Dorothy Stang, S.N.D: A Modern Martyr

Ian FallonDorothy Stang was a Sister of Notre Dame. She was born in the United States, but worked and served poor communities in Brazil from the late 1960’s to February 12th, 2005, when she was murdered. She worked to organize Brazilian peasant farmers through the Pastoral Land Commission, a group that “fights for the rights of rural workers and peasants, and defends land reforms in Brazil.” Her ministry was integrated between advocacy for the protection of the Amazon Rainforest and for the dignity of the peasants she was called to serve.

I think it is important to remember modern day martyrs. They, along with modern day prophets (one does not necessarily need to die to be a dedicated Christian, otherwise there wouldn’t be any of us left) serve as reminders that these identifiers – prophet and martyr – are not meant to be parts of history that stay in our history textbooks and classrooms. A reality that we do not always see in a university bubble is that people die for justice today. The examples set by Simon Peter, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or the Jesuits during the colonial conquest of the Americas are not given to us by the church so that we can put them on high, exalt them for being holy, and then go back to our daily lives. They are examples that are meant to be reflected upon within our own world. Indeed, if we let Peter stay in first century Israel, the Jesuits in the early colonial Americas, and Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany, they will have no effect on how we view our relationship to our world.

An appreciation of modern martyrs helps us to realize that there are pockets within our modernized country, and throughout the world, in which people are still dying for speaking truth to power. The world has not yet moved past poverty, starvation, and injustice; we just do not see them because we have organized systems that keep the poorest, most starving and broken people from our lives. People like Dorothy Stang inspire me, and should inspire all of us, to move outside of our comfort to find our call to act like Christ. When we go to the margins of our world, we find the reasons why people like her give their lives in the attempt to fight for justice.

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Ian Fallon
Class of 2015
College of Arts and Sciences
CCSJ Student Coordinator

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