DAILY CATHOLIC FRI-SAT-SUN September 10-12, 1999 vol. 10, no. 172
NEWS & VIEWS
PRIESTS, NUNS KILLED IN EAST TIMOR PROTECTING REFUGEES
Just the tip of the iceberg as to clergy killing as information filters in
DARWIN, Australia (CWNews.com) - Priests and religious in East Timor have been killed by Indonesian-backed militias as they sheltered refugees in their churches, according to missionary news agencies reporting from the troubled territory.
The Misna news agency reported on Wednesday that about 100 people, including three priests, were killed at a church in Suai. Caritas Australia reported on Thursday that the director of the aid agency in East Timor, Father Francisco Barreto, had been killed by militias in Dare. Other Catholic sources said six nuns of the Canossian order in Baucau were believed to be dead and four more from Dili were also missing.
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. On August 30, 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 on Saturday, anti-independence militias, armed and backed by Indonesia's military, went on a rampage killing hundreds and forcing thousands to flee the former Portugese colony.
About 100 people and three priests were killed when militias attacked 2,500 refugees trapped in a church compound in Suai, according to reports from Misna and the United Nations. Local parish priests Father Tarcisius Dewanto, Father Hilario Madeira, and Father Francisco Soares, Caritas Australia spokesman Ann Wigglesworth said. "They were massacred inside the church ... these militia .. are just going round killing and looting and showing no respect to any human being or the Church or anything," said Wigglesworth, who knew at least one of the priests.
Father Barreto was killed in a separate incident in Dare, Caritas was told. "Father Barreto was a gentle and peace-loving man," Caritas Australia chairman Bishop Hilton Deakin said in a statement. "These murderous attacks on the Church are part of a much wider unjust genocide. When Catholic Church members, who have offered relief and refuge to East Timorese, are struck down, we realize there is no respect for any life in East Timor," Bishop Deakin said.
Meanwhile, the UN said it will evacuate its 160 locally
employed East Timorese staff to Australia, while keeping
its compound in East Timor open as a refuge for East
Timorese fleeing violence. "The important thing is to
maintain a symbolic presence. We're still there, we haven't
abandoned, we've not pulled out," UN spokesman David
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NEWS & VIEWS