NEWS for Thursday, September 7, 2000
EAST TIMORESE REMEMBER MASSACRE AT CHURCH
DILI, East Timor, Sep. 6, 00 (CWNews.com)
10,000 East Timorese gathered in a town on the newly
independent country's border with Indonesia on Wednesday to
commemorate the massacre one year ago of more than 100
people in a parish church.
Bishop Carlos Belo of Dili celebrated Mass in the shattered
Church of Our Lady of Fatima in the town of Suai in memory
of the dead. "We wanted to establish a new East Timor, and
for this we had to pay with suffering and bloodshed," he
told the openly weeping congregation. "Once a seed is
thrown onto the earth, from this seed will grow a new
creation so there will be new life and new hope," he said.
"So let us look to a better future, for after last year's
massacre we enter into a new life and a new East Timor."
Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world,
invaded mainly Catholic East Timor in 1975 and annexed it
the following year in a move not recognized by the United
Nations. In August 1999, the region held a Jakarta-proposed
referendum to allow Timorese to choose either autonomy
within Indonesia or full independence. After the
pro-independence results were revealed, pro-Indonesia
militias, armed and backed by Indonesia's military, went on
a rampage, killing hundreds and forcing hundreds of
thousands to flee the former Portuguese colony.
The exact number of those killed at the church, which
before the referendum sheltered up to 2,800 refugees from
militia violence and intimidation, has yet to be
determined. Estimates vary widely and only about 50 bodies
have been found. "The rest were thrown into the sea, into
rivers, into lakes so I think it is very hard to locate and
retrieve them," said Father Rene Manubag, the top church
official in Suai, who added that he has confirmed there
were 146 victims in the massacre.
Last September 6, Indonesian police allowed militiamen to
enter the church complex with automatic weapons, machetes,
and grenades. Later, eyewitnesses recounted stories of
soldiers and militiamen removing bodies, which was later
confirmed by exhumation of 26 corpses.
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