Indonesian militia razed Dili church, Timor Bishop recalls

Testifying at the Indonesia-East Timor Truth Commission, former Dili Bishop Carlos Belo said that Indonesian forces and their militia allies had systematically razed the diocese's compound as well as other churches, killing several clergy and an unknown number of others.

Deutsche Presse Argentur reports that Bishop Belo, who headed the Archdiocese of Dili during the 1999 rampage, was the star witness as the Indonesia-East Timor Commission of Truth and Friendship resumed public hearings in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

Speaking in Portuguese, the official language of the now independent East Timor, Bishop Belo calmly recalled how army-trained Timorese militias and Indonesian soldiers systematically carried out the destruction and killings in Dili and two districts.

The carnage, in which at least 1,500 were killed, began just after voters in East Timor, a former Portuguese colony invaded by Indonesia in 1975, voted overwhelmingly for independence in a United Nations-run referendum on 30 August 1999.

Bishop Belo said that by 4 September, "the militias and Indonesian military had already attacked the diocese", while priests inside were sheltering civilian refugees. "We don't know how many people were killed."

The bishop said under questioning by the 10-member commission that gross human rights violations occurred, but urged the countries to "forget the past and look to the future".

"If we look back at the past, we will open up old wounds and delve back into the hatred," Bishop Belo, a native Timorese who now lives abroad, said during his testimony.

The commission aims to establish the truth behind the violence and clarify the history of the two countries, as well as to investigate the actions of the Indonesian military as they withdrew from the territory, and those of local militia groups.

The five Indonesian commission members spent Monday's morning session questioning the accuracy of Bishop Belo's testimony. They asked whether the UN "cheated" in running the poll, if the Catholic Church sided with the pro-independence movement, and whether the violence was only carried out by Timorese upset at the referendum result.

One commission member asked whether Bishop Belo may have set fire to his own house - while inside it - when it was surrounded by militia thugs who later razed it to the ground.

East Timor bishop describes attacks by Indonesian army, militias (Monsters and Critics, 26/3/07)
Former East Timor bishop accuses Indonesian soldiers (Radio Australia, 26/3/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo (Wikipedia)

Timor priest accuses Aussie troops (CathNews, 14/3/07)
New Timor Nuncio presents credentials, calls for end to conflict (CathNews, 2/3/07)
Ramos-Horta seeks Catholic nod for Timor presidency (CathNews, 266/2/07)
Indonesia-Timor commission promotes reconciliation (CathNews, 8/2/07)
First graduates from ACU Timor teachers course (CathNews, 23/11/06)
Former Timor PM blames Church over ouster (CathNews, 10/11/06)
East Timor situation calm for All Saints (CathNews, 3/11/06)
Nobel prize Bishop meets Timor rebels and ex-PM (CathNews, 27/10/06)
Men killed outside Dili Church as Timor's PM leaves to see Pope (CathNews, 24/10/06)
Timor bishop in bid to prevent new violence (CathNews, 13/10/06)
Timor highlanders back fugitive rebel with prayers (CathNews, 11/9/06)
'Big people' must reconcile, say displaced Timorese (CathNews 15/8/06)
Priest says coffee growers big losers in Timor unrest (CathNews 21/7/06)
Ramos-Horta wants Vatican embassy for Timor (CathNews 11/7/06)
Timor Church accused of plotting coup (CathNews 29/6/06)
Timor Church to pursue truth and dialogue (CathNews 28/6/06)
Diocese prepares to aid fleeing East Timor refugees (CathNews 11/5/06)
East Timor Catholic leaders appeal for calm after riot (CathNews 5/5/06)
Thousands shelter in Catholic centres after East Timor riots (CathNews 3/5/06)
West Timor bishop tells Govt it's time to act on refugees (CathNews 13/3/03)

27 Mar 2007

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