spacer Suara Timor Timur, March 3, 1999
Open Letter from the Carmelite Community of Maubara

Note from the editor: this open letter was received by the editors of the daily Voice of East Timor (STT) on March 3, 1999 around 1:45 pm. The letter was brought in person by the sisters from the community.

Dear Readers:

For the attention of the local authority and the security forces in the Liquica district, we along with all of the people at the Kampong Mrae, also those who reside in Maubara and other kampongs, have felt very insecure for the past two months. We are afraid to stay home, especially at night, do not feel secure to work in the fields or to fish in the sea, and neither feel secure to travel around. We all feel trapped in worry and uncertainty about the security situation in the area of Maubara. This is what we have experienced since January 1999 until early March 1999. Almost every night our community is packed with people who do not dare to sleep in their own homes.

They take refuge in our community with all the goods they can possibly bring along. Being driven by our faith in Jesus Christ, who equalized himself with the poor (Matthew 25:40, 45), and our real contemplation of the living motto of the source of our inspiration, Prophet Elijah: "I work as dilligently as possible for God of the Universe" (I Kings), also because of humanitarian reasons, we accept them in our community and give them a place to sleep. Unfortunately, due to limitations of space, many of the refugees have to sleep outdoors or on the terrace of our house.

The next morning they returned to their homes, and what did they find out? Their homes were ransacked, all the goods they were not able to carry away before were missing, some of the homes were even burnt down. Since then our shelter has become a place to store the goods the people can not carry around. Those who take refuge in our place confess that they are afraid of the terror, burning and ransacking of houses, the death threats they say were made by the paramilitary groups that are in action in Maubara (Besi Merah Putih).

Our position as a religious community is dilemmatic. On the one hand, we are very concerned with the condition of the people who are living under threats and terror daily, and we are prepared to save their lives. We also do not have the heart to let them sleep outdoors.

On the other hand, we are aware that we do not have any special force to help them aside from sitting with them while waiting for dawn to come, making casual conversations merely to reduce the intensity of the situation, soothe and encourage them to keep believing in God even though our feeling actually is not too different from them: we also feel unsafe, threatened, afraid and unfree to go to our place of work.

Moreover, by accepting these people in our community, we also feel threatened. Considering that our place has become a refuge, we are worried that we will be accused of harboring people who are suspected as members or sympathizers of this or that group. It is likely that our place can become a target of the combatants.

Through this open letter, we would like to ask the local authority and the security forces in Maubara sub-district and Liquica district whether the tense situation in Maubara can be ignored? The burning of the houses, the forcing of people to join a certain group, the feeling afraid and unsafe to stay at home, to go to work or to travel -- this is what the civilians of Maubara are experiencing. Or, have the security forces heard nothing at all about the actions by certain groups in Maubara? Obviously these actions have caused suffering to the people: they have been forced to bear considerable mental stress, they can not work in the fields freely and they have had to suspend other economic activities.

We expect that the local authority and the security forces in the area of Liquica district and Maubara sub-district pay attention to and resolve the tension which has such a considerable impact on the people at large.

This is all we can say in this open letter. We would only be very grateful if the local authority and law enforcement officials are willing to consider the poor people of Maubara.

Carmelite Community of Maubara

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