DAILY CATHOLIC WEDNESDAY September 22, 1999 vol. 10, no. 180
NEWS & VIEWS
BISHOP OF TIMOR MEDIATES BETWEEN ARMY AND GUERRILLAS
Terrifying Testimony of Two Nuns Who Survived Massacre and exclusive interview with one nun
BACAU, SEP 20 (ZENIT).- The Church in Bacau is mediating between the army and the pro-independence guerrillas. At present, Bishop Basilio do Nascimiento, Apostolic Administrator of Bacau, is leading negotiations to free a commando kidnapped on September 7 by the Falintil guerrillas, the armed section of Timor's resistance. The Bishop, who has delegated the task to a priest, told the "Fides" news agency that the negotiations are well underway. He hopes the soldiers will be freed very soon.
In statements to Fides, Bishop do Nascimento did not give much importance to the wounds he suffered a few days ago when his residence was attacked by paramilitaries supporting East Timor's annexation to Indonesia. He also said that the presence of an international force will help eliminate the people's suspicions and fear. "What is most important is to regain confidence and guarantee public order," he said.
"The peace forces will help people return to their homes. It is important to control the militias that are wandering through West Timor. Although the people should not be threatened, the paramilitaries act like cowboys from the Far West: they shoot in the air and the terrified people, hide."
The Vatican has received testimonies from civilians and religious who were able to escape the massacres of the last few days. Two Sisters from the community of Jesus' Followers, who arrived in West Timor on September 16 from Sama (south of the Island), described scenes of horror to Fides.
"Many civilians have been killed. The bodies of victims were decapitated and hung from trees. The whole city of Sama has been destroyed by the military, who also destroyed buildings constructed by the government. The militias expelled the people and burnt their homes. There were many bodies in the streets. Instead of burying them, they burnt them, to eliminate proofs of the massacres." ZE99092004
Meanwhile, a Salesian Missionary nun from Dili told of the situation that "many militiamen kill for only a few rupees." The first contingents of the U.N. peace force are already being deployed in East Timor. They could encounter resistance from armed militias opposed to the country's independence. In the midst of uncertainty, Catholic missionaries continue to work and help the people. Sister Paola Bataglini, an Italian missionary, has stayed in the country to help mothers and children. In a telephone interview with the Italian newspaper "Avvenire," she commented on the situation in Dili, where she works with six other Salesian Sisters, in what was formerly a convent and at present has been turned into a shelter.
SISTER PAOLA BATAGLINI: We have given refuge to some one hundred mothers and their children, some of them very young. Today things are a little better. Last night there was no shooting. We now also have military guarding our house. But they do not let us go out.
Q- Are you being protected or are you prisoners?
SISTER BATAGLINI: We are both protected 'and' prisoners. Yesterday two men from the Red Cross were here to make note of what is needed. They asked if they could stay to sleep. Dili has been completely destroyed. We prepared rooms for them, but the soldiers made them leave.
Q- You are really prisoners then?
SISTER BATAGLINI: This morning, I was able to go to the hospital. The soldiers accompanied me. I got medicines for the refugees hiding in the mountains. I have seen what remains of the city; everything is in ruins. There is no one on the streets; the houses are empty and destroyed -- both those of well-know supporters of independence, as well as those of pro-Indonesians.
Q- Can you send aid to the refugees in the mountains?
SISTER BATAGLINI: To (the town of) Dare, where there is a seminary in the forest. An Indonesian priest arrived from there this morning. He said there were thousands of refugees in need of everything, (especially) food and medicines. The area is also surrounded by soldiers.
Q- How was he able to get to Dili?
SISTER BATAGLINI: He is Indonesian, and has connections. Moreover, he was also accompanied by the army. He was able to load a van with rice and medicines. The military want to be seen engaging in humanitarian activities.
Q- To be seen?
SISTER BATAGLINI: Not in the negative sense. Here many act just for the effect. In Asia, the first thing is to save face. The militiamen also ..."
Q- The militiamen?
SISTER BATAGLINI: You must realize that some time ago the Church organized a meeting in Dare between supporters of Indonesia and those of independence. (Among those) present, were the leaders of today's violence -- Domingo De Deus and Enrique Gutierrez. They seemed to be more reasonable (then), like little lambs. But now, there is not one store they have not looted. And how many have been killed with machetes!
Many have Catholic names. Catholics? God will it! In 1967, under the Portuguese, the Catholics in Timor were 27%. When the Indonesian government (came to power), and everyone had to declare his religion -- this is written on the identity document, not to discriminate: faith is necessary to be considered an Indonesian citizen, everyone declared himself Christian. Many without knowing what faith is.
Q- What are these militiamen? Moslems?
SISTER BATAGLINI: Many have been manipulated, forced, you know by whom. There is talk of men from neighboring islands, brought here on purpose, and of people of the forest who dreamed of looting the city's stores. There is talk that they have been paid. They can kill for a few rupees. Later they are caught in a (vicious) circle which they cannot abandon.
Q- A 'circle'?
SISTER BATAGLINI: Rancor among families. The circle of vengeance. There are those whose father was killed in 59, a brother in 74, in other clashes, other resistance ... No one forgets here. They were warrior tribes; vengeance is a tradition. Because of this, those who are most afraid are the men, up in Dare. They are the ones who are killed, in the circle of vengeance. Even on the day of the referendum, the youths were the first to vote and then picked up their bags and fled to the mountains.
I have been told that the Indonesian military chief in Baucau, who wants to maintain order until the Australians arrive, is having a lot of difficulties with the militiamen. He tries to control them. It seems that now he is collaborating with the Bishop. We also have a colonel here who is a 'collaborator.' I was hoping he would come; he would have allowed me to get our Sister from Komoro. She is Sister Margaret, an elderly nun who has stayed in the diocese to impede further theft.
Q- Do you have food for the mothers and children?
SISTER BATAGLINI: We have enough for a month. Only rice, of course, but it
is enough for us.
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