|United States Catholic Conference
Department of Social Development and World Peace
3211 4th Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20017
Letters to Bishop Belo and Secretary of State Madeleine
Most Reverend Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, S.D.B.
Dear Bishop Belo,
As we Bishops of the United States are about to meet in our Spring Assembly, I am reminded of your presence among us at the Kansas City Assembly last year. It was a great pleasure to have you with us at that time, and I was particularly pleased that you were able to be my guest in Newark. At this historic juncture, our Conference is eager to lend whatever support we can to make the promise of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize a reality. We believe that the United States government should impress upon the new Indonesian administration the need for a prompt resolution of the East Timor issue, based upon the freely expressed wishes of the people and in accord with the resolutions of the United Nations.
Attached is a copy of a letter I have just sent to Secretary Albright expressing those views. I extend warm personal greetings to you and to Bishop Do Nascimento, assuring you of the continued solidarity of our Conference with the Church in East Timor.
Fraternally yours in Christ,
The aforementioned attached letter follows:
June 5, 1998
The Honorable Madeleine K. Albright
Dear Madame Secretary,
For many years now, the Catholic Bishops of the United States have expressed their concern about the religious and civil liberties of the people of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. We are aware that you also have shared these concerns, and we recall especially your visit to Indonesia as our U.N. Ambassador in September of 1995 during which you addressed the continuing problem of the human rights situation.
Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo of Dili, recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, has commented recently on the continued civil disturbances that are causing great suffering and growing resentment on the part of the people of East Timor, disturbances caused largely, in the bishop's view, by the heavy-handed excesses of the Indonesian military in the territory.
In view of the recent changes within the Indonesian government, this would seem an appropriate time for the United States to press anew for a speedy resolution of the East Timor status question that, with the good offices of the United Nations, must be based on the freely expressed wishes of the people of East Timor.
While that longer-term goal is all-important, I would urge that the United States advocate an immediate and genuine reduction of the Indonesian military presence in East Timor, the release of prisoners incarcerated for purely political reasons, the guarantee of freedom of speech and assembly, and an end to abuses of peoples' human rights. Minimizing the military presence and ending abuses could greatly enhance the prospects for a genuine solution of the East Timor tragedy.
With all best wishes, I remain