Protestant Leader
Killed in East Timor
"Some Church Leaders
Have Prices on Their Heads"
13 September 1999 (Newsroom) -- While the international 
community prepares to send peacekeepers to stop the carnage in 
East Timor, the slaughter of Christian leaders who support 
independence or who house refugees continues.

"Genocide is taking place in East Timor," says the Rev. John Barr 
of the Unity and International Mission, echoing similar sentiments 
voiced last week by the Vatican. . "…The church (both Protestant 
and Catholic) has become a target of the militia and the military."

One of the latest victims is the Rev. Francisco de Vasconcelos 
Ximenes, general secretary and acting moderator of the Gereja 
Kristen di Timor Timur (GKTT or Christian Church in East 
Timor), who was shot and killed last week while traveling between 
Dili and Baucau, the Uniting Church National Assembly reported 
on Monday. The GKTT is a partner church of the Uniting Church.

Ximenes was traveling with Rev. Moises da Silva after they were 
forced out of Hosana Church in Dili where they sought shelter with 
approximately 100 refugees and another minister of the GKTT, the 
Rev. Luis Pinto, Barr reports. When militia surrounded the church, 
the refugees and ministers fled toward Baucau. "We do not know 
what happened to the refugees," Barr says. Ximenes was shot 
somewhere along the road, and the Rev. Daniel Marcal carried his 
body into the mountains.

"The Uniting Church is appalled and outraged over this killing and 
the killing of other church personnel," Barr says. "Both the 
Catholic and Protestant communities in East Timor are being 
targeted by the militia and the military. We have grave fears for 
other church leaders and their personnel."

As many as 300,000 East Timorese are believed to have fled their 
homes since the election results that overwhelmingly favor 
independence from Indonesia were announced Aug. 30. Since 
then, militias with the apparent backing of the Indonesian military 
have singled out Christian churches and leaders in systematic 
attacks that have leveled churches, colleges, and monasteries, and 
killed hundreds of clergy, religious workers, and refugees who 
sought safety in church compounds. Aid agencies estimate the 
number of deaths could run as high as 7,000.

Over the weekend Germany's Catholic News Agency reported the 
death of a 70-year-old German Jesuit priest, Karl Albrecht. The 
priest apparently was shot and killed by an intruder, according to 
the news agency. Albrecht, who had worked in East Timor for 10 
years, founded the Indonesian branch of the Caritas Catholic 
charity organization.

Meanwhile, the East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) has 
confirmed the murder of a Canossian nun in Dili and the killings 
of three Catholic priests and three more nuns in Suai. A fourth 
priest also is believed to have been killed. Most of the city of Suai 
has been destroyed, as has Catholic Salesian college in the town of 
Fatumaca, the center reports.

"The pattern of violence against the spiritual leaders of East Timor 
and the other priests and nuns is extremely worrying," says Bishop 
Hilton Deakin, ETHRC director. "The Catholic Church holds a 
special place in East Timor in that it was always able to provide 
protection for East Timorese civilians who were experiencing 
violence or intimidation. The Catholic Church was seen as a 
sanctuary. But now the last line of protection and the international 
voice for the East Timorese is swiftly being destroyed."

East Timor Bishop Carlos Belo, the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize 
winner, was in Rome on Monday to brief the Pope on the situation. 
Only half of the priests, nuns and other members of religious 
orders who were in East Timor before the election are still there, 
according to Fides, the news agency of the Vatican's missionary 
wing. Belo fled from East Timor to Australia after his church was 
attacked by militias.

Church officials say they fear the worst for missing church leaders, 
Barr says. "At this stage we have no information on most of them. 
... The Gereja Kristen di Timor Timur has been devastated. This 
raises serious issues for the international Christian community."

Christian and human rights organizations report that militia now 
control Atambua in West Timor and are targeting refugee camps in 
Kupang. "Pro-independence supporters are being hunted down and 
executed," Barr says.

As many as 100,000 refugees could be in and around Kupang, 
relief agencies say. "West Timor cannot sustain such an influx of 
people," Barr worries. "I believe we are seeing an orchestrated 
attempt to destabilize the whole island. Kupang is very dry, and 
food is normally in short supply at this time of the year. In the best 
of times, Kupang has to depend on shipments of food from other 
parts of Indonesia."

World Relief, the international assistance arm of the National 
Association of Evangelicals in the United States, estimates that 
more than 200,000 people have fled East Timor. The agency is 
helping more than 100 Protestant churches from the Indonesian 
territory of East Timor work together to aid the refugees pouring 
out of the area.

World Relief has provided half of the resources distributed so far 
and local churches the other half, a remarkable feat given the near-
collapse of Indonesia's economy and a severe drought in the last 
year, according to Arne Bergstrom, World Relief's vice president 
of international ministries. Indonesian churches also are working 
together to aid victims of bloody clashes between Muslims and 
Christians on Ambon Island in the province of Maluku.

"Some church leaders have prices on their heads and each day do 
not know if they will be returning home at night," Bergstrom says 
in a prepared statement, "yet they continue their ministry, keeping 
as apolitical as possible in an extremely volatile situation."


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