Subject: AKI: Mosque Sheltering Hundreds Of Christians During Ongoing Violence

EAST TIMOR: Mosque Sheltering Hundreds Of Christians During Ongoing Violence

Dili, 18 Dec. (AKI) - More than 400 Christians have been sheltered in East Timor's capital, Dili's largest mosque since Friday, when fighting between rival gangs forced them to flee. Dili Annur Mosque coordinator, Anwar da Costa, told AdnKronos International (AKI) that the refugees live near the mosque, at the capital's 'kampung' [village] Alor.

"We have received more than four hundred people. Most of them are women, children and elderly people. They are utterly terrified of the martial art gangs fighting near the mosque," da Costa, 32, told AKI on Monday.

"Most of these people are not Muslim. They are Christian and are our neighbors, living near the mosque. But we accept anyone who is in danger. Islam does not discriminate. It is really about humanity," he added, specifying that Christians were housed in the mosque compound, but not inside the mosque building, a place considered off-limits for non-Muslims.

"They do not enter to the mosque building. They are respecting our holy place," he said.

Among those sheltering in the mosque compound, together with his wife and three children, is Armando Soares, 45, who appealed for more action from the government.

"I urge President Xanana Gusmao and prime minister Ramos to immediately deploy police and soldiers to quell the situation. We can not live in a situation like this," Soares told AKI

Luciana Mendonca (27) housewife at the mosque with her two children, told AKI that she had been here before.

"I was here when the crisis began in April. I returned home last September, but since last Friday my family and I have taken refugee at the mosque again because the fighting is getting worse in the area," she said.

Sunday saw over 100 people caught up in fighting in Kampung Alor. One person was reported dead and more than 12 people have been killed in violence in recent weeks.

East Timor has seen sporadic violence since May when over 600 soldiers were dismissed by then prime minister Mari Alkatiri, after that they had gone on strike complaining of discrimination.

Rival police and army factions battled in the streets and clashes later spilled over into widespread gang warfare, looting and arson.

At least 37 people were killed and 155,000 fled their homes as Alkatiri was forced to resign following allegations that he did not prevent some of his closest allies from setting up civilian militias.

A relative calm was restored after international troops were deployed to East Timor earlier this year.

(Fsc/Ner//Aki)

Dec-18-06 09:05


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