|Subject: Priests and nuns the latest victims of
Date: Thu, 9 Sep 1999 05:58:49 EDT
also:UN confirms massacre at Suai church - approx. 100 shot or hacked to death
Priests and nuns the latest victims of pro-Jakarta militias
SYDNEY, Sept 9 (AFP) - Priests and nuns have emerged as the latest victims of pro-Indonesian militias rampaging through heavily Catholic East Timor, church groups said Thursday.
The former Portuguese colony is a Catholic enclave in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Moslem population, and many East Timorese have turned to the church for sanctuary during rampant violence by army-backed pro-Jakarta militia groups.
But at least four separate reports of attacks on churches, or church personnel, in East Timor have emerged in recent days and church groups said Thursday it appeared a growing number of priests and nuns were among those being killed.
At least four priests and six nuns had been reported killed as of Thursday.
"They are generaly denuding church personnel through East Timor," Bishop Hilton Deakin told AFP. "They (Indonesia and the militias) see the church as the enemy. It's a certain policy."
Deakin, an Australian bishop, said a number of priests have also gone missing or fled. Pro-independence groups have said as many as 100,000 East Timorese are hiding from militias and the military in the territory's rugged interior.
A spokeswoman for Catholic charity Caritas in Australia said priests had now been identified as supporting independence because pro-independence supporters had begun seeking shelter in church buildings in the past months.
But "now they have been targeted because of the support they have given to the people," Caritas spokeswoman Ann Wigglesworth said in a television interview Thursday. "It's extremely distressing."
The highest profile attack against the church came when militia members attacked the Dili home of Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, East Timor's spiritual leader.
Belo, who is expected to meet with Pope John Paul II in Rome next week, was forced to flee to the town of Baucau and arrived in Australia on Tuesday after using an assumed name to leave East Timor.
But there have been at least three other fatal attacks on priests or nuns, according to reports emerging from East Timor.
Three priests are believed to have been among about 100 people reportedly killed during a militia attack on a church in the town of Suai on Tuesday and six nuns from the Canossian order were reportedly killed in the city of Baucau, 115 kilometers (70 miles) east of Dili.
Caritas Australia said Thursday the head of the charity in East Timor was the latest casualty reported among the clergy.
Father Francisco Barreto visited Australia in April and had warned then that violence was likely to follow any referendum on independence.
"He certainly warned us all of the likelihood of extreme violence without an adequate international presence and now we have its consequences," Tom Story, Caritas' national director told AFP.
"He was a friend," a shaken Story said. "He was a gentle man. He was a good and gentle man."
The attacks against clergy in East Timor have drawn an outraged response from Rome.
"Violence by armed gangs is being unleashed against the Catholic community and its pastors," the Vatican daily Osservatore Romano said in its Thursday edition.
It noted that those being targeted had "constantly worked for greater dialogue and reconciliation."
At the same time, the Vatican news agency Fides accused the Indonesian army of "trying to distance the church from the people" and accused the military of planning the attack on Belo's home.
The Vatican also released emotional appeals for international intervention to stop the bloodshed from two other Roman Catholic bishops in East Timor.
The bishop of Baucau, Basilio do Nascimento, who fled to the hills after suffering a knife wound while trying to protect people who had sought refuge in his compound, wasted few words in justifying the need for international help.
"We are all going to die," he said simply.
Australian Broadcasting Corp. Thu, 9 Sep 1999 19:25 AEST
UN confirms massacre at Suai church
The United Nations has confirmation a massacre in which approximately 100 supporters of independence were shot or hacked to death by rampaging pro-Jakarta militia members earlier this week.
The victims were among more than 2,000 terrified people who had taken refuge from the militia for some weeks in a church in the western town of Suai.
Three priests are believed to have been among those killed during the militia attack on Tuesday.
The East Timorese head of the Catholic aid agency Caritas, Father Francisco Barreto, is also believed to have been killed.
In other reports, six nuns from the Canossian order were reportedly killed in the city of Baucau, 115 kilometres east of Dili.
A spokeswoman for Caritas in Australia said priests have been identified as supporting independence because pro-independence supporters had begun seeking shelter in church buildings in the past months.