Koinonia Farm’s vision statement is “love through service to others, joy through generous hospitality, peace through reconciliation.” All of our guest rooms are named after people who have come before us and embodied these ideas. These peacemakers are from all over the world and from all different periods of history. This “great cloud of witnesses” and their stories encourage us to keep pursuing love, joy, and peace in our life and work.

Dorothy Stang

Dorothy Stang was born on July 7, 1931 in Dayton, Ohio. One of nine children, she was raised in a traditional Catholic home. At the age of 18, she entered the sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. From 1951-1956, she taught in various elementary schools. In 1956, she took her final vows as a sister. Ten years later, she began her work as a missionary to Brazil. When the sisters arrived in Brazil in 1966, they began their ministry by learning the language. They soon set up an adult catechism class for adults. As they worked with the people in Brazil, they learned of the social issues in the area and worked to address those as well.

In 1964, a military dictatorship was set up in Brazil and the government remained under its control until 1985. The sisters added teaching about basic human rights to their adult classes.
In the early 1970s, farmers began moving to the Transamazonian region because the government promised them new land and a new life. Stang moved with the people to the state of Para. When they arrived in their new home, they realized their new life was full of danger from land sharks trying to take their land. Stang and the people she lived with moved deeper into the forest to find safety. By 1980, the Brazilian government made it clear they wanted to develop the land the farmers were trying to live on.

I don’t want to flee, nor do I want to abandon the battle of these farmers who live without any protection in the forest. They have the sacrosanct right to aspire to a better life on land where they can live and work with dignity while respecting the environment.

By 1982, Stang was living in Anapu, Para. She worked with farmers to practice sustainable farming techniques and to live in community with one another. She worked with the Pastoral Land Commission, which was part of Bishop’s Conference of Brazil. She helped the people with small business practices, created many jobs for women to support their families, and taught literacy. She also knew basic medical practices and was able to help the people in a time when doctors and medical professionals were scarce.

The conflict between the government and the people over the undeveloped land continued and escalated into the 2000s. Stang continued to resist the government’s attempts to take the farmers’ land. In 2005, she was granted naturalized Brazilian citizenship. She also was named “Woman of the Year” by the state of Para and was awarded the humanitarian award from the Brazilian Bar Association. On February 12, 2005, Dorothy Stang was murdered as she traveled from her home to a nearby village. The men who killed her were eventually arrested and imprisoned. She is buried in her home village of Anapu, Para. 3 years after her death, the United Nations awarded her the 2008 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights. Her life and death called attention to the dangerous land conflicts in Brazil and to the plight of the farmers trying to live in peace.

It’s a chain reaction. We can give positive input-energy into life but we need to be charged also. In the midst of all this violence there are many small communities that have learned the secret of life: sharing, solidarity, confidence, equality, pardon, working
together. God is present — generator and sustainer of all life. Thus life is productive and transforming in the midst of all this.

Dorothy Stang outdoors speaking