Q: Bishop Belo, what is most needed in this situation?
BISHOP BELO: The first thing is to send in an international peacekeeping force. On this we must insist. Within days a UN force must take over the island to restore calm. The second step is a humanitarian mission to provide assistance to the people who are displaced in Timor and in other Indonesian islands.
Q: Do you think there can be collaboration between the UN forces and those of Indonesia?
BELO: I have lost all confidence in the Indonesian army. It appears to be there only to oppress the people. It would be better if they were excluded, and the peace mission run by the UN multinational contingent. The Indonesian military has lost all credibility; it has demonstrated that it is unable or unwilling to keep peace and order.
Q: And yet you were rescued by Indonesian troops..
BELO: "Rescued" or to be more explicit "taken." And then the contradiction is evident: They save a bishop and murder his flock?
Q: Why is Indonesia afraid of little East Timor? What does East Timor mean for Jakarta?
BELO: There are various reasons and the situation is complex. Besides economic and political goals, behind the campaign of violence there are strong feelings of revenge against resistance leaders and against the Church. The point is that the difference in values in question is too great: between those who speak the truth and those who spread lies. The army and the government want the people to be like obedient sheep, without will or reasoning. But the people have their dignity; they want to be Timorese. The referendum was a slap in the face for Jakarta and the violence is the reaction.
A: Do you see this maneuver as a plan to strengthen some internal leadership?
BELO: It is possible. There are some people without scruples, who would not hesitate to sacrifice thousands of lives to maintain their own power.
A: The Church has been targeted because she is identified with the pro- independence movement. Perhaps it would have been better to be less involved?
BELO: The Church became involved to defend principles and human rights. Self determination is also a value. And even if we were "too much" involved, this is no reason for murdering clergy and religious and destroying church structures. Where is the civilization, where are the human rights? A government must be expected to have a minimum of respect for these values.
A: Would you describe this as inter-religious conflict?
BELO: No, I would not say so. I have no evidence to that effect. But there is evident violation of human rights. A country which upholds the Pancasila [the Indonesian national ideology of harmony among the different religions of a nation], which professes belief in God, acts with methods which are ferocious and repressive. How is this possible?
A: What do you expect from the universal Church?
BELO: The Church and the Pope have lifted their voice to stop the massacres. Now we must involve all the bishops' conferences, justice and peace commissions, Caritas offices, and other humanitarian organisations, in a campaign of solidarity to bring assistance to the victimized people of East Timor.
Q: When do you return to Dili?
BELO: I am ready to go, even tomorrow--as soon as the multinational troops land on the island. I cannot wait to be back among my people.
The skeleton UN staff, now staying at the Australian consulate, said they could see black smoke rising from the direction of their headquarters, but the reigning violence in Dili prevented them from verifying that. The report came just hours after 110 UN workers and 1,300 refugees had left Australia.
The UN also said that more than 200,000 East Timorese at risk for starvation because they don't have access to food or drinking water. They added that up to 100,000 people had been forced out of East Timor to the neighboring country of West Timor.
In Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, nearly 1,000 protesters marched on government buildings to demand the resignation of President B.J. Habibie and to protest the military's influence in the government. "The military kill people in East Timor. We students must challenge them," said one protest organizer, who identified himself by the single name of Lachman. Indonesia's military is accused of backing the anti-independence militias in East Timor.
Meanwhile, in New York, Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas negotiated with UN officials on an international peacekeeping force that could be in East Timor by Saturday. But David Ximenes, a spokesman for East Timor's independence movement, told Portugal's TSF radio that killings in Dili are continuing and said: "Three or four more days will be too late. We can't defend ourselves. We're unarmed."
Bishop Belo, apostolic administrator of Dili, which depends directly from the Holy See, left the dramatic circumstances of his country to arrive in Rome. Yesterday, he joined John Paul II for a prolonged lunch in which he informed the Pope first-hand of the situation in East Timor.
This morning, Bishop Belo met with reporters in the Holy See's Press Hall, to explain details of his meeting with the Holy Father. Bishop Belo expressed his point of view very clearly to a room filled to capacity of reporters from all over the world. "The United Nations must intervene with a peace contingent to stop the militias from killing innocent people. Moreover, there is urgent need of water, food and medicines for the people, who have fled to the mountains."
The Bishop, who this afternoon was received by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the president of Italy, asked "the Lord and the Virgin for forgiveness" for having abandoned his country at such a difficult time. "I have left the country to warn the Holy See about what is happening. A tragedy of enormous proportions: 10,000 dead, 80,000 deported and 100,000 refugees in the mountains. I have assured the Pope that the minute the peace forces arrive I shall return to East Timor, to be in the midst of my wandering sheep."
As is well known, on August 30, 78.5% of the population of this former Portuguese colony voted in favor of independence from Indonesia. The Indonesian military did not accept the result and unleashed the militias that are plundering this corner of the Island, deporting, killing and burning all in sight. Among its primary targets are young people, as well as Bishops, priests, religious, and Church structures.
"Crimes against humanity are being committed in East Timor -- grave violations of human rights. The international community is aware of the abuses being perpetrated by the militias and it must put a stop to them. In other situations, including recent ones, it has taken adequate measures, sending military contingents to guarantee peace. Why are the same measures not taken in East Timor?" the Bishop asked.
Bishop Belo requested that the U.N. High Commission for Refugees and the International Red Cross allow those deported to West Timor to return to East Timor.
