As I read of the murder of Sister Dorothy Stang in Brazil, I felt a sickening revulsion. My stomach knotted. Her death is a reminder that Christian faith is a threat and therefore dangerous to principalities and powers in this world.
She was an advocate for poor farmers seeking
to work land declared unproductive and made available to them in the Amazon in
northern Brazil. With Sem Terra (Without Land), an organization of peasant
farmers, she had become a threat to those who would harvest the forestland for
its timber. She had lived under death threats and continued to work with the
peasants, and even became a Brazilian citizen
At the core of Christian
faith is the teaching that God is with us, especially with those of us who are
poor, vulnerable, sick, imprisoned–those who are valued least, except by God.
God chooses, especially, to be present with
We who believe are called to
be present as well, to stand with those who are rejected and forgotten. It is
an expression of faithfulness and it is a risk. Sister Dorothy Stang took the
risk and paid the price. As I read the story of her murder I was humbled at her
faithfulness in the face of clear
In August, she told her
community her concern was for the people with whom she worked and that she and
her sisters want to be a sign of hope. Reading her conviction, I thought of the
young pastor in Indonesia who also spoke of repairing a flooded-out church and
saying he did so as a sign of hope to the community.
It led me to the eleventh chapter
of Hebrews to consider faith in the face of such evil. Even in death, her life
remains a sign of hope.