Subject: LUSA: Bishop Belo Denounces People´s 'Apathy', Dependence on Aid

10 Jan 02 12:19 East Timor: Bishop Belo Denounces People´s 'Apathy', Dependence on Aid

East Timor´s religious leader, Catholic Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, lashed out Thursday against what he called his people´s "apathy" and "dependence" on aid in the face of the territory´s economic and social problems.

He urged international donors to review aid programs in order to promote "professional and technical training, foment initiative and provide help in conformity with the effort and knowledge of the Timorese".

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, interviewed by Lusa in Dili, said the UN-administered transition to independence had generated a situation in which people "only talk about politics.

"This is very pretty and sometimes such is easier than mentalizing people to the fact that they must work their fields and return to their villages", said Bishop Belo.

His criticism of the focus of many international aid programs and the resulting "mentality of dependence" echoed warnings he issued earlier this week in a pastoral letter.

In the letter, Belo noted that euphoria over the approach of independence, slated for May 20, was accompanied by 24 percent of the urban population and 60 percent of rural people existing below the poverty line.

In many instances, the bishop said, hungry people were refusing to plant crops with the argument that humanitarian organizations would come to their aid.

The role of East Timor´s dominant Catholic Church, he stressed, was not one of offering "technical solutions", but of "motivating people to actively participate in development programs".

SAS -Lusa-

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