Bishop Accuses Indonesian Troops
of Plot against Church
Bishop Estimates 10,000 Dead
in Wake of Referendum
16 September 1999 (Newsroom) -- Exiled Bishop Carlos 
Belo of East Timor accused Indonesian troops of training and 
arming militias as part of a "planned strategy against the Catholic 
Church," the independent Catholic news agency ZENIT reports. At 
a press conference in Rome on September 14, the Nobel Peace 
Prize laureate charged that in early 1999 the Indonesian military 
began mobilizing and training militias, anticipating that it would 
lose the independence referendum. An August 30 poll for 
independence passed with 78.5 percent in favor.

The bishop asserted that Jakarta has supported the militias' attacks 
"due to the fact that the Church has never given in to political 
pressures and has been the sole voice of those who cannot speak or 
have never been listened to."

Belo maintained that his 1996 Nobel Peace Prize was considered 
an offense by the Indonesian government. "The attack on the 
Church is direct vengeance against this honor to the bishop," he 
said. "The military are also furious because they have tried in every 
way possible to convince the Church to preach integration with 
Indonesia. We, the bishops of Timor, signed a pastoral letter in 
which we clearly stated that each one had to vote according to his 
conscience and that the referendum was a possibility to decide 
one's own future."

Belo said that the militias are comprised of Timorese trained by 
Indonesian troops "to terrorize the people so that they would not 
vote for independence." In early April in the town of Liquica 
militia members killed 25 people and another 200 were executed 
outside their homes, the bishop said. In mid April, militia members 
murdered the son of a resistance leader and 70 others.

In neither of those incidents were the perpetrators punished, Belo 
pointed out. "The militias can do what they wish, without incurring 
legal sanctions," he said.

Belo noted that as soon as the referendum results were made 
known on Sept. 4, militias attacked the homes of East Timor's two 
bishops, the seminaries, and the schools. On Sept. 6, pro-Jakarta 
militias burned down the bishop's residence in the capital and 
killed 25 people. "The police stationed there protected the 
militias," Belo said. "All those who could, fled to the mountains."

The bishop had been smuggled out of his residence to safety prior 
to the attack and on Sept. 7 was secretly flown by the Australian 
military to Darwin, Australia.

Some 100,000 refugees are hiding in the mountains south of Dili, 
Belo said. The Vatican news service Fides reported Thursday that 
Carmelite nuns in East Timor claim that the Indonesian army is 
preparing to bomb those refugees. "The military are waiting for the 
launching of humanitarian aid by parachutes to identify the 
refugees and the areas where they are hiding," said Maria del 
Carmen Aparicio, Mother General of the Sisters of the Virgin 
Mary of Mount Carmel. "It is the last terrorist act before the U.N. 
troops arrive." Resistance sources in East Timor confirmed that the 
army is preparing intense bombings, Fides said.

Along with the refugees, Belo counts 10,000 dead and 80,000 
deported in the wake of the referendum. "I have assured the Pope 
that the minute the peace forces arrive I shall return to East Timor, 
to be in the midst of my wandering sheep," he said.

The Bishop denied a report in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica 
that he had appealed to the people of Timor to take up arms. "I 
have never spoken these words; on the contrary, I have asked for 
prayers and forgiveness," Belo said. "Forgiveness until the end of 
the world. The Church has a role of pacification. We shall 
continue to seek truth and justice."


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