Religious in Amazon Face Threats

Bishop Erwin Krautler of Xingu, Brazil, remembers the first time he received a death threat. “It was the exact day I completed 25 years as a bishop,” he recalled. Later that year, a local paper even announced the day his assassination would be expected. Bishop Krautler says there are several groups unhappy with him and with his colleagues, who are fighting to save the Amazon region from environmental destruction. The bishop has recently spoken out against the construction of a hydroelectric plant along the Xingu River. He has also strongly opposed land-clearing by farmers and loggers in the Amazon forest and is one of the main figures trying to bring to justice those who killed Dorothy Stang, of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, in 2005.

“These people have formed a ‘consortium’ to murder those who speak out against what they are doing,” Bishop Krautler told Catholic News Service. “I believe that it was a consortium of landowners who got together to hire someone to murder Sister Dorothy.” Sister Dorothy Stang, a native of Ohio and a naturalized Brazilian, was 73 when she was murdered near the town of Anapu. She was known as a fierce defender of the Amazon forest.

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The government was surprised by the international repercussions of Sister Dorothy’s assassination and, according to Brother Henri des Roziers, O.P., does not want to worsen its image abroad. Now the authorities provide limited police protection for Bishop Krautler and others.

Both Bishop Krautler and Brother des Roziers say the thought of leaving the region has never entered their minds. “If it were that easy, they would have eliminated me long ago,” said Bishop Krautler. “What they are doing is psycho-terrorism...trying to get me into a depressed mood so I’ll leave.” But, Bishop Krautler added, the only way he will leave is if the pope reassigns him.

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