Caritas monitoring Dili crisis

Amidst the escalating violence on Dili's streets, Caritas Australia says it is on the ground in East Timor and will continue to monitor the situation of the thousands of displaced families who have fled their homes.

In a statement released at the weekend, Caritas Australia said it is assisting with care for those without shelter in Dili and care for some of the 50,000 displaced people who have fled to Churches, convents and other Catholic institutions in surrounding regions in seek of refuge since the outbreak of unrest in East Timor.

The unrest in East Timor has followed a decision in March to sack almost 600 soldiers for going on strike over working conditions and alleged discrimination.

In recent days, the dismissed soldiers, who make up around a third of East Timor's army have launched fresh attacks on the outskirts of Dili as thousands of people fled Dili amidst the violence.

All 1,300 Australian troops, backed by Malaysian and New Zealand soldiers, are currently in East Timor struggling to restore order.

Chief Executive Officer Jack de Groot said: "Continued threats of violence, some burning of houses and intimidating behaviours towards displaced people makes the situation difficult to judge and raises grave fears for the well being of IDPs [displaced people] in Church compounds."

As reports of bloodshed continue, it has emerged that a local Catholic priest was amongst those wounded in the shootings.

"Father Lopez from the San Jose School, Balide, was shot in the shoulder in Caicoli on Friday night," said Mr de Groot.

"He has been operated on and has had a slight improvement in his condition. We pray for his recovery and also for all those caught up in the violence," said Mr de Groot.

Caritas Australia's team in Dili, headed by Country Director, Jay Maheswaran, hope to be able to carry out further assessments of internally displaced camps as Australian troops move to secure more territory.

"To date, Caritas Australia has provided short-term needs such as clothing, bedding, hygiene kits and children's needs to those displaced," said Mr de Groot.

"As assessments continue, Caritas Australia intends to respond to emerging needs and will expand its activities to provide semi-permanent housing for families whose houses have been burned down in the attack."

"It is still a delicate and tense situation, but we hope to see an improvement in the current state of affairs, so that peace can be restored for the East Timorese people," Mr de Groot said.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the East Timor government will meet today in two separate rounds of discussions, amid expectations unpopular prime minister Mari Alkatiri will either be sacked or forced to resign.

Caritas Australia continues to monitor the situation for the people of Dili (Caritas Australia 27/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Australia

Aid agencies alarmed at growing violence in East Timor (CathNews 26/5/06)
Josephite says unemployment underlies Timor trouble (CathNews 25/5/06)
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)

Aid body warns of food shortage in Dili (Sydney Morning Herald 27/5/06)
In Dili, it's 'total madness' (The Age 28/5/06)
Mission struggles to calm city (The Age 29/5/06)
Timorese flock to churches (The Age 28/5/06)
'Food running out in Dili' (The Australian 27/5/06)

29 May 2006