Church property targeted in East Timor

Sporadic violence in East Timor continued yesterday with a number of church properties burnt and some priests rumoured to be targeted for attack following the naming earlier this week of Xanana Gusmao as Prime Minister in charge of a new coalition government.

Government buildings or organizations deemed to be in close association with the new government have been targeted, a Caritas Australia statement says.

Some of the violence has been instigated in response to the decision to appoint Gusmao but other proponents of the acts of property destruction appear opportunistic and instigated by criminal elements, Caritas believes.

Internally Displaced Persons camps currently served by the Caritas partners are also seeing significant unrest and destruction.

In Baucau, the destruction has been more targeted and significant. Church properties have been targeted and burnt and three government buildings. A rice store was also destroyed. In Oecussi the district offices have also been attacked.

In Dili, most of the city has been left unscathed, acts of destruction and violence have arisen in different parts of the city though generally these have been isolated incidents that have quickly dissipated.

The destructive behaviour consists largely of rock throwing at vehicles, looting and burning of some government and Church buildings particularly in Baucau. There are no reports of deaths with 8 people injured according to the UN.

The violence has continued through until today Thursday 9 August. The inauguration of the new government was held yesterday and further violent incidents have occurred since then.

Caritas Australia's East Timor Country representative Mark Green has described the situation as tense and volatile. It is thought that the UNPOL and the UN International Stabilisation Force (ISF) is stretched in its capacity, currently it is unclear whether they have enough numbers to contain the situation in Baucau and in the districts.

The Baucau office of the American Catholic agency CRS has also been attacked and burnt to the ground. The offices of the Caritas of the Baucau Diocese were also attacked on 7 August.

Unconfirmed rumours are circulating that lists of the names of individual priests exist targeting them or their property for attack. On the morning of 8 August, a number of priests took refuge in the Baucau cathedral compound.

Mark Green, Caritas Australia's East Timor Director said "whilst the situation here is tense, we remain hopeful that the sporadic violence will soon cease. Caritas Australia is committed to the people of East Timor and we will continue to work to build a stronger and more productive country in partnership with them".

East Timor: Shaken but undeterred (Caritas Australia, Media Release, 10/8/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
East Timor (Wikipedia)
Xanana Gusmao (Wikipedia)

Ramos-Horta pledges support for Church (CathNews, 24/5/07)
Call for sacking of Catholic rep on Timor election body (CathNews, 17/4/07)
Ramos-Horta seeks Catholic nod for Timor presidency (CathNews, 26/2/07)
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) i>

10 Aug 2007