Message on the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Occupation of East Timor by Indonesia

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Ottawa CCCB - On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the occupation of East Timor by Indonesia, the members of the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops wish to express their solidarity and their support to the people of East Timor who are demanding recognition of their basic human rights.

Struggling for their political, economic, social and cultural rights since the forced annexation which is not recognized by the international community, the people of East Timor have had to face the severe repression of the Indonesian armed forces.

Despite repeated appeals from the international community in favor of a negotiated settlement to this conflict, the government of Indonesia, (which, since 1992, has timidly consented to discussions) hesitates again to advance in negotiations with representatives of the people of East Timor.

Aware of the complexity of these diplomatic discussions, we once again invite the Canadian government to manifest its support for a negotiated solution. More particularly, we request that the Government of Canada:

  • exercise political, diplomatic, commercial and economic pressure at the multilateral and bilateral levels in order to encourage the Indonesian authorities to opt for a clear political solution to the conflict and to engage in good faith negotiations with representatives of the people of East Timor;
  • direct Canadian foreign aid via non-governmental organizations;
  • demand the retreat of Indonesian security forces from East Timor;
  • stop issuing licenses for the export of military equipment and technology to Indonesia;
  • denounce and condemn the violations of human rights exercised by the Indonesian military;
  • demand that the government of Indonesia cease the repression that has already created too many victims.

Neither the people of God of the Diocese of Dili nor their pastors have been spared. Pastoral workers and pastors have been subjected to harassment, arrests, prolonged detentions, interrogations and even assassinations, among which the November 1991 massacre at the Dili Cemetery is undoubtedly the best known.

We wish to emphasize the critical pastoral role and ministry of Bishop Belo and the people of his diocese who denounce the military abuses and who work to make negotiations progress towards the identification of a solution respectful of the rights of the people of East Timor. We applaud their efforts and what they have accomplished, often amid difficult conditions, and we assure them of our solidarity and our prayers.

We invite the members of Canadian Christian communities to become aware of the situation, to pressure their Members of Parliament to demand that the Canadian Government energetically intervene with the Indonesian authorities. We also invite them to join us in prayer for our brothers and sisters of the diocese of Dili, who, inspired by the message of peace and justice willed to us by Jesus, are working for the building of a more just and fraternal world.

+François Thibodeau, cjm
Bishop of Edmundston
Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

For More Information Contact:
Deacon William Kokesch
Director, Communications Service


Last Updated on Tuesday, August 15 2006  
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On January 13th 2010, Most Reverend Vincent Nguyen became Canada’s first Catholic Bishop of East Asian descent. He is the great-grandson of a Vietnamese Martyr.