Subject: UCAN: Youths Climb Mountain To Promote Brotherhood, End Division

ET03672.1469 October 29, 2007 46 EM-lines (534 words)

EAST TIMOR Youths Climb Mountain To Promote Brotherhood, End Division

HATO BUILICO, East Timor (UCAN) -- Young pilgrims from Dili and Baucau dioceses honored the Blessed Mother and renewed their faith by climbing Timor Leste's highest mountain to pray and reflect together.

About 9,000 youths camped on the top of Ramelau Oct. 11-12 to mark the 10th anniversary of the installation of a Marian statue at the summit, 2,960 meters high. The statue was brought from Italy and installed on the summit in 1997 with the aim of making Mary the patron of East Timor, then under Indonesian rule but fully independent as Timor Leste (Portuguese for East Timor) since 2002.

Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva of Dili, Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau and hundreds of priests and nuns accompanied the youths.

Bishop da Silva told the gathering at the summit, "We are motivated to gather young people here from all over the country, and we hope this can strengthen the love and brotherhood among them, for we know that young people have been used as instruments to cause violence."

The bishop expressed his hope the gathering would especially strengthen brotherhood between the youths from the east and west, and inspire them to be agents of the Gospel and of peace within families and communities.

Clashes pitting "easterners" against "westerners" erupted in April and May 2006 following the dismissal of 600 soldiers, mainly westerners, from the 1,400-strong army. Up to 37 people were killed and about 150,000 displaced by the violence, mostly in and around the capital. Clashes continued sporadically but eventually subsided until this August, when youths in the Baucau area went on a rampage after the party they supported won the most seats in parliament but the second-place party formed a coalition government.

In light of the problems in this country of 1 million people, more than 90 percent of them Catholics, Bishop da Silva said young Catholics need to ask themselves: "Who am I and what is my responsibility as a youth?"

The thousands of young people climbed to the summit from the village of Hato Builico, at the foot of the mountain, 125 kilometers south of Dili, for the gathering.

Standing on the top, Jose Valenete, 23, a Catholic from Baucau diocese, told UCA News the pilgrimage opened his heart, deepened his faith and honored Mother Mary as a "bridge" to eternal life in heaven.

Valenete stressed that the presence of youths from the two dioceses that cover the country -- Baucau in the west and Dili in the east -- shows the youth are united, even though some may have fallen into a "political trap."

He said young people should dedicate their lives to Jesus by avoiding a sinful life. "We can only live in peace if we follow the words of Jesus, because the words of Jesus are full of peaceful things," he said.

Marcia Exposto, 18, from Dili, told UCA News that through this pilgrimage she gained hope that she will not suffer any more from the difficult situation she faced during the political crisis but can now move forward.

Timor Leste also faces humanitarian and economic challenges. The country has significant offshore oil and gas reserves, but the unemployment rate hovers at around 50 percent.


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