Subject: Antara - Belo moves to foster Muslim-Christianm Brotherhood
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 15:51:51 -0000
From: "Paula Pinto" <>

Wednesday, January 20, 1999



Dili, E Timor, Jan 20 (ANTARA) - For East Timor's Muslims, this year's Ied Fitr Holiday is unique. Catholic leader of Dili diocese bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo took the opportunity of the Lebaran Day to visit Muslims at their houses to foster inter-religous brotherhood.

The visit by bishop Belo to Muslim families in East Timor showed a new era in the relations between Muslims and Christians in the former Portuguese colony.

To his own account, Belo's presence among Muslim families in Kampung Alor, the village where Islam first developed in the 16th century in West Dili, is to retrace the visit of bishop Dom Jaime Garcia Goulart, the first Catholic leader who visited East Timor.

"I have to begin a new era for inter-religious relations, particularly between Islam and Christianity in East Timor. It is a reality for East Timor to accept homogenous religious adherants", Belo said.

The 1996 Nobel Peace Laureat said awareness of the need to accept homogenous religious reality constitutes a seed of peace in East Timor.

This has been stressed by East Timor's first bishop Dom Jaime Garcia Goulart, who said that life needed mutual assistance, not only among people of the same religion but also among different religious adherants.

The harmonious relations between Catholics and Muslims in East Timor began in 1940 when Muslim residents, who at that time were only found in Kampung Alor, built a moque in the village.

At that time, unexpectedly, bishop Goulart visited the Muslim families who were building the An Nur mosque in the village.

The bishop offered his assitance and provided brick for the development of the mosque. Upon completion, Goulart observed the mosque again, and frequently attended the celebrations of Muslim holidays held in the mosque.

"Bishop Goulart always greeted the Muslims in Kampung Alor as Arab brothers for most of them were Arab descendants", Belo said, adding that difference of religions never caused quarrals to East Timorese.

Must be Fostered According to Bishop Belo, the spirit of solidarity and togetherness should continue to be fostered, particularly by the succeeding generations of East Timor.

In a modern era marked by communications advancement, there is no single religion or belief which is inclusive for an island, region or continent, the bishop said.

He said that the success for an Islam-Christian dialog could be achieved only if religious arrogance is scrapped and the readiness to co-exist with freedom and openness is developed.

"That's why, at a time after the collapse of a regime that often caused the disruption of Muslim-Catholic harmonious relations, we have to start a new era and foster common (ly beneficial) relations", he said.

H. Abdullah M. Sagran, chairman of East Timor's Ulemas Council (MUI), said that the visit by bishop Belo to Kampung Alor's Muslim families is a hint for Muslims to have open dialogs.

He hoped that the good relations between Muslims and Catholics that developed before East Timor's integration into Indonesia can be continued, and be given new substance in the current reform era.

"East Timor's Muslims are happy to see bishop Belo's readiness to retrace his predicessor's visit to Mosque An Nur in Kampung Alor", the MUI chairman said.

For Belo himself, his presence in the Muslim village convinced him that all East Timorese must accept all religious values which they mutually share together.

"My presence in Alor village strengthens inter-religious dialog.

Muslim-Christian dialog has become increasingly urgent", he said.

(U.SDP194/Peter T/M Hari A/RI1/TaA/ri2/20:29) 2001992030 Modified Time: Wednesday, January 20, 1999 21:15:42 +0700 Copyright © 1998 : LKBN ANTARA & RADNET

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