DAILY CATHOLIC    THURSDAY     September 9, 1999     vol. 10, no. 171

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Massacre at East Timor Catholic Church Alleged

        VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican's top foreign-affairs official, has indicated that the Holy See supports calls for international intervention in East Timor.

        Speaking on Vatican Radio, Archbishop Tauran said that the international community-- which lent its full support to the recent referendum on independence for East Timor-- "cannot tolerate" the violence which now threatens to overturn the results of that referendum.

        "In East Timor, an event of capital importance has taken place, and it cannot be erased," the Vatican diplomat said. Observing that 80 percent of the Timorese people had voted in favor of independence from Indonesia, he added that the crisis must be resolved "through respect for the history and traditions of the people, and of international law," and "certainly not through violence."

        In Darwin, Australia Bishop Carlos Belo of Dili celebrated Mass in Darwin on Wednesday and called on the world to stop the slaughter of thousands of East Timorese after the territory voted for independence from Indonesia.

        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. On August 30, the region held a Jakarta-proposed referendum to allow Timorese to choose either autonomy within Indonesia or full independence. After the pro-independence results were revealed on Saturday, anti-independence militias, armed and backed by Indonesia's military, went on a rampage killing hundreds and forcing thousands to flee the former Portugese colony.

        Bishop Belo had fled East Timor on Tuesday after his home and offices, where 4,000 people had sought refuge, were attacked and burned. The Nobel Peace Prize winner asked the world to welcome in refugees from the territory and to act to stop the massacre. Bishop Belo also prayed for the souls of the victims of violence.

        One of the worst reports came recently when the United Nations said on Wednesday that it was investigating reports of a massacre of more than 100 people at a Catholic church in the East Timor town of Suai.

        UN spokesman David Wimhurst said, "We have unconfirmed reports that there was a large number of people killed, we heard up to 100 people killed around the church in Suai, but we have not been able to confirm that, we will keep working on it."

        An East Timorese woman told Reuters news agency she had been told by a friend who had fled Dili for Kupang, the capital of West Timor, that militias on Tuesday attacked a church in Suai. "The last time he looked there were about 40 people on the floor, he assumed they were dead. There was blood everywhere, people had been macheted and shot," she said. "He saw a priest on his knees begging and screaming for people's lives, saying 'please have mercy.'"

        An Australian Catholic religious brother told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio that he witnessed militias attack and East Timorese child and cut him to pieces as a group of people were trying to flee to the UN compound in Dili. "The child was actually being cut up. He was chopped up and parts of his body were actually thrown about in Dili outside the UNAMET compound," he said.

        The United Nations has said tens of thousands of East Timorese have been forcibly deported across the border to West Timor by militias and military in the past few days. Other reports said thousands of people have been forced onto ships and boats by army troops and militias.

        Jakarta declared martial law in East Timor and a shoot-on-sight curfew on Tuesday, but reports from the capital Dili said the violence continued unabated with militias attacking people under the gaze of Indonesian security forces. The UN said its mission, which has been besieged by militia forces and was acting as a refuge for thousands, will be closed on Thursday morning, leaving more than 1,500 people without protection.

        Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary William Cohen said on Wednesday that US troops would definitely not be sent into East Timor, either as part of a UN peacekeeping force or independently.

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 9, 1999       volume 10, no. 171


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