DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     September 14, 1999     vol. 10, no. 174

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Bishop of Baucau Says "It Will Take Years to Return to Normal" as President Habibie agrees "Too Many People Have Died"

        ROME, SEP 12 (ZENIT).- Five U.N. ambassadors visited East Timor and witnessed the atrocities committed in this small Asian country by pro-Indonesia militias. They met with Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau who was wounded by a machete. "It will take years before we return to normal," the Bishop said.

        The "Sidney Morning Herald" reported the account of Isa Bradridge. She saw "thousands of bodies" piled in a large space at the headquarters of the Dili police. The estimates of victims made by humanitarian organizations vary between 60,000 and 70,000 persons.

        A river of people are fleeing the country. Two to three thousand persons cross the border to West Timor every hour. According to the Red Cross, some 65,000 have left the country. Many observers agree that no matter what measures are taken, it is too late. Indonesia has achieved its objective of striking the core of East Timor's society -- the Catholic Church. The Bishop of Bacau was very blunt: it will take years to reconstruct the country.

        Last June, before he was killed in Suai, Fr. Barreto, director of Caritas, said: "It is Christ's doctrine to love others as we love ourselves, and also to forgive our enemy." Fr. Barreto spoke during a television interview on "Sat 2000," the Italian Bishops' T.V. channel, and he emphasized that the Catholic community would respond to the challenge of the Unionist militiamen with the testimony of the Gospel.

        Fr. Barreto came to Rome to attend a meeting of Caritas International. At that time he said that for "East Timor reconciliation is the confrontation of two sides: two groups within one people. One group that desires autonomy and the other -- the majority of the population, which desires independence."

        Already at that time, Fr. Barreto had no hesitation in denouncing the plan of violence initiated by Jakarta. "In the presence of the U.N., the Indonesian military do everything possible to intimidate the people of Timor, so that the final solution is favorable to Indonesia. They use threats, killings and give arms to the people. But the two Bishops multiply their efforts to reconcile the people, enabling them to forgive one another, and to begin a new life." ZE99091205

        Meanwhile, in Jakarta Indonesian president Yusuf Habibie announced yesterday that the Jakarta government accepts the immediate deployment of an international force in East Timor, under the command of the United Nations, "for the purpose of reestablishing peace in the territory, protecting the population, and guaranteeing the referendum's results" that opened the way to independence. Habibie defended the role of the Indonesian Army in spite of the "difficulties of a complex situation," and he specified that Ali Alatas, the Foreign Minister, would arrive in New York today to attend to "details of the operation" at the U.N.

        Surrounded by the majority of his cabinet, Habibie explained that, "Too many people have died, and lost their homes and security. We cannot delay any longer and must put an end to this suffering immediately."

        Shortly after the presidential message, Xanana Gusmao, leader of Timor's resistance, who sought refuge in the British Embassy in Jakarta, expressed "surprise" over this much desired decision, which he welcomed with "satisfaction, but much caution." He took advantage of the occasion to launch a general warning: "There is no time to lose, it is imperative that the international community begin immediately a program of humanitarian aid to save the population, which is in a desperate state." On the verge of tears, Xanana addressed his people and expressed his admiration for their "resistance, determination and infinite courage." He asked them to keep up their "unlimited faith in the future of our newborn nation."

        International observers estimate that, since the overwhelming victory of those favoring independence (78.5%) in the referendum on self-determination held on August 30, more than 200,000 persons have been deported to camps in the western part of Timor, and more than 100,000 have fled to the mountains. In addition, hundreds of people are on the verge of "dehydration." ZE99091303

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

September 14, 1999       volume 10, no. 174


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