On Wednesday, 3 March, 2004 the Adelaide Office of the NCC had the pleasure of hosting a group from East Timor on a cultural goodwill visit to Australia. The visitors were shown around Adelaide as the guests of Bob Day, Managing Director of Home Australia, and Lt Col Malcolm McGregor, former head of the Australian Forces in East Timor.
The beautiful nature of these "local heroes", as Major David Tilt described them, (who was also part of the entourage), belies the recent history of the young nation and their life and death struggles in the fight for freedom.
"God is number one, then our families, then the nation," said one, adding that throughout the crises that preceded East Timor's nationhood, "The Catholic Church was very brave."
Speaking through translators our visitors stressed that not only did they have a strong faith but that they also had a deep abiding admiration for the stand that the Catholic Church took during the crisis, personified in Bishop Belo. The clear impression was that the Church's stance gave ordinary East Timorese people courage to keep up the fight.
Lt Col McGregor spoke of the need to develop meaningful relationships between groups such as these men represent and organisations like the NCC. Clearly, creative associations such as this can have mutual long-term benefits. In parting, we agreed to keep in contact and to build upon the relationship that already exists with East Timor via the work of the Salesians and their Missions Director in Australia, Brother Michael Lynch.
The East Timorese visitors with Lt Col McGregor (at back), journalist Christopher Pearson (left) and major David Tilt (right)