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NOBEL ACCEPTANCE SPEECH By Bishop Belo (excerpts)

Bishop Belo's Nobel speech (fwd)

A shepherd in the midst of suffering in E Timor

The Nation, Bangkok, Dec 12, 1996. 

Peace laureate, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, gave his acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize at Oslo City Hall on Tuesday. The following are excerpts. 

What reasons, brought the Catholic bishop of East Timor to be here in the presence of this assembly? I come from a social context that is already known to your excellencies, where, due to circumstances, the aspirations and desires of the people are limited.

Taking the words from Terentius: ''Homo sum; humani hihil a me alienum puto" -- (Terentius 1, 1,25). As a man, as a human being, I cannot stay indifferent in front of what concerns man.

As a member of a people, I have to share the destiny of the people, taking upon myself completely this mandate, knowing the risks that such attitude will involve. Striving for the defence of the rights of all people is not only the privilege of those guiding the destiny of the people or those enjoying lofty positions in society, but it is the duty of everyone whatever rank or status.

The Catholic bishop is a pastor of a part of God's people. His specific mission is spiritual. Such a mission is incumbent upon him basically as a dispenser of spiritual resources for the salvation of persons and consolidating them in faith in Jesus Christ. But mankind is not limited to a spiritual dimension, one should be saved as a whole, human and spiritual. In this aspect, any Catholic bishop shall never be indifferent when a people's possibilities for human realisation, in all dimensions, are not respected.

So the Nobel Peace Prize, attributed to a Catholic bishop, is not an homage for one person but also basically the gratitude for the encouragement that the Catholic church has developed over the centuries in defence and promotion of the rights of human beings.

It is known to your excellencies, the efforts of the church concerning the suffering of the people of East Timor over the last twenty one years. As bishop of this people, I regard the Nobel Peace Prize not as something to merely esteem one person but as the rightful homage for the work done by the Catholic church in East Timor, defending the inalienable rights of her people.

I do believe for sure that among us we have something in common, that is we affirm that the human being is the subject of all concept and human activities. We declare that one's value and dignity does not depend on the individual's belief, religion, politics, philosophy, race or colour of skin. 

Man is a being for freedom. It means that one's realisation is complete when capable to decide about one's options and taking responsibility for his or her actions without any kind of intimidation. Man is a being realised in a community. It means that the social and ethnic group one belongs to is the background for his or her fulfilment. Man is a being realised when there is a reciprocity of respect. It means that wherever human beings are not respected in their elementary rights by those in charge or by those responsible in society, as a consequence, we have oppression, slavery, arrogance, arbitrariness, death of individuals and death of a people. I am profoundly honoured to be before you today to receive the Nobel prize for peace. But whatever personal compliment I may receive, I believe that I have received this high tribute not because of who I am or what I have done. I firmly believe that I am here essentially as the voice of the voiceless people of East Timor who are with me today in spirit, if not in person. And what the people want is peace, an end to violence and the respect for their human rights. It is my fervent hope that the 1996 Nobel prize for peace will advance these goals. 

Above all, above all else, I am mindful and humble in my thoughts of Pope John Paul 11, who did so much in the face of overwhelming odds in the epochal struggle to remove the yoke of communism from Poland and other nations who have been told to be realistic and accept their fate.

I also think of others, especially from Asia who have never stood here. I contemplate with unending amazement the work of Mahatma Gandhi and his creed of non-violence in the movement for change. I think of China, and I pray for the well-being of Wei Jingsheng and his colleagues, and hope that they will soon be liberated from their jail cells, just at Indonesian leaders once were freed from the infamous Boven Digul prison after long years of cruel captivity. Surely, these same Indonesian leaders had earned a place here in Oslo even before I was born in 1948, at the height of their battle for freedom and dignity. I think of the fearless Indonesian fighters and I realise that history has so much to teach us if we would only take time to contemplate its richness.

I stand humbled in the august presence of my predecessors in this place here in Oslo. I think of the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr, ''standing in the mountain top, looking out at the promised land." These words remind me of the view of the majestic mountains in my beloved East Timor =AD Mount Matabean (the Mountain of the Dead), near where I was born in the east; and Mount Ramelau in the west. As I look at these mountains in my frequent journeys to the lives of the people of my homeland, it is high time that there be authentic dialogue.

All people of goodwill must use very peaceful means of human ingenuity and intelligence to find ways to create a genuine peace based on mutual respect and human dignity.

East Timor is hardly alone in its search for peace and dignity, and it is of great importance to acknowledge the work of others.

Last year, I met His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, and was deeply moved by his wisdom and kindness. The people of Tibet are never far from my prayers. In Burma, I salute the strength and grace of Aung San Suu Kyi, and pray that a better day may soon arrive for her and all her people. May the beauty of music from her piano soften the hearts of armies and nations. In Burma and throughout the world in places known and not well known, let us apply the words in the fifth chapter of Amos of the Old Testament: ''Let Justice roll down like waters."

The world censures those who take up arms to defend their causes and all call on them to use non-violent means in voicing their grievances. But when a people chooses the non-violent path, it is all too often the case that hardly anyone pays attention. It is tragic that people have to suffer and die and the television cameras have to deliver the pictures to people's homes everyday before the world at large admits there is a problem.

I speak of these things as one who has the responsibility to bear witness to what I have seen and heard, to react to what I know to be true, to keep the flame of hope alive, to do what is possible to warm the earth for still another day. I speak as a spiritual leader, not as a politician, which in fact, I am not.

People in East Timor are not uncompromising. They are not unwilling to forgive and overcome their bitterness. On the contrary, they yearn for peace, peace within their community and peace in their region. They wish to build bridges with their Indonesian brothers and sisters to find ways of creating harmony and tolerance.

Mutual respect is the basis of compromise. Let us start by making a sincere effort to change the very serious human rights situation in East Timor. As a first step, the release of East Timor political prisoners has to be given urgent attention, in accordance with the section on humanitarianism in the Panca Sila, the five principles of Indonesia's state ideology.

Such a step would help create an important opening on the road to peace.

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