January 14, 2001
volume 12, no. 14
Bishops Urge Reconciliation in East and West Timor

Ask Jakarta to Guarantee Security and Help Refugees

    DILI, East Timor, JAN. 12, 2001 ( 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 elections.

    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. ZE01011205

For other news stories, see

January 14, 2001
volume 12, no. 14
Global News from the Universal Church

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