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Statement on the Protection of East Timorese
Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick
Chairