Subject: JP: Foundation to send 5 E. Timorese children home

The Jakarta Post December 28, 2002

Foundation to send E. Timorese children home

Harapan Timor (Timor's Hope), otherwise known as the HATI foundation, has pledged to return five East Timorese children from schools and orphanages in Java to their families in refugees camps following demands from the East Timorese refugees.

HATI chairwoman Natercia M. J. O Soares said on Friday those children would be returned to their parents because the refugees did not trust the foundation anymore.

"The children arrived in Kupang on Dec. 24. We will soon escort them to their families," said Natercia who is also a legislator in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara.

The five children are Domingas de Jesus, Cacilda da Silva, Josefa da Silva, Angelina da Costa, and Joaquim da Silva. They will meet their families in refugees camps in the Belu regency, East Nusa Tenggara, Antara reported.

Meantime, Hukman Reni, a lawyer for the HATI foundation, said that the foundation would return 20 children from schools in Central Java to their families in the next batch.

Natercia revealed that there were still 156 children staying in orphanages in Java in order to receive better education.

All schools and orphanages where the children are staying belong to Catholic foundations, HATI said.

Natercia said that families of the 156 children trusted her foundation.

Nevertheless, not all East Timorese refugees wanted their children back.

Filomeno Same, whose son George Xaves is in grade 6 at Santo Thomas elementary school in Jimbaran, Bali, said that he would not urge the foundation to bring his son back.

Another refugee, Filomeno, said his son was studying in Java and he was happy with that.

"I am glad my son is getting an education in Java because life in the camps is miserable," said Filomeno.

There have been accusations made about HATI and other social welfare groups that they are not cooperating with the UN to repatriate the wanted children.

TIME magazine, for instance, reported that some East Timorese children had been "forced" to convert to Islam at some Islamic orphanages to get education and better nutrition.

The magazine reported that during the bloody insurrection in East Timor, a man called Hasan Basri met residents in Venelale and asked them if they wanted to give their children in order for them to get education and food.

The only requirement was that the children convert from Catholicism, which is practiced by most East Timorese, to Islam, the religion of their Indonesian guardians.

According to the magazine, the United Nations has estimated there are 400 children scattered in orphanages and homes throughout Indonesia.

Despite the intervention of international agencies and repeated requests from parents for their return, many remain under the guardianship of people like Hasan who want to raise them as Muslims.


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