The campaign against the Catholic Church in East Timor has decimated the presence of priests, and men and women religious, some of whom have been cruelly murdered.
On Saturday night, a 70-year old German Jesuit was killed in Dili. The death of Fr. Karl Albrecht, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Timor, was confirmed by the Jesuit General Curia in Rome. According to a reconstruction of events, the priest ran into an intruder in his home in Dili, the capital. He was killed by a machine-gun blast in the stomach.
Yesterday, militias supporting Indonesia took the life of a Protestant minister, Francisco de Vasconcelos, who was killed in Manatuto, in the north of the island, while seeking refuge along with thousands of other people.
According to the international agency "Fides," half of the 53 diocesan priests, 160 religious and 300 nuns, who worked in East Timor, have had to flee.
The case of the Salesians is truly dramatic. Of the 100 religious who worked in the country, those in Dili had to flee to West Timor; those in other areas have sought refugee in the mountains, in order to continue serving the people.
There is no news on the four Divine Word priests of Baucau. The three who work in Oekusi have decided to stay with the people. Another religious of this Order, who works in the city of Maliana, will also stay in the school he directs. The centers in Nenuk and Kupang, directed by Divine Word priests and located in West Timor, are offering assistance to refugees in the mountains.
The most numerous group of religious sisters were the Canesians: 112 distributed in 11 communities, in addition to 20 novices and postulants. Following the outbreak of war, 42 Sisters were fled to West Timor; 7 are in Atambua, and 4 in Jakarta along with 10 postulants. Others have been able to stay in East Timor to assist the refugees.
The Salesian Sisters are helping throughout the territory. The 26 who are natives of Timor, have been able to stay in the country, while others have been forced to flee.
Of a total of 60 Carmelite Sisters, 45 have gone to Kupang, while another 15 remained in Timor to help the refugees. The Army has forced 8 Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres to leave East Timor and go to West Timor.
Meanwhile, Bishop Anton Pain Ratu, of the diocese of Atambua in West Timor, asked all his priests and faithful to do everything in their power to receive and protect the unending flow of refugees from East Timor, who now number over 100,000. ZE99091406
Meanwhile in Washington D.C., Noticias Eclesiales reports that the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, sent President Clinton a strongly worded letter asking for an urgent action to put end to the persecution that thousands are suffering in East Timor. The letter, sent last Thursday, emphasized the need to send a peacekeeping force to the afflicted region.
Bishop Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, speaking on behalf of the Bishops of the United States, condemned both the "bloody persecution" that the Church suffers in the island, and the Indonesian government's negative to permit the action of the UN peacekeeping forces, which were accepted only at the beginning of this week.
"We have been overly concerned not to offend the Indonesian authorities who, by all accounts, are themselves unable to control the murderous bands in East Timor, but have been fully successful in preventing the essential deployment of an international peacekeeping force," said Bishop Fiorenza.
The UN has informed that they will temporarily close their compound in Dili, menaced for days by rampaging militiamen. The UN mission will close "because of the very poor conditions in the compound and security concerns," informed a spokesman. Nearly 1300 persons were evacuated and sent to Australia.
In the article, entitled "Wojtyla's Doctrine," Politi points out that "for days and days the Pope was the only one among world leaders who denounced the unbearable massacres and intolerable international silence."
"A voice crying in the desert. The only voice that tenaciously called for urgent international intervention in defense of the rights of peoples and individuals," Politi remarks. "Finally, the United Nations began to respond, as did many powers, among them the United States, which realized that verbal condemnations are not enough when whole communities are being deported, churches demolished and heads barbarously displayed on wooden stakes. If Jakarta has at last said yes to the (U.N.) blue helmets, it is also thanks to this persistent voice."
At the end of the 20th century, faced with an international order that is unable to stop such conflicts, Politi highlights the "Wojtyla Doctrine's" contribution to humanitarian intervention.
"There are those who ask if the Vatican has not left pacifism behind and opted for interventionism. But whoever speaks this way does not know Wojtyla. Ever since the days of the war in Bosnia, John Paul II has preached the duty of humanitarian intervention. Arms must be silenced whenever possible, and all peaceful avenues explored -- this is his thought. But when the wayfarer is attacked by the evildoer, then the good Samaritans must intervene, including with force," Politi continued.
"The 'Wojtyla Doctrine' is not simplistic. It is sophisticated. It states that peoples have the right to individuality, but not necessarily to a state for every ethnic group. It emphasizes that the large states must not dominate the small; the sovereignty of all must be respected. Each state has the duty to guarantee the fundamental rights of its own citizens; if it breaks this pact and persecutes them, shedding their blood, then the international community must intervene to preserve everyone's most cherished good: life," Politi writes. The author points out that this is the line of Vatican diplomacy.
"John Paul II has not set aside his dream of global coexistence, where ethics and law are in harmony. In fact, he does not consider this a dream but a necessary condition so that the world of the third millennium will not fall prey to the endemic spiral of economic, military, ethnic and religious conflicts. Will the 21st century by the scene of 'clashes of civilization,' as prophesied by North American political scientist Samuel Huntington? Pope Wojtyla counterbalances the prophecy with the civilization of law and coexistence," the editorial states.
Because of this, although it is fashionable to criticize the United Nations' inefficiency, the Pontiff emphasizes its role as international arbiter and the need to give it the necessary means to carry out its mission. ZE99091403
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September 15, 1999 volume 10, no. 175 DAILY CATHOLIC