By Sisters Jane Dwyer and Kathryne Webster, SNDdeN
We, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN), follow and walk with the people in Anapu, Brazil. From 1982 until 2005, Sr. Dorothy Stang was herself the Pastoral Land Commission in Anapu. Since her brutal murder, we have been coordinating this work. We accompany farming families as they search for land, respect nature, improve their production and life and their own organization. The right and responsibility to initiate belong to the people with whom we journey. Since 2005, we have created the Committee in Defense of Anapu (CDA). For the last fifteen years, we have met with this Committee for the entire day on one Saturday each month, to address issues pertaining to the farming families, their needs, problems and threats. The people share their difficulties, reflect together on the causes, make collective and group decisions to change attitudes. Opening each meeting, our SNDdeN role is to provide an initial reflection; we call it a mística. This ecumenical experience helps the people to deepen their values and motivation for sustaining them on this journey.
The people share their difficulties, reflect together on the causes, make collective and group decisions to change attitudes. Opening each meeting, our SNDdeN role is to provide an initial reflection; we call it a mística. This ecumenical experience helps the people to deepen their values and motivation for sustaining them on this journey.
Workshops in 2020
During 2020, we intend to offer practical workshops, requested by the families, on various ways of planting and cloning cacau in the forest, preparing and planting crops without burning, land homeopathy, the extraction of oils and essences from the forest, economic organization of the rural family, and other activities depending on the year’s journey. We offer Biblical studies, continually providing spiritual resources for motivation on the journey. We aim to decentralize these workshops by offering them in various sectors of the municipality. There are more than 100 communities and conflict areas in Anapu.
Land Conflict and Organization of People
The land in Anapu is all public and destined for Agrarian Reform. We do not encourage people to occupy new lands but to take back lands that have been usurped, bought and sold illegally. The people work together within the judicial system with the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA). After Sister Dorothy’s assassination, the creation of the defense committee, the CDA, helped families with land conflicts, to settle and win in court. The people occupy the usurped lands or organize groups with clear objectives. This organizing does create a lot of tension, violence and imprisonment in Anapu. The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) defends families against slaughter, murder and violence. At first, the people needed help with everything, from typing letters, reports, petitions to discovering where to get required help. Today they take the responsibility for organizing themselves, finding the information for their defense, approaching INCRA, and all for public defense.
SNDdeN Presence and Ministry
We continue formation and follow-up through workshops, visits, and seeking financial assistance and defense in the face of threats to life, murders and the constant presence of gun and militias. Since 2015, 19 people in Anapu have been brutally murdered, with three killed in 2019, over land conflicts. Several individuals and many families have fled from Anapu, to escape being murdered. People face the threat of gunmen who have murdered companions and family members and intend to kill others. Farm families and their organization have not yet been able to achieve their goal. Our journey with them in Anapu and the wider Brazilian community becomes clearer to us with time. Our Notre Dame de Namur presence in Anapu is more to inform, influence and open channels against isolation from the outside world.
Closed channels in national and international communication permit and invite a general massacre of the “retaken lands and their families.” Our Gospel journey is not about death; it is about life and life in abundance. In the current national political reality, this hope is threatened daily. We pray to Sr. Dorothy that our dream for the families in Anapu, will one day be a reality.
15th Forest Pilgrimage
Each year in July, motivated by the person and martyr, Sister Dorothy Stang, we organize the Forest Pilgrimage. On the journey, we reflect on the preservation of the forest, reforestation, protection of the waters and the creatures of the forest. We are constantly reminded that the land does not belong to us; it is we who belong to the land. As the pilgrimage leaves Sister Dorothy’s grave, we walk three days to the Esperança Sustainable Development Project (PDS Esperança) where Dorothy was murdered. Esperança means hope. The pilgrimage marks, moves and creates the desire to continue on the journey. The people share the expenses which we keep within the reach of the families themselves, since we do not have a secure, formal and continuous project to sustain the work financially. We realize that the people will be responsible to continue this pilgrimage when Notre Dame de Namur and the Land Pastoral (CPT) disappear.
These 15 years without Dorothy are years of hope, courage, continued conflict and martyrdom. Nineteen other martyrs have been assassinated in this struggle to return the land to those who belong to the land. People live, work and celebrate life, provide food for 80% of all families in Brazil, principally the poor. Families open their doors, share their tables, and give their lives for other. The little they have in this world is shared: their dreams, their hopes, their homes, their food, their children, their lives…