Subject: CNS: Timorese bishop in United States seeking support

East Timorese bishop in United States seeking support for development

By Stephen Steele Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A fledgling, undeveloped judicial system and lack of human resources has delayed the progress of justice in East Timor, said the country's bishop.

Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Bacau said justice for victims of past violence was among several issues facing East Timor, which officially became an independent nation in May 2002.

The bishop, visiting the United States May 4-10 to promote development, said justice has eluded the Timorese because of the lack of resources.

"The general feeling of the East Timorese is that we need reconciliation, but this doesn't mean we have to avoid justice," he told Catholic News Service May 5.

Bishop do Nascimento, who was named apostolic administrator of Dili last November following the retirement of Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, said East Timor has struggled with its transition to a democracy.

"Democracy is a new concept to us. We have no idea of the duties of each other in this new society," he said.

The bishop said the church can be an effective advocate in helping the East Timorese rebuild their society while not abandoning their values.

He said that as freedom has grown in East Timor so have social ills that had not previously been so overt, specifically child prostitution. Prostitutes have arrived from Thailand and Philippines to serve foreign workers, he said.

"A lot of this is the fault of the international community," he said, referring to the hundreds of U.N. workers still operating in the country. "But it is not solely their fault.

"For many years Timorese society was closed to the outside. We have all these new influences. But it doesn't mean we have to abandon our values," he said. "What is good has to be defended, but what is bad is still bad."

While in the United States, Bishop do Nascimento met with church, government and nongovernmental organization officials, seeking support for several development projects that the church is promoting.

The church is in the initial stages of developing a Catholic university on the island, which the bishop said will contribute to the development of East Timor. He said the church, once the most vital Timorese force during the Indonesian occupation, can play an important role in the formation of the East Timorese through education.


05/08/2003 11:08 AM ET

Copyright (c) 2003 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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