Subject: Bishop Belo preaches gospel of "justice before forgiveness"

The Australian 11 October 99

Bishop preaches gospel of justice

By IAN McPHEDRAN

EAST Timor's spiritual leader, Bishop Carlos Belo, was mobbed by members of his flock after his first Mass since he returned home to Dili last week.

His message at yesterday's formal service was simple: "Justice before forgiveness."

Bishop Belo said no militia member should be allowed to participate in the government of East Timor until justice was done – putting him at odds with the commander of the international force, Major-General Peter Cosgrove, who said on Saturday that militia members could participate in the future government of the territory.

"If until now they (the militia) don't kill, don't steal, they don't beat people, they don't commit crimes, they can participate," Bishop Belo said.

"But for the others, justice should be done to them first and then they can participate."

The congregation at the regular Sunday service, in the grounds of the bishop's burnt-out waterfront home, swelled to near pre-violence levels as the faithful gathered to give thanks for their deliverance from weeks of torment at the hands of the pro-Indonesian militias.

Bishop Belo urged his people to begin rebuilding their shattered lives and their ruined city.

"I hope that all of them, they go back to their houses . . . respect the property of others, not to steal, not to loot the things, and to work, to clean the city," he said.

After the hour-long service the bishop was surrounded by worshippers keen to kiss his gold signet ring.

Bishop Belo is living in a small house behind his old Portuguese colonial home that was ransacked and burned by rampaging militia mobs. He said he had no money to rebuild the beautiful house.

Worshippers filed through the ruins to touch a statue of the VIrgin Mary that was badly hacked about but was still standing in a room at the front of the house.

The bishop urged the international community to step up pressure on Indonesia for the return of tens of thousands of refugees from West Timor.

"More pressure, please talk more, keep on talking . . . to the United States, European Union to press Indonesia to allow these people to come back," he said.

Humanitarian officials announced yesterday that the Indonesian Government had reversed an earlier decision to control the registration process for refugees returning to East Timor. Many thousands of refugees are still being held in camps in Indonesian-controlled West Timor.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees would now control the process, which it will step up to include sea and road transfers as well as the twice-daily flights from Kupang, in West Timor.

The UNHCR would also try to facilitate the return of refugees from other parts of Indonesia, officials said.


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