TORONTO – When Sister Henriqueta Cavalcante answers her cell phone, she does not know if she’ll get another death threat for trying to expose an underground culture of sexual violence against children in the Brazilian state of Para.
Sister Cavalcante, coordinator of the Brazilian Commission of Justice and Peace in northern Brazil, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview March 31 that although the death threats make her fearful she will continue her campaign to protect children.
A member of the Sisters of Charity of Sts. Bartholomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa, Sister Cavalcante has fought to have perpetrators indicted and punished. Among the most prominent is Luis Seffer, a member of the state of Para’s House of Representatives who is accused of abusing a 13-year-old girl for three years while the girl was working at his home.
Sister Cavalcante said the death threat she received on her cell phone in late March was linked to the Seffer case.
“It was from the family of Luis Seffer, accused of pedophilia. Even though he denies it, the call came from his house,” said the nun, who has had to change her daily routine for security reasons.
Sister Cavalcante is not the only one who has been threatened for her work. Bishop Jose Azcona Hermoso of Marajo also has been threatened for denouncing violence and the sexual exploitation of children in the state. The bishop is responsible for forcing a parliamentary commission to investigate the scope of the problem in Para, especially on Marajo Island.
Although there are no official numbers in the country on how many children have been violated, Sister Cavalcante said that from January to March 31, there were approximately 200 cases of pedophilia reported to Pro-Paz in Para. In some of the cases, the victims are as young as 1 year old.
Pro-Paz, which means For Peace, is a government program to provide care for victims of sexual violence and their families.
“We want the end of the impunity for the perpetrators. We want justice to strengthen our hope,” said Sister Cavalcante.
“The victims will never be same,” she added. “They will carry the marks of the suffering, of the violation, of the disrespect for their human dignity and of the life that was given by God.”