|East Timor||CATHOLIC AID OFFICIAL CONFIRMS REFUGEES FORCED TO LEAVE EAST TIMOR|
An official of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), just returned from Atambua, confirmed that pro-independence refugees had been forcibly removed from East Timor.
``If you ask the refugees once, they say they left because it was unsafe, and they had to leave their houses. But if you ask again, they will tell you that the soldiers terrorised them and made them come,'' said Mr William Openg, an Indonesian relief worker for CRS, which is a service of the US Catholic bishops.
Catholics in Indonesia's Atambua diocese are currently assisting some 25,000 East Timor refugees encamped in the border town of Atambua.
The Konferensi Waligereja Indonesia (KWI, Indonesian bishops' conference) has joined the relief work and dispatched 70 tons of rice, 20 tons of vegetable oil, and 20 tons of sugar for the refugees, Church sources said.
Father Benjamin Bria, coordinator of the diocesan-organised joint committee for East Timor refugees, said the committee cooperates with other NGOs and local district governments to shelter the refugees and provide them with food, medicines and emergency facilities.
Jesuit Father Julianus Sunarko, director of the KWI social research and development institute said CRS has offered rice stocks previously reserved for poor people in Java to be used for East Timorese refugees in Atambua.
Father Sunarko said that beside providing food, the KWI's social institute is also cooperating with Caritas East Timor to provide spiritual guidance to the refugees.
He said spiritual guidance is needed in the camps to prevent conflict arising among the refugees coming from two rival factions.
Since Caritas East Timor could not take part in the relief operations in refugee camps inside West Timor, the task of tending to the refugees' needs has been entrusted to the Jesuit Refugee Service, said Father Sunarko.
Age & UCAN 12:39pm 13/9/99