DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     September 8, 1999     vol. 10, no. 170

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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        DARWIN, Australia (CWNews.com) - Bishop Carlos Belo of Dili escaped East Timor for Australia on Tuesday as the territory devolved into further lawlessness and violence after a pro-independence vote. Tens of thousands of Timorese were also being forcibly deported from East Timor into neighboring West Timor or other countries.

        As Bishop Belo arrived in Australia, just days after his home and offices were burned by anti-independence militias and he had to flee to the neighboring diocese of Baucau, he called on world powers to save his homeland. "They are very sad and they feel they are unable to fight against all the waves of violence," said the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize winner. "They expect that the international community should act, urgently -- immediately -- to protect the people."

        Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, invaded mainly Catholic East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move not recognized by the United Nations. In January, President B.J. Habibie proposed a referendum to allow Timorese to choose either autonomy within Indonesia or full independence, with the pro-independence results of last Monday's poll being released on Saturday. Anti-independence forces, trained and armed by Indonesia's military, then went on a rampage killing hundreds and displacing tens of thousands from their homes as Indonesian security forces looked on.

        About 2,000 refugees who had sought shelter in the grounds of Bishop Belo's residence -- previously regarded as once of the capital's untouchable bastions -- were rounded up at gunpoint and moved out of Dili by the military. Their fate is unknown, but it is understood they were sent by truck and boat out of East Timor. An American Catholic nun recently returned from the village of Aileu said that the town was burning when she left Monday and people were being ordered onto trucks. "There never was any militia in Aileu, it is the Indonesian army that's doing this," she said from her hiding place in Dili.

        Bishop Belo joined the evacuation of UN personnel -- in the country to monitor the vote -- and journalists from Bacau by the Australian Air Force after their compound came under sustained fire. He said he would travel to Rome this week to seek Pope John Paul II's advice.

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 8, 1999       volume 10, no. 170


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