Watch: Award brings to mind one of Dayton’s remarkable women, human rights advocate Sister Dorothy Stang

The University of Dayton will award the Brazilian organization that Dayton native Sister Dorothy Stang worked for before her 2005 murder with an international human rights award.

Stang, who was 73 when she died, was a Dayton native who worked for three decades to preserve the rain forest and defend poor settlers’ land rights. Her legacy as an advocate for human rights continues today. 

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A portrait of Sister Dorothy Stang, the Dayton-born nun who was murdered in the Amazon Feb. 12, 2005, hangs on the wall at a new day care center under construction in Xinguara, Brazil. The center was dedicated Thursday May, 10, 2007 and Stang's brother, David Stang of Palmer Lake, Co. attended the ceremony. Staff photo by Lisa Powell
Photo: Lisa Powell/Lisa Powell

The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops’ Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) - Pastoral Land Commission - will receive the Blessed Óscar Romero Human Rights Award during a ceremony later this month. 

The award, created in 2000, honors an individual or organization that has earned distinction for promoting the dignity of all human beings and alleviating human suffering, according to a University of Dayton news release.

Romero, who the award is named after, was a Salvadoran archbishop slain while officiating at a 1980 Mass because of his vocal defense of the human rights of the poor and disenfranchised. Pope Francis put Romero on the path to sainthood in 2015 by designating Romero a martyr and beatifying him. 

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Residents of the town of Xinguara in northern Brazil gather outside after a dedication of a new day care center that is under construction in the town and named after Sister Dorothy Stang, a Dayton-born nun who was murdered Feb. 12, 2005 in Brazil. Staff photo by Lisa Powell
Photo: Lisa Powell/Lisa Powell

"We are bestowing the Blessed Romero Award on the CPT for its courageous defense of the poor, victims of slave labor and the environment,” said Mark Ensalaco, director of research in the University of Dayton Human Rights Center and creator of the award. "Like Romero, the CPT does its work with tremendous personal risk. In 2015, 15 human rights and environmental activists were murdered in Brazil. But the CPT has not allowed fear to hinder its advocacy work. All of us in human rights take inspiration from CPT's example." 

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Friends and supporters of Sister Dorothy Stang welcomed each other, danced and sang folk songs as they gathered in a park across from the federal courthouse in Belem, Brazil Monday for the start of the trial of the rancher accused of hiring gunmen to kill Sister Dorothy Stang, Vitalmiro Moura. A tent city cropped up Monday and the people will stay through the trial to show their support for Sister Dorothy Stang. Many have made an 18-hour bus ride from Anapu, the town Stang lived in. Staff photo by Lisa Powell
Photo: Lisa Powell/Lisa Powell

The ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, in the Kennedy Union Ballroom at the University of Dayton. 

The honorees will also participate in a free public symposium from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Kennedy Union ballroom on CPT's work, the political situations in Mexico and Central and South America, U.S.-Mexico border policy, immigration and goods made with slave labor that end up in American homes.

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