Timor Church to pursue truth and dialogue

Dili's Vicar General said the East Timor Church supports efforts to reveal the truth of former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's alleged involvement in arming a "hit squad" and plans to hold dialogue sessions to help ease the nation's tension.

Fr Apolinario Aparicio, Vicar General of Dili diocese, told UCA News that the Church appreciates Mr Alkatiri's decision to resign and hopes this will be a "good solution" to the crisis in the country.

Speaking at his office in Dili, Fr Aparicio said the Church belongs to the people and thus urged the Prime Minister to listen to what the people were saying.

Mr Alkatiri (pictured) resigned on Monday after Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta resigned in protest over his continued reluctance to quit and his close ally President Xanana Gusmao threatened to do the same.

He has been accused of participating in the arming of a civilian "hit squad" aimed at eliminating his opponents, including Church leaders. He denied the allegations.

Mr Alkatiri said on Monday in a resignation statement that he was stepping down for the good of the nation and that he accepted his share of the responsibility for the crisis. But he remains a member of parliament.

According to Fr Aparicio, the Church cannot comment on the allegations of the Mr Alkatiri's involvement in a hit squad, but it supports efforts to reveal the truth and to hold Alkatiri accountable through the justice system. He said the Church will wait for the results of local judicial proceedings or "an international inquiry" into who was responsible for the crisis.

Fr Martino Gusmao echoed Fr Aparicio's call for justice in the courts. The head of the Justice and Peace Commission of Baucau diocese said that dialogue, like at a recent interreligious seminar in Baucau, is the best way to help solve the country's problems. He said the Church plans to hold dialogue sessions to ease the tension.

The urgent task is to reunify the people from the eastern and western parts of the country, he said, "otherwise there will be never-ending revenge from generation to generation."

The former Prime Minister, a Muslim of Yemeni decent, had clashed several times with the Church, an influential presence in a predominantly Catholic country. Last year he backed down on a plan to make religious education elective, rather than mandatory, in schools amid Church-backed protests calling for his resignation then.

Meanwhile, he has been accused of being "leftist" and authoritarian, though he won praise from outside observers for his tough stances in negotiating with Australia over gas and oil reserves, and with the World Bank about loans. Interestingly, the World Bank has stood by him throughout the crisis.

Church stresses need for dialogue as embattled Prime Minister resigns (UCA News 27/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Australia
Mary McKillop East Timor

Caritas says Timor death toll may exceed official figures (CathNews 9/6/06)
Melbourne prayers for troubled East Timor (CathNews 5/6/06)
Diocese prepares to aid fleeing East Timor refugees (CathNews 11/5/2006)

28 Jun 2006