Subject: Reviews of From the Place of the Dead : The Epic Struggles of Bishop Belo of East Timor, Arnold Cohen
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 1999 17:35:17 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

[From Amazon.com site]

>From the Place of the Dead : The Epic Struggles of Bishop Belo of East Timor by Arnold S. Kohen, Dali Lami (sic)

Hardcover - 352 pages 1 Ed edition (May 19, 1999) St Martins Pr (Trade); ISBN: 031219885X Reviews

>From Booklist , May 15, 1999

Readers who follow international news, particularly news of human-rights tragedies, will know of the struggles of East Timor, which was taken over by force by Indonesia in the '70s and has been seeking independence ever since. Perhaps as many as 250,000 of the region's 700,000 people have been killed over the past quarter century; East Timor's Roman Catholic prelate, Bishop Barlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, and Jose Ramos Horta, the chief spokesman for its resistance movement, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996. There seems to be some hope that the departure of Suharto, the longtime Indonesian leader, may create an opportunity for East Timor to reach autonomy and ultimately independence, but international political and economic considerations are ambiguous. So this biography of Bishop Belo and narrative of his nation's struggle is quite timely. Kohen is a former investigative reporter for NBC News who has written for The Nation and many leading daily newspapers; he has covered East Timor for more than 20 years and had substantial access to Bishop Belo in crafting this involving story. Mary Carroll Copyright© 1999, American Library Association. All rights reserved

>From Kirkus Reviews , April 28, 1999 A timely, politically charged biography of Bishop Carlos X. Belo, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1996 for his efforts to end the oppression of the people of East Timor at the hands of the Indonesian military. Kohen, a former investigative reporter with NBC News, canonizes Belo for his struggle to minimize the human impact of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, but his saintly portrait of a great humanitarian rising to the call of the suffering masses seems less intriguing than his extremely acute political analysis of the ongoing crisis. Of particular interest is the involvement of the US throughout the 28-year history of the conflict. From Kissinger's nod to the Suharto government when he declared that the US "understands Indonesia's position,'' on the eve of the invasion in 1975, to the deployment of American-made OV-10 Bronco counterguerrilla planes during the 70s, to the millions of dollars of questionable campaign contributions received by the Clinton administration, the Indonesian invasion has been facilitated by the US government. Not until the Santa Cruz cemetery massacre of 1991, captured live by the international media (more than 250 youngsters gunned down by Indonesian troops), did any serious international attention focus on the occupation. Noam Chomsky and others have written extensively about the failure of the Western media to cover human-rights violations in East Timor, and Kohen's graphic description of youthful protestors being shot down with American-made M-16 rifles renders the reasons for such a news blackout quite clearstories about "emerging markets'' trump those about human-rights violations every time. The collapse of the Indonesian economy and the end of Suharto's dictatorship have made that country increasingly dependent on the West. Kohen issues an important call for members of the financial First World to take advantage of their influence by bringing pressure on the Indonesian government to end its brutal policies in East Timor. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Book Description The saga of Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Peace for his Herculean efforts to end the conflict in East Timor, one of the worst human rights tragedies of the contemporary era.

In 1975, Indonesia illegally invaded East Timor, until then a Portuguese colony. Since then, an estimated 200,000 persons, nearly one-third of the territory's original population, have perished from war, famine, and killings. Now, after the fall of Indonesia's longtime strongman, General Suharto, East Timor is in the public eye, and seems on the verge of winning independence.

No one has been more crucial to this development than Bishop Belo. His inspiring story recalls the struggle of Mahatma Gandhi, whose non-violent philosophy greatly influenced the Timorese bishop. In the face of assassination threats as well as excruciating pressure from enemies and friends alike, Bishop Belo has been a moral beacon and an unflinching defender of his martyred people in their fight against injustice.

In From the Place of the Dead, journalist Arnold Kohen has written the first full-length biography of Bishop Belo. He captures the sheer humanity and indomitable humor of the man as well as the essence of the spirituality that together have provided Belo with the strength to persevere against overwhelming odds. From the heroic and colorful history of Bishop Belo's forebears to his years as a young priest, from his battles with Indonesia's all-powerful military to the Nobel ceremony in 1996 in Norway, Arnold Kohen shows how Belo, a mild-mannered but thoroughly tough-minded clergyman, has managed to prevail, becoming an international symbol of a peaceful quest for dignity and human rights.

Kohen, who has had unparalleled access to Bishop Belo for the past five years, provides not only a penetrating portrait of the Timorese prelate, but also the definitive account of a tortured country and the politics in which it is embroiled. He describes America's support for Indonesia's invasion and occupation, as well as Indonesian links with the Clinton Administration and friends of the president, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable campaign contributions. There is also a rich account of the conflicted role of the Vatican, alongside the extraordinary efforts of religious groups worldwide. Providing an intriguing background to Bishop Belo's struggles, Kohen's revelations should provoke outrage as well as an impetus for change.

As a testament to the extraordinary power of faith to influence the world, >From the Place of the Dead is an essential biography of our time.

Synopsis The heroic story of Bishop Carlos Belo, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace for his Herculean efforts to end the Indonesian killing in the ravaged nation of East Timor.

Customer Comments Average Customer Review: Number of Reviews: 1

David Hinkley from USA , May 14, 1999 A luminous and timely biography of a courageous figure. >From the Place of the Dead: The Epic Struggles of Bishop Belo of East Timor By Arnold S. Kohen

Review by David Hinkley, former Chairman, Amnesty International USA

Arnold Kohen’s moving biography of Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos X. Belo of East Timor illuminates one of modern history’s most horrific human rights tragedies. Belo, the first Catholic bishop ever to receive the Nobel Prize for Peace (1996) is revealed as a great humanitarian in the tradition of Archbishop Romero and Desmond Tutu. In this age of cynicism and disillusionment, Belo exemplifies the power of faith, dedication and indefatigable effort to reshape the history of a terrorized and nearly forgotten people.

Kohen, formerly an investigative reporter with NBC news, skilfully balances lyrical evocations of a lush land, its tortured people and their unsilenceable champion with incisive analysis of the political and church forces with which Belo has contended in his successful struggle to bring his people’s plight to the world’s attention. Since Indonesia invaded the island territory, for centuries a Portuguese colony, the Indonesian army’s campaign of brutal suppression has left an estimated 200,000 dead, of a population of less than 700,000. Beginning with the acquiescence of President Ford and Secretary Kissinger at the time of the 1975 invasion, through provision of deadly OV10 Bronco counter-guerrilla planes and other military hardware, the United States has played a complicitous role. This has only recently been mitigated – and to a lethally insufficient extent – by Clinton Administration diplomatic overtures to Jakarta.

Such examinations share these pages with indelible images of Belo the man. Among the most emblematic is a glimpse of Belo the boy athlete and mischief maker donning a grapefruit bishop’s hat in a foreshadowing of his astonishing future. Belo’s great love of East Timor’s young people and his sardonic wit emerge as defining traits, along with the courage to confront a combination of forces that would wither almost anyone. Against a backdrop of genocide and international intrigue, Kohen has created a luminous, touching and fascinating portrait of an inspiring and unforgettable man. This one is for the ages.

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