DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     September 15, 1999     vol. 10, no. 175

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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One on one interview by FIDES with East Timor's spiritual leader

        VATICAN (FIDES/ CWNews.com) -- Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo is convinced that behind the violence in East Timor lie not only political and economic motives, but also a violent desire for revenge on the part of Indonesia. The FIDES news servce had a chance to speak with the bishop, who had just had a long conversation with Cardinal Jozef Tomko, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Here is the text of the FIDES interview:

    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.

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 15, 1999       volume 10, no. 175


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