Subject: SMH: Forgive and look to the future, Belo urges mourners

Sydney Morning Herald Date: 13/11/99

Forgive and look to the future, Belo urges mourners

By PAUL DALEY, Herald Correspondent in Dili

East Timor's spiritual leader, Bishop Carlos Belo, has used the eighth anniversary of the Dili massacre to appeal to his people to forgive the Indonesian military and militias and to build a tolerant, multi-racial society.

Speaking at a special dawn Mass at Dili's Motael Church, before 15,000 people marched in procession to the site of the massacre, the Santa Cruz cemetery, Bishop Belo paid tribute to the many young East Timorese who had given their lives to the cause of independence.

The young, he said, were the heroes of East Timor's struggle. At the same time, he urged the young to look forward and not to view their former oppressors with rancour.

He said between 3,000 and 5,000 people had been killed at Suai in the south-west of the territory in the three months to last July.

He put the death toll in the Dili massacre at at least 200 - in contrast to the 19 first claimed by the Indonesian military or the later official figure of 50.

''In Suai during May, June and July the victims are from 3,000 to 5,000, thrown in the lake and eaten by crocodiles. In Maubara and Liquicia many bodies are thrown between the coffee plants and eaten by pigs,'' Bishop Belo said.

''In September ... many young people are dead and suffering. So, from now ... let's recognise that the young people are truly heroes. But I'd like to advise all of you that ... all young people should ... look forward and be brave.

''Your bravery doesn't mean that you should fight against the militia or Javanese or Indonesian military. But be brave with high morality and according to the religious way, that is to get solidarity, mutual respect, peace, justice and love and work.''

Bishop Belo reminded the congregation of the murder in the Motael churchyard that led to the massacre in the cemetery two weeks later on November 12, 1991.

On October 28, 1991, 18-year-old Sebastiao Gomes was killed by Indonesian soldiers who left his body at Motael. Two weeks later, troops fired on mourners who had marched to Santa Cruz cemetery to commemorate Gomes's death.

Bishop Belo said no territory in the world had gained independence ''through the condition of happiness, music and songs''. East Timor, he said, had been no exception.

''Since 1975 until yesterday many ... people died. Among all the victims ...we take our considerations especially for the young people who represent the role of the Church in East Timor.''

Pascoa da Costa, a 26-year-old student wounded during the 1991 massacre and a friend of Sebastiao Gomes, said that yesterday was cause for celebration because it was the first time in 24 years East Timorese could mourn without the scrutiny of Indonesian troops. ''We have won a very important battle,'' he said.


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