Subject: Church in Atambua to open reconciliation dialogue

Saturday, 29 July 2000

NTT Ekspres ­ “Church in Atambua to open reconciliation dialogue”

ATAMBUA - The Bishop of Atambua, who oversees the regions of TTU and Belu, will soon hold reconciliation dialogue for E. Timor youth, especially former members of the PPI (Integration Struggle Force). This announcement was made by head of the Bishop’s Youth Committee, Pastor Maksi Bria in Atambua, Friday (28/7) in relation to the diocese plans to work with Catholic Relief Services in accompaniment of former PPI members. “We have already planned a reconciliation dialogue for former PPI members and there is a good likelihood the meeting will be held in Atambua with as many youth as possible attending from both Belu and TTU.” It is hoped that in this meeting the youth can share their thoughts and express their aspirations to develop friendship and peace with youth in E. Timor. He admitted that if E. Timorese youth are now scattered throughout thousands of refugee tents in NTT they would need lots of time to return to the land of their birth in E. Timor. “But in this dialogue there is a good possibility they will give alternative suggestions, if they don’t return to E. Timor how they will continue to live as Indonesian citizens born in E. Timor,” he said. It is just possible that there will be political negotiation between former PPI youth and Falintil and CNRT youth on behalf of peace and reconciliation for all E. Timorese. An integration youth leader, Agapito Pirres, supported the initiative for a reconciliation dialogue of E. Timor youth in Atambua: “We are very supportive of all efforts at reconciliation and peace for the people of E. Timor. We probably won’t go home to E. Timor but live in Indonesia, so what are the concrete steps so that relations between Indonesia and E. Timor can be improved in the future?” he said. He said that E. Timor youth in Indonesia hope that the church in NTT can be the go-between for pro-integrationists and the people of Timor Lorosae. The source for all reconciliation is mutual respect for each sides decisions about citizenship, whether to be citizens of Indonesia or Timor Leste. “More than that, all future developments in Timor Leste must come within the parameters of Indonesian culture, not western culture like what is seen now, what more considering that President Gus Dur has already stressed that Indonesia can live without E. Timor, but E. Timor can’t live without Indonesia,” said Agapito Pirres. 

A day earlier, Pedro Pereira and Apolinario da Silva, two E. Timor leaders, met with Atambua Bishop, Anton Pain Ratu, to discuss various reconciliation efforts. “We all realize how pressing reconciliation is for the people of E. Timor. Without it, the E. Timor problem won’t be resolved and political flames will continue to burn,” said Pereira. Ever since the arrival of refugees in NTT, the Catholic church in Atambua has wanted at some point for reconciliation to be discussed by all E. Timorese. To realize this, the church has not only given humanitarian assistance but has had continuous contact with the two bishops in E. Timor so that as soon as possible they can find a way towards reconciliation dialogue. This approach was evident with the visit of Baucau Bishop, Mgr. Basilio do Nascimento in early June to several refugee tents in NTT. Bishop Pain Ratu and Catholic youth have also met with Vice President Megawati to discuss problems related to handling E. Timor refugees. According to Pereira, Bishop Belo has sent a letter to Bishop Pain Ratu and apparently he too wants to create a climate conducive to dialogue for reconciliation. Refugees in NTT, who now number more than 100,000, hope that Bishop Pain Ratu can visit E. Timor on behalf of a reconciliation mission. Such a visit will enable the refugees to know directly the real condition of Timor Lorosae and know the expectations of the two E. Timor Bishops as well as pro-independence supporters for pro-integrationists. “As a church leader, I am making an effort to facilitate all the good desires of the E. Timorese refugees. Whatever the situation, the people of E. Timor are our own brothers and certainly desire to live as good neighbors in the future…. May the harmonious life that has been present in NTT among members of different religions not be marred by the destructive actions of refugees,” said Bishop Pain Ratu. 

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