Christians and Rainforest Exploitation

The kinds of exploitation we see in the rainforest with regards to Sr. Dorothy Stang’s work can be described in terms of logging, ranching/irresponsible farm management, harassment, etc. If I were to try to identify the motivating factor behind their behavior regarding exploitation I see it as fear-based and hoarder-like which is not at all reflective of being in a relationship with God. Greed might be an easy word to jump to when we are used to having our needs met and not living in fear but that is not descriptive of the life of many in the rainforest. I think the behavior we see is mostly stemmed from fear of not having enough themselves and a fundamental lack of understanding in renewable and sustainable environments.

I feel the solution to this issue is more a matter of inspiring compassion and caring through the example of Jesus Christ and educating people about “financial planning” and land management. I believe Sr. Dorothy Stang covered quite a bit of this during the time she lived in Brazil, trying to get a proper balance between rainforest preservation and a sustainable living from the environment. After serving this community for decades she was stopped and threated by two men who ended up murdering her.  I believe she didn’t resist, and instead blessed them in what she thought might be her last moments, because she didn’t want to hurt any human. If she worked so hard to save millions of lives, why would she harm any? She took seriously the beatitude from Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Those murderers were wrong and callous. The outrage people felt at her loss and the response to it was understandable but we cannot let that overtake us or harden our hearts to those hurting people or the environment. We must remember why Sister Dorothy was there.  Sister Dorothy, who obviously felt a calling from Christ, must have looked at these ranchers and realized that Christ had also died for them. They have an opportunity at being redeemed through Him and we must try to help them towards that relationship.

Therefore, in her last moments, I think even then she was blessing people that she thought were still missing a relationship with Jesus, which would most likely free them from their fear and set them on the path which would result in respecting the lives of others and preserving their homes and the environment.

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