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Catholic youths remember victims

Struggle for independence commemorated on 20th anniversary of massacre

  • Prakash Khadka, Dili
  • Timor Leste
  • September 8, 2011
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Young Catholics paid tribute yesterday to all the victims of Timor-Leste’s struggle for independence from Portugal and Indonesia and marked the 20th anniversary of an infamous massacre that shocked the world.

Around 30 young Catholic yesterday visited a former prison – now a museum -- and also the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili where more than 250 pro-independence protesters were gunned down by Indonesian troops on September 7 1991 during a funeral procession.

Comarca Balide, the former prison built by the Portuguese in 1963, served as the offices of the post-independence Commission for Reception,  Truth and Reconciliation.

Carlito da Costa Bobo, a UN worker, looked at some of the photographs taken at the height of the independence struggles and said it is hard to imagine what the former inmates went through.

“It always makes me sad when I come here. People who were here suffered a great deal and I hope and pray it won’t happen again,” he said.

Teresinha Santos Da Costa looked into a small room that once served as a cell and said: “I heard as many as 20 to 30 people used to be held in this little room.”

She described the conditions as appalling.

"They had no window so there was not much air or light since the only source of light was a small peep-hole in the door. The room was hot and people had to share the same toilet in the corner. It’s little wonder that so many people died here,” she said.

One sentence scrawled on the wall in one cell drew particular attention and led them to reflect on their own faith.

“I will not let my worries prevail over my beliefs,” it said.

The young Catholics later visited the Santa Cruz cemetery to remember those who died in the 1991 massacre and all those who were killed or suffered before independence was achieved in 2002.
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