The Church and the future of East Timor

The Church and the future of East Timor

Peter Westmore

The rapid pace of events in East Timor has focussed on the violence which preceded and followed the referendum held on August 27, with the breakdown of civil order in the territory.

Almost completely ignored has been the central role of the Church over many years in East Timor.

While the Indonesian Government has spent large amounts on developing roads, schools and a civil service in East Timor, the repressive actions of its army have created a climate of fear and hostility evident in the vote for independence.

At this time of suffering and anxiety, the Church's role in East Timor has been exemplary. It has served to protect the faith and culture of the East Timorese people, and as a result, the Church is vibrant and growing rapidly. Virtually the whole population of East Timor is Christian.

It is not clear that the rival armed units operating in East Timor can be disarmed; but the Church remains the only body in Timor capable of bringing about a peaceful resolution to the present crisis. The actions of Bishop Belo, Apostolic Administrator in East Timor, have served as a unifying factor in this divided country.

Australian Catholics have a special obligation - both through their prayers and material aid - to ensure that East Timor enjoys a peaceful and prosperous future in accord with the will of the majority of its people.

Peter Westmore: Publisher (Email -

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