] Little Change 10 Years After Sister Dorothy Stang Died Fighting For Brazil’s Landless, 15 Febr. 2015
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[4] Amy Goodman interviews Sister Joan Krimm, 22 February 2005.
[click to view]

Media Links

Daniel Junge, "Mataram irmã Dorothy". Em fevereiro de 2005, a irmã Dorothy Stang, de 73 anos, foi brutalmente assassinada. Ativista na defesa do meio ambiente e das comunidades carentes exploradas por madeireiros e donos de terra na Amazônia, a freira americana foi executada com seis tiros no interior do Pará.
[click to view]

Remembering Sister Dorothy Stang. A new documentary brings Laudato Si' alive by recounting the life and execution of Sister Stang

Feb 23, 2016. We hear from people in Anapu who knew her and also from Bishop Emeritus Erwin Kräutler, who tells of how a young Sister Stang came to him and asked to work with the poorest of the poor.
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They killed sister Dorothy
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Short video on Anapu, 2015
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Other Documents

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Meta Information
Last update09/10/2017