Subject: Church praised by East Timor MP in London

Total Catholic

Friday, 17 October 2008 16:44:04

Church praised by East Timor MP in London

Friday, 17 October 2008 11:17

An East Timorese MP has attacked the country’s government for its growing hostility to the Catholic Church.

Addressing a Progressio event in Westminster on Tuesday, Fernanda Borges highlighted how the Catholic Church represented the voice of the people and that the government leaders were in fear of it.

Progressio, the international Catholic development agency, has launched a 12-month campaign aimed at getting the British Government to put pressure on the Timorese Government to take action on past crimes and support a proposed justice centre that will provide support to victims of violence.

In her address, Ms Borges criticised political leaders, including President Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao for their hostility to the Church.

“They don’t want the Church to be stronger than them. Gusmao is doing everything he can to counter the Church,” said Ms Borges, who highlighted the failure of government to ban abortion, halt prostitution and restrict Church education as examples of its anti-Catholicism.

“The leadership does not want to live by Church values,” said the MP, who added that the Church was now being stopped from charging fees for its schools.

“How are they going to run the schools? What will happen to the 300 Catholic schools?” asked Ms Borges, who helped found the Christian party Partido Unidade Nacional in 2005.

She called for “justice for serious war crimes committed during 1975­99, in order to stop the people from suffering again”.

Ms Borges cited at attempt on the president’s life last February as an example of just how fragile peace in East Timor remains.

She believes that without implementing the findings of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), things could easily unravel and conflict resume.

“Since independence, nine years ago, we have been crawling, trying to get up to walk and each time we’ve failed,” she explained.

The CAVR was established in 2001 to investigate the human rights violations. It produced a report ­ Chega! (‘Enough’) ­ that found at least 102,800 Timorese died as a result of the conflict.

Violations included extra judicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, sexual violence, sexual slavery and forced displacement.

Ms Borges was critical of the international community for its failure to push for implementation of the Chega report for fear of offending the Indonesians and Timorese leaders, many of whom she believes have a “forgive and forget” attitude to the question of reconciliation to the crimes of the past.

“Stability in East Timor and the region depends on real accountability for past atrocities,” she added. “Without it there can be no peace, stability, rule of law, good governance or respect for human rights, democracy and development.

Story: Paul Donovan

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