UCA News



Updated: May 21, 2002 05:00 PM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Share this article :

An official of East Timor´s reconciliation commission says the only way to reconcile with Indonesia is to bring Indonesian authorities to justice for human rights abuses during their 24-year occupation.

Father Jovito Rego de Jesus Araujo, vice chairperson of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor, told UCA News May 17 that an international war crimes tribunal is the only way to bring them to justice.

The commission, established earlier this year, has the task of investigating human rights abuses that took place from 1974 until 1999, including acts of violence committed among East Timorese during the civil war that preceded the Indonesian invasion in 1975.

Speaking prior to the country´s formal declaration of independence May 20, Father Araujo said the Indonesian government, "the mastermind of all the atrocities," should be held accountable, as should "external forces that provided the opportunity for human rights violations."

In addition to investigating the Indonesian military, believed to be "the real perpetrators of the human rights violations," he said countries such as Australia and the United States, who "gave orders to Indonesia to invade East Timor," should also be held responsible.

Father Araujo said East Timor´s President Jose Alexandre Xanana Gusmao had been pushing for reconciliation rather than justice. "Gusmao wants reconciliation first and then justice, but how can it be? Reconciliation will not be possible if justice does not work," he said.

The priority, Father Araujo said, is to make the commission "belong to the people" and provide a forum for the people, not politicians, "because reconciliation is for the people, the people are the victims."

According to Father Araujo, a key challenge facing the authorities will be how to prevent retribution against perpetrators of the crimes if they return to East Timor. This can only be done through a system of justice.

"Most politicians are thinking about good relations with Indonesia. But the people are waiting for true justice. If the justice system does not work, it will cause a big problem -- there will be street justice," he said.

The Catholic Church has a crucial role to play in the reconciliation process, he said, adding, "In parishes and at community levels, the convents, the congregations play their own role in this field."

Pastoral care is about reconciliation -- how to live in peace and harmony, how to improve the people´s understanding of the Christian faith, he said.

Many East Timorese, he added, lack maturity in their faith. "Sometimes they misunderstand and mix religion and faith, two things that are very different, so they never live their faith but they are fanatical about religion."

Recent tensions in some areas between Protestants and Catholics are the result of a lack of maturity in faith, Father Araujo said.

East Timor is "a very closed community," he said. For almost 500 years since Portuguese missioners brought Catholicism to East Timor, people have generally not understood other religious opinions. "This is the sin of colonization," he claimed.

"That is why they become very exclusive, narrow-minded, very fanatical in religion but not in faith," he said, adding that if a new religion is started in a community, people feel threatened.

Nonetheless, Father Araujo said, ecumenical relations can be improved. "I meet with Protestant pastors and I feel very optimistic that there is no difference between us."

"Our faith is not religion. We believe in Christ and Christ is not the Catholic or Protestant religion. But we need to educate our people, how to bring them to a maturity in Christianity. They are not mature enough and they are very fanatical about Catholicism," he said.

The fact that the constitution does not provide for an official state religion is good, the priest added.


Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
November begins with the Feast of All Saints. That month will mark the beginning of a new UCA News series, Saints of the New Millenium, that will profile some of Asia’s saints, “ordinary” people who try to live faithfully amid the demands of life in our time.
Perhaps the closest they will ever come to fame will be in your reading about them in UCA News. But they are saints for today. Let their example challenge and encourage you to live your own sainthood.
Your contribution will help us present more such features and make a difference in society by being independent and objective.
A small donation of US$5 a month would make a big difference in our quest to achieve our goals.
William J. Grimm
UCA News
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia