Timor bishops appeal for reconciliation
The Catholic bishops of both East and West Timor have called for the immediate repatriation of refugees from West to East, offered support for the process of reconciliation and the setting up of a special Commission, and made a firm request to the Indonesian government to guarantee security in West Timor.
Catholic World News reports that they issued their appeal in a statement in Dili on 5 January, in the presence of Archbishop Renzo Frattini, papal nuncio in Indonesia.
Speaking with Fides, Bishop Carlos Belo of Dili stressed the importance of the event: "This was the first time we came together to discuss the humanitarian problem, the return of the refugees. For our part we want to say that today East Timor is in peace: we are ready to welcome the people home."
Regarding the situation of the local Church, Bishop Belo said, "The Church too suffered violence and had victims in September 1999, but she gradually recovered. Today she is thriving thanks also to our youth. Moreover our martyrs filled the people with courage and hope."
The statement is signed by Archbishop Peter Turang of Kupang and Bishop Anton Pain Ratu of Atambua, both of West Timor, and Bishop Belo and Msgr. Mario do Carmo Lemos Belo, vicar general of Baucau, from East Timor.
The bishops asked the Indonesian government to provide security in the refugee camps and "control those who are exploiting the painful situation of these people for their own political purposes and economic advantages." The statement ends with an appeal to international organizations to resume work in West Timor to assist the refugees. In fact many NGOs had left the island after threats by paramilitary groups.