DAILY CATHOLIC MONDAY September 20, 1999 vol. 10, no. 178
NEWS & VIEWS
EAST TIMOR REFUGEES HUNTED BY MILITIAS
Anguished Cry for Help from Bishop of West Timor
VATICAN CITY, SEP 16 (ZENIT).- Pro-Indonesian militias continue their hunt for refugees in West Timor, Bishop Anton Pain Radu, of the diocese of Atambua, said in a report to the international news agency "Fides." The Bishop's diocese is involved in providing shelter and care for some 100,000 refugees from East Timor.
Bishop Rady appealed to the Indonesian militias to stop shooting, as the camps are a protected area and the "people have come here for safety and help," he said. Shooting is heard everywhere, disregarding the "local people's right to live ... and go about their business in safety."
Yohannes Pake Pani, vice-governor of the Eastern province of Nusa Tenggara, said it was impossible to control the militias who move around the refugee camps. "We check the people as they arrive, but the camps are by no means sealed, and we cannot patrol the whole area," he said.
Local religious leaders, including Protestants, Moslems and Hindus, have accused the militias of killing many refugees suspected of supporting the cause for independence.
Since the outbreak of violence following the referendum in East Timor, over 120,000 people have moved to West Timor. The largest group -- 70,000, is in the district of Belu, and 30,000 are in Kupang, the provincial capital. The military control access to Kupang and Atambua.
Observers fear the post-referendum violence will spread to other parts of Indonesia, as there are many reports of harassment and aggression. "Fides" learned that the Indonesian intelligence service, which has pro-Indonesian East Timorese, has contacted leaders of neighborhoods in big cities and warned them to be alert and control pro-independence activists who live in their area. ZE99091611
Meanwhile in Rome, Bishop Carlos Belo expressed his gratitude to the Pope for his support and appreciated Italy's emotional farewell to him. John Paul II's embrace has given new hope to East Timor, the Bishop of Dili said at Rome's airport, as he prepared to leave the Italian capital.
"During these days of my stay in Italy, I have not ceased to think of East Timor, and have tried to maintain contacts to follow the evolution of the situation," the Nobel Prize winner said. "The news of persons who were believed dead and who, instead, are alive, and the risk to the life of defenseless people has filled my heart with sadness and hope."
"Hope increased with the Holy Father's paternal embrace; with the willingness expressed by Italian political authorities who have welcomed me with kindness and who have kept their commitment; with the solidarity of the Italian people; with the attention given by the press to my small homeland."
The Salesian Bishop acknowledged that "following the decision of world authorities to intervene decisively to reestablish dignity and justice to the inhabitants of East Timor, I am now confident in the future. We must reconstruct it all, but I am convinced that the solidarity of peoples, of humanitarian associations, of each generous person, will enable us to achieve it."
"My desire now is to be able to return as soon as possible to East Timor to help the people to find confidence and hope once again; to help make decisions in favor of reconciliation and peace, and to carry out together what has been democratically decided by the referendum," Bishop Belo said before boarding his plane.
"I thank God who has inspired and protected me in this trip away from my
homeland to tell about the sufferings of my people," he concluded.
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NEWS & VIEWS