Subject: CNS: East Timor bishop apologizes for rioting, attack on mosque


East Timor bishop apologizes for rioting, attack on mosque

By Catholic News Service

DILI, East Timor (CNS) -- An East Timorese bishop has apologized to the country's Muslim community for the involvement of Catholics in an early December attack on a mosque.

Bishop Basilio do Nascimento, apostolic administrator of Dili and Bacau, met with Muslim leaders Dec. 25 and also promised to promote interreligious initiatives, reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand.

"Following the example of the Holy Father, who repeatedly apologized for wrongdoings of Catholics all over the world, we must apologize for the wrongdoing of Catholics to other religions here," the bishop told five Muslim leaders who visited him Christmas Day.

Bishop do Nascimento became apostolic administrator of Dili Nov. 26, following the resignation of Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo.

During the Muslim leaders' visit, Bishop do Nascimento apologized for rioting in early December when a mob set fire to An'nur Mosque in Dili, East Timor's main Muslim worship place. He said Catholics who took part in the burning of the mosque were still not ready to accept religious pluralism.

The rioters also burned or damaged the parliament building, the Muslim prime minister's house, and shops and hotels in Dili, East Timor's capital. The two-day violence began after police on Dec. 3 shot and killed two students protesting police action during the arrest of another student at a school.

In an interview with UCA News, Bishop do Nascimento said he was "ashamed" by the December rioting.

"The incident really has a very bad impact on our country. How can we now ask for more foreign aid? Who will be willing to keep helping us? East Timor people should guard against such an anarchic action and not let it happen again in the future," the bishop said.

The bishop also told UCA News that the development of Catholic schools would be a priority of the church in order to "help produce quality human resources" in East Timor.

During the meeting with Muslim leaders, Abdullah Balafif, who spoke on behalf of the Muslim visitors, told Bishop do Nascimento that the delegation's aim was "to convey our greetings as (an) expression of tolerance and solidarity, and to discuss several issues with local Catholic Church leaders."

The Muslim leaders proposed establishing a national interreligious forum to promote cooperation and settle various problems. Bishop do Nascimento welcomed the idea, saying it was in line with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, which promoted interreligious dialogue.

"Through the forum, we can settle various religious problems," the bishop said.

The bishop offered the use of a church-owned radio station for Muslims to broadcast their interreligious programs and activities. "If you want it, just contact us. We can arrange the timetable," he said.

Bishop do Nascimento also told his Muslim guests that he plans to invite Islamic teachers to teach in the minor seminary, because that kind of involvement "would help widen our seminarians' knowledge of Islam."

Catholics constitute about 92 percent of East Timor's 800,000 people. Muslims account for 2 percent, Protestants 4 percent, Hindus 0.2 percent, Buddhists 0.1 percent, and animists 1.7 percent.



Back to January menu
December 2002
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from