Subject: CNS: E. Timorese bishop threatened by pro-Indonesia militias
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 1999 21:59:24 +1200
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

E. Timorese bishop threatened by pro-Indonesia militias
By Stephen Steele
Catholic News Service NEW YORK (CNS)

Pro-Indonesia militias have threatened the life of Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo of Dili, East Timor, said sources working in the territory. A church source notified Catholic News Service by e-mail that a flier has been circulated in East Timor carrying a death threat against Bishop Belo, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and several priests. According to the source, the flier addressed the bishop directly: "Be careful. For now your robe is white, but one day, it will be stained with your own blood." Bishop Belo confirmed by fax Aug. 23 the existence of the document, which was written in the Bahasa Indonesian language. He emphasized that the entire church in East Timor has been threatened by the militias, which favor the territory's autonomy under continued Indonesian rule. East Timorese were to vote on autonomy in a U.N.-monitored referendum Aug. 30. Indonesian President B.J. Habibe has said if the voters reject autonomy, Indonesia would consider granting the territory independence.

"We really have to get peace-keeping forces in here," the bishop said, repeating a request he has made for several months. Catechists and church workers have been killed and attacked throughout the territory in recent weeks, he added. On Aug. 8, a catechist was killed near Liquisa, the site of an April massacre of at least 25 people inside a church. This was followed by the killings of two student organizers from an electoral monitoring group supported by the Irish Catholic aid agency, Trocaire, the bishop said. Also in early August, members of the Brothers and Sisters in Christ religious community who were delivering emergency food provisions to displaced Timorese in Maubara were ambushed by pro- Indonesia militias, said Bishop Belo. The militias threatened the church workers with guns and took the emergency food, the bishop said. "Every day there are provocations. The violence continues. We hope that on the 30th, they won't sabotage the vote," the bishop said Aug. 19 in a statement released by his biographer, Arnold Kohen, a consultant for the Office of International Justice and Peace at the U.S. Catholic Conference in Washington.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and unilaterally annexed it the following year. Neither the United Nations nor the Vatican has recognized the annexation, and most countries still view Portugal as territorial administrator. Thomas Quigley, policy adviser on Asian affairs for the USCC, said the threat against Bishop Belo was reminiscent of the threats made against Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, who was assassinated while celebrating Mass in 1980. "Anti-Romero fliers were circulating the streets of San Salvador the week before Romero was killed. The two incidents are very similar," he said. Quigley is expected to be in East Timor Sept. 2 as part of a USCC delegation that includes Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark, N.J., and Bishop John S. Cummins of Oakland, Calif. Meanwhile, a U.S. congressional delegation visiting East Timor demanded Aug. 23 the deployment of armed U.N. troops in the territory. Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., called for the action after touring trouble spots in East Timor's western region, which has been wracked by militia-led violence for months. The United Nations, which is supervising the ballot, has only several hundred unarmed police advisors and military observers in the territory. Meanwhile, attacks on churches in Letefoho and Suai, both south of Dili, were reported Aug. 19 by Lusa, a Portuguese news agency.

Anti-independence militiamen attacked a group of independence supporters gathered at a church in Suai, the agency reported. Officials of the U.N. Mission in East Timor tried to reach the scene, but were turned back after their vehicle was stoned by militiamen. In Letefoho, an anti-independence militia commander fired a shot at the parish church after an apparent altercation with the parish priest there. On Aug. 17, the militia commander approached the church and "insulted" Father Domingos Soares, a priest known for his close ties to the independence movement. The commander than turned and fired a shot at the church's facade. He reportedly fired four more shots before people intervened and pulled the man away, Lusa reported.

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