|Support East Timor in your Community
By Kristin Sundell, ETAN National Field
ETAN was formed in late 1991, following the massacre of over 270 unarmed East Timorese
civilians. Several activists came together, believing that for change to happen in East
Timor, U.S. support for the Indonesian occupation would have to end. The media coverage
surrounding the Santa Cruz massacre provided an
unprecedented opportunity to create grassroots pressure.
Awakened by the Santa Cruz massacre, energized by the courage of the East Timorese
people, and outraged by the key supporting role the U.S.
has played throughout the Indonesian occupation, activists across the country joined
ETAN. They realized that East Timor exemplifies many other struggles for human rights,
corporate responsibility, and demilitarization. The struggle for East Timorese
self-determination is winnable, and if the U.S. and Indonesia reverse their present
course, a strong precedent will be set towards demilitarization and freedom in other parts
of the world.
East Timorese resistance leaders and academic analysts have identified changing U.S.
policy toward Indonesia as the most effective way to end the Indonesian occupation. ETAN
is working to convert Americans lack of knowledge
about East Timor into awareness, consciousness, and action. Our imperfect democracy
gives Americans more opportunities to act, at less risk, than people in East Timor or
We define our scope in several ways:
* We are single-issue, focusing on Indonesias occupation of East Timor and the
U.S. support of that occupation and genocide. However, we work with many peace, human
rights, religious, labor and other groups and networks which have East Timor as part of
their agenda. As East Timor is not a right or left issue, we work
with people and groups across the ideological spectrum.
* We see the East Timorese peoples right to self-determination as an integral
part of the solution to the current crisis there.
* We embrace a broad range of approaches from public education
to protest, lobbying to local organizing, resource production and distribution to media
ETANs small national staff and budget cannot reach the great majority of the
people in the United States. Much of ETANs work is carried on in local communities,
schools, peace and justice groups and religious institutions. Acting locally is key to
making national and global policy changes.
Although individual activists can accomplish much, several people struggling together
can do much more, as a local organizational structure magnifies and concretize our
efforts. In many communities, ETAN members have come together to form local chapters. In
addition to providing mutual support and education, and being able to take on more
ambitious projects, a formalized group is taken more seriously by the media, elected
officials, and other opinion leaders (and followers). Chapter members decide to work
together, on an ongoing basis, to educate their community about East Timor.
ETAN currently has fifteen active chapters around
the country. A chapter should include at least five committed people. Chapters receive
priority services from National ETAN, discounts on books and other resources, and
participation in ETAN national strategy decisions. Chapters do not pay dues to National
(or vice versa), although National sometimes makes loans to chapters to help them get off
the ground. Some chapters are city-based, while others are formed at a particular school
or university. ETANs structure is flexible, and each chapter is free to choose its
own structure, provided that its goals are consistent with ETAN and it is committed to
To become a chapter, a group should write a short statement describing goals and plans
for the chapter, introducing the folks who plan to be active members, and identifying a
steering committee representative and a contact person. For examples of statements or
organizing ideas, contact Kristin Sundell at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 518-877-8230. Ideally, the steering committee representative would have access to
e-mail, and be able to participate in discussions and meetings (every 1-2 years) of the
national Steering Committee, which includes one member chosen by each chapter. Requests
for chapter status should be sent to the ETAN national office, which forwards them to the
Steering Committee for approval.
National ETAN employs three staff people: a
Washington Representative, a Field Organizer, and a Media Coordinator. All are available
as resources to local ETAN chapters. If an individual or a group is not able to form a
chapter, they can also serve as a contact person for their area. The names of local
contacts may be given to other groups or individuals in the area interested in becoming
active on East Timor.
Local Organizing Ideas
Each ETAN chapter
independently decides which activities to undertake. However, educating the local
community about East Timor and lobbying elected officials are important parts of the work
of most chapters. Most also join in nationally-coordinated Days of Action, such as the
December 7 anniversary of Indonesias invasion of East Timor. A growing number of
groups are also targeting corporations involved in Indonesia for sanctions or divestment.
Possible local activities include:
* Setting up tables or distributing flyers at public events and in public spaces.
* Making presentations to college and high school classrooms, churches, human rights or
peace groups, etc.
* Letter-writing or phone campaigns to stop U.S. arms sales to Indonesia.
* Working with local media to provide op-eds, letters to the editor, and information to
improve coverage of East Timor.
* Organizing events for visiting speakers. ETAN organizes several national speaking
tours each year of East Timorese and Indonesian activists. We also have a speakers bureau
of U.S.-resident experts who are available at almost any time.
* Public demonstrations against the Indonesian occupation of East Timor and the
corporations and public institutions which support it.
* Meeting with Congressional representatives locally or in Washington as part of ETAN
* Sponsoring film or video screenings to raise consciousness and/or funds.
* Coordinating actions, events or conferences with others, such as groups dealing with
Burma, Nigeria, Tibet; Peace Action, Amnesty International; local peace and justice
* Working to pass state or city-wide legislation to institute sanctions against
corporations selling weapons to Indonesia, stealing East Timors resources, or
otherwise supporting the Suharto regime.