From Josť Ramos-Horta
1996 Nobel Peace Prize co-Laureate
Appeal to Catholic Colleges and Universities in the United States
Dear Friend of East Timor,
As an overwhelmingly Catholic country, East Timor looks to the Catholic colleges and universities of the United States to assist in the education of our young people. As a voice for the people of East Timor, I appeal to you to take this opportunity to begin a great tradition of cooperation between the new nation of East Timor and Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States by creating scholarships to support one or more qualified East Timorese students in your undergraduate program. In August of 1999, the East Timorese people with international support brought an end to almost twenty-four years of brutal Indonesian military occupation by voting overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-sponsored referendum. The people of East Timor have suffered tremendously for their freedom. One-third of the population was killed by the Indonesian military in the years following the 1975 invasion. Extreme violence eclipsed the announcement of the vote for independence, resulting in the destruction of more than 70% of the country, the displacement of three-quarters of the population, and the killing of hundreds. Despite the incredible devastation East Timor currently faces, there is great hope for the future. Now, a generation of young East Timorese are experiencing freedom for the first time.
During the years of Indonesian occupation, East Timorese youth were overwhelmingly denied the right to higher education. Indonesian military and civil servants controlled the country at every level, excluding East Timorese from positions of importance and leadership. The Indonesians have now left East Timor en masse, leaving a tremendous void in human resources which the youth of East Timor must fill.
Many of the brightest young East Timorese sacrificed their education, and often their lives, to lead our struggle for human rights, peace, and self-determination. Their personal, academic, and professional education is now crucial, as our young people will soon be responsible for developing the newest nation of the millennium.
The University of East Timor, our only institution of higher education, is completely destroyed, and many East Timorese who were attending Indonesian universities are unable to continue their studies there. Young East Timorese now look to Catholic colleges and universities in the United States as places to acquire a high quality liberal arts education, to learn about the development and leadership of the U.S., and to develop the skills necessary to build a nation. Unfortunately, East Timorese students lack the financial resources to study abroad.
This is a critical time in East Timorís development as a nation. In East Timor and around the world, the Catholic Church supported us through the dark years of oppression and occupation. I sincerely hope that many of the excellent Catholic institutions of higher learning in the U.S. will make a commitment to walk with us as we move towards a future of true freedom and self-sufficiency for East Timor.
I thank you for your serious consideration.