DILI, East Timor, JAN. 12, 2001 (ZENIT.org-FIDES).- Catholic bishops in East
Timor and West Timor have called for the immediate repatriation of refugees
to the independent East in the troubled Indonesian archipelago.
The bishops, who met here Jan. 5 with Archbishop Renzo Frattini, apostolic
nuncio in Indonesia, also called on the Jakarta government to guarantee
security in West Timor and to help with repatriation efforts.
Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, apostolic administrator in Dili, stressed the
importance of the event. This "was the first time we came together to
discuss the humanitarian problem, the return of the refugees," he said. "For
our part, we want to say that today East Timor is in peace; we are ready to
welcome the people home."
The new nation is administered by the U.N. Transitional Authority for East
Timor, which is expected this month to announce a date for the first general
Bishop Belo noted that the local Church had suffered amid sectarian violence
but added: "Today she is thriving thanks also to our youth. Moreover, our
martyrs filled the people with courage and hope."
The statement is signed by Archbishop Peter Turang of Kupang; Bishop Anton
Pain of Atambua, West Timor; Bishop Belo; and Vicar General Mario do Carmo
Lemos Belo of Baucau, East Timor.
The bishops in their statement said, "The great majority of refugees wish to
be repatriated to their homeland in East Timor." They voiced support for the
"formation of a Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, and an inquiry by
the judicial institutions based on the value of forgiveness for those who
admit their responsibility in the tragic events of the past."
The bishops ask the Indonesian government to provide security in the refugee
camps, and their statement ends with an appeal to international
organizations to resume work in West Timor to assist refugees. Many such
groups had left the island following threats by paramilitary groups.
Timor is divided in two parts. The West belongs to Indonesia, and the East
has been independent since Aug. 30, 1999, when 78.5% of the population voted
to separate from Jakarta. Pro-Jakarta groups lashed out at civilians.
Thousands have died, and at least 300,000 refugees fled into West Timor.
About 170,000 refugees were repatriated thanks to the U.N. High Commission
for Refugees. About 125,000 remain in West Timor camps at Atambua, Betun and
Kupang, where pro-Indonesia militia continue to terrorize the refugees,
preventing their return home.
For other news stories, see