DAILY CATHOLIC WEDNESDAY September 15, 1999 vol. 10, no. 175
NEWS & VIEWS
EAST TIMOR GENOCIDE PLANNED IN EARLY 1999
Military's Reaction Was Vengeance Against Catholic Church
VATICAN CITY, SEP 14 (ZENIT).- Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, requested John Paul II to ask U.S. President Bill Clinton for an international peace intervention to put an end to the genocide of the people of East Timor, and to send urgently needed food and medicine for the people. Clinton "owns the world," the Bishop said to a reporter, "we hope he will be reasonable!"
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."
Holy See's Commitment
Bishop Belo acknowledged the diplomatic activity promoted directly by John Paul II and carried out by the Holy See to find a peaceful solution to the dramatic situation in East Timor.
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.
The Nobel Prize winner disclosed that "since the beginning of 1999 the Indonesian military knew they had lost the referendum, which was to favor Timor's independence; for this reason, they created militias. They armed them and gave them means of transportation, as well as logistical bases. The militias are made up of people from Timor who are trained by Indonesian troops. Their objective was to terrorize the people so that they would not vote for independence. In early April they killed 25 people and an additional 200 were executed outside their homes. In mid April, they murdered the son of one of the resistance leaders and 70 others. They were not punished for these acts of violence. Their crimes have met with impunity; the militias can do what they wish, without incurring legal sanctions."
Outbreak of Violence
"As soon as the results were made known, a violent reaction began. They attacked the homes of Bishops, the seminaries and schools. On Sunday, September 5, they surrounded the curia of the Archdiocese of Dili, killed 25 people, burnt all the documents and destroyed half the building. The next day, they began shooting with pistols and later with automatic weapons. The police stationed there protected the militias. All those who could, fled to the mountains. At least 100,000 people have taken refuge in the mountains. After attacking Dili, the militias began to kill and burn villages. Those who remained in the city were deported to West Timor."
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.
Persecution of the Church
Bishop Belo also explained that the militias' work is part of a "planned strategy against the Catholic Church." According to the Bishop, "the militias' direct attack, supported by the Jakarta military, is due to the fact that the Church has never given in to political pressures and has been the sole voice of those who cannot speak or have never been listened to. In fact, the award of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize was considered an offense by the Indonesian government. The attack on the Church is direct vengeance against this honor to the Bishop. The military are also furious because they have tried in every way possible to convince the Church to preach integration with Indonesia. We, the Bishops of Timor, signed a pastoral letter in which we clearly stated that each one had to vote according to his conscience and that the referendum was a possibility to decide one's own future."
Manipulation in West
The Bishop ended the press round by severely reprimanding an Italian newspaper ("La Repubblica") for distorting his words to the point of having him say that he had appealed to the people of Timor to take up arms. "I have never spoken these words; on the contrary, I have asked for prayers and forgiveness. Forgiveness until the end of the world. The Church has a role of pacification. We shall continue to seek truth and justice," Belo concluded. ZE99091404
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