Nun says unemployment underlies Timor trouble

Sr Tess Ward OLSH, who has been living in East Timor since 2002, told the ABC's 7:30 Report last night that the root cause of the current unrest in East Timor is really the shortage of work, especially for young people.

"The problems in Dili, I'd say the thing that's really sort of in-your-face all the time is the unemployment. The young people, especially young men wanting work, rushing to look for work," she said.

Since 2002, Sr Ward has been helping run literacy programs in East Timor. When she flew out of Dili a fortnight ago, the soldiers' initial protests had already become a lightning rod for wider grievances.

But Sr Ward - a member of the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Congregation who works with the Josephites - doubts East Timor could descend into civil war.

"No way," she said. "That would be an extreme view. I think the normal, everyday Timorese little people, as I would say, the normal people on the ground, they do not want civil war."

"I'm praying for peace for them, because they desire that," she added.

"Someone I was speaking to this morning said, 'Sister, keep praying and light the candles.' They're a people of great faith and so I hope that what they desire for themselves, which is a better life, that a peaceful existence in their land, in their very beautiful land."

According to AsiaNews, the Bishop of Baucau has launched an appeal for calm to the nation. The Church, which played a fundamental role in East Timor's struggle for independence from Indonesia in 1999, did not say anything outright until now.

Between 1975 and 1999, Jakarta's army used torture and committed rape against the people of East Timor, killing tens of thousands of civilians.

A priest from the diocese of Dili said all the Church can do for the moment is to be close to the displaced people. He added: "East Timor needs peace to grow gradually; there are many youth and they want to study in their country, hoping to improve it."

Meanwhile, Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australia will again lead a military and police intervention into strife-torn East Timor, after a plea from its leaders amid escalating gun battles across Dili.

The Church and East Timorese Defence Force had supported the move, so "this is a request from the entire Timorese society", Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Jose Ramos-Horta said.

Violence escalates in E Timor (ABC TV 7:30 Report 24/5/06)
Dili: a deserted city, people feel "at war" (AsiaNews.it 24/5/06)
Australians will lead East Timor intervention (Sydney Morning Herald 25/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Mary MacKillop East Timor

Priest calls frightened Timorese home (CathNews 22/5/06)
Church joins fray in Timor (CathNews 17/5/06)
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)

25 May 2006