Subject: XG: 2003 Path to Peace Award Acceptance



New York, 12 June 2003


Archbishop Renato Martino,

Archbishop Celestino Migliore,

Monsignor Charlesbois,

Members of the Executive Board of the Path to Peace Foundation,

Mr and Mrs Ceradini,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to start by extending my gratitude to the Path to Peace Foundation for the honour of awarding this Prize to me. I wish to dedicate this Prize to the People of Timor-Leste for their stoicism in the struggle for freedom and Peace.

I also wish to thank the Foundation for this wonderful opportunity of making me feel a citizen of an island, facing the magnificent city of New York.

Timor-Leste is finally able to initiate the building of its own path to Peace after more than two decades of war that ended in a brutal and violent manner in September 1999.

The designation of the Prize and the Foundation - ‘Path to Peace’ unmistakably reflects the dynamics of the peace-building process. It is, undoubtedly a long path with numerous and complex factors determining its outcome.

Given the experience from its recent history, the People of Timor-Leste has come to know well the meaning of Peace. For this reason it is committed to preserving this asset, which was attained with such hardship.

Peace can only be enjoyed by society if each individual is at peace. The war brought great suffering and grief, and the violence bred restless minds, conducts and behaviours.

It is for this reason that building peace must begin within the mind and spirit of each citizen.

This is a process that is mostly based on the reconciliation of mind and spirit.

To be reconciled with the ‘other’ and with society depends greatly on the ability to reconcile with one’s self. This is the hardest part of the process and will lead to reconciliation with God … because, in this world, only children are innocent!

Peace must arise from people’s behaviour and it can only be established in a society when it thrives in the conscience of each individual as a treasure to be protected and cherished.

When we fail in attaining this, the need for revenge will prevail over the need for tolerance; the feeling of hatred will prevail over the need for forgiveness. No society can institute social harmony if hatred and revenge take over the hearts of people.

In Timor-Leste, we uphold justice to honour it; we do not regard justice as a vindictive act based on ‘you made me suffer so you too must suffer’!

In a post-conflict situation such as ours it is crucial to undertake a collective, steadfast effort to eradicate from everyone’s mind the need to adopt punitive acts as a means to avoid possible collective trauma of the population.

There is no collective trauma amongst the people and we must avoid sowing the seeds for it to become part of a national identity or heritage of the most honourable ones. The people, as a whole, accepted undertaking every needed sacrifice, including the loss of life itself, so that the country could be free, as a condition for freedom.

The difficult exercise that must be made now is to avoid minimising such sacrifices but rather award them due value and honour them.

On May 20, 2002, the People of Timor-Leste rejoiced for achieving, ‘de facto’ and ‘de jure’, the ideal which they had been fighting for centuries.

I wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Most Reverend Archbishop Renato Martino, for being personally present at that historic day, as a Representative of the Holy See, in a profound act of faith and assertiveness.

For one year now, we have experienced the difficult path that will lead us to the future. Peace cannot simply emerge from the serenity of minds; peace can only be built on the solid foundations of the respect for Human Rights, democracy and social justice.

We are determined to cultivate a culture of Peace, which will become the basis for individual tranquillity and collective security of Timorese society.

We are still undergoing the phase of State building, both at the level of institutions and the rule of law.

It is at this difficult but crucial beginning that we are committed to undertaking initiatives to ensure a democratic experience by having the ongoing participation of the population in the districts.

Individual and collective involvement of people and the communities will enable our people to become the main actor in the development of the country, based on their direct participation in the debates on their needs, in the definition of their priorities and in the search for solutions.

The personal and community involvement of citizens will yet be another way of ensuring democratic values, the respect for difference and tolerance and the awareness of social justice to encompass everyone.

Democracy and sense of justice will be the pillars of social stability and peace in Timor-Leste.

We have no doubt that building Peace is the greatest contribution we can offer our people, the South-East Asian region and the international community.

It is within this spirit that we continue to actively work to forge better relations of cooperation with Indonesia and, consequently with all the neighbours in the area. This Prize which I accept today as the representative of the Democratic State of Timor-Leste, is an encouragement to continue on this path.

We urge the international community States and NGOs to sustain the same level of engagement, interest and support to the process in Timor-Leste. The support provided thus far to the Timorese process has been precious; to maintain it will be a paramount contribution to the noble objective of guaranteeing that the Path to Peace if fully accomplished.

I wish to extend my gratitude to the members of the Executive Board of the Path to Peace Foundation as they are responsible for my nomination for the Prize. Your gesture reveals, first and foremost, the recognition of the effort undertaken towards peace-building and the development of Timor-Leste.

Allow me to address a special word to our friend Archbishop Renato Martino the person who holds the main responsibility for my being here today with you. My heartfelt gratitude for the sensitivity and in-depth understanding you have always shown towards Timor-Leste.

Thank you very much.

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