Subject: UCAN: Youths called to be 'agents of peace'

UCAN: Youths called to be 'agents of peace' 5/2/2007

UCANews (www.ucanews.com)

LAUTEM, East Timor (UCAN) - East Timorese youths were urged not to be mere "spectators" but to take active parts in national reconciliation and development.

About 1,500 young Catholics from both eastern and western parts of the country heard this message at a seminar on Political Ethics for East Timor Youths, part of a nationwide, belated Easter celebration. Baucau diocese arranged the April 21 event, held in the St. Paul and Peter parochial hall in Lautem, about 150 kilometers northeast of Dili.

The seminar was held the day before young people carried the World Youth Day Cross in procession around all seven parishes in the capital. The seminar and procession comprised an Easter program to unite young Catholics in all 13 districts of East Timor (Timor Leste).

Speaking at the seminar, Father Franz Magnis-Suseno, a lecturer from neighboring Indonesia, told the young people not just to be spectators in their own country, but to take action to build a better life for the nation.

The German-born Jesuit priest, a professor at Jesuit-run Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta, said although the Church does not intervene in the country's national politics, it makes known its positions on ethical issues. Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau had invited Father Magnis-Suseno, an Indonesian citizen, to speak to the East Timorese youth.

Stressing the importance of solidarity, social justice and peace, the priest said it is important to defend all groups in the country.

He was referring to the rift between "easterners" and "westerners" that exploded into violence in April 2006, following the dismissal of more than a third of the country's army. The dismissed soldiers, westerners, protested alleged discrimination by easterners in the military. The tensions degenerated into clashes, in which at least 20 people were killed and 100,000 displaced.

Father Magnis-Suseno urged the young people to forgive each other and end all resentment. "Reconciliation does not mean everyone has to agree on everything," he added.

Some young Catholics, including priests at the seminar, commented to UCA News on the timeliness of the message.

Father David Alves da Conceicao of Mother Mary Assumption of Same Church of Dili diocese observed that unity is missing today in Timor Leste. The 35-year-old priest said the program will help young people reconcile and work for peace. Father Joao Aparicio, 34, of Baucau diocese, now sees the young people becoming agents for peace and mediators for conflicting groups.

Carlito de Jesus, 29, from Viqueque, about 85 kilometers southwest of Lautem, said he too realizes how peace and reconciliation have been missing in his country, and hopes "young Catholics will seriously become agents of peace and justice."

For Joao Florindo, 31, getting young people together from the country's two diocese - Baucau and Dili - is itself of great value, bringing new hope for "peace, justice, reconciliation and respect for the human rights and dignity." Domingas Fernandes de Almeida, 27, from the western part of the country, said he realizes that peace and reconciliation can only be achieved with "prayer, love and patience."

The next day after the seminar, the Easter celebration continued with a five-hour "peace procession" from St. Paul Church in Lospalos town to St. John Bosco Parish in Fuiloro town. More than 2,500 young people joined in carrying the cross.

A Mass led by Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, apostolic nuncio to both Timor Leste and Indonesia, closed the celebration.

Timor Leste, where Catholics officially form 96 percent of the population of about 1 million, has faced decades of violence. It was a Portuguese colony for centuries before Lisbon withdrew in 1975, affording a brief taste of freedom. Indonesian troops invaded shortly thereafter, however, and Jakarta annexed East Timor in 1976. Large numbers of people died under a repressive Indonesian occupation. The territory gained its independence in 2002.

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Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News), the world's largest Asian church news agency (ucanews.com).


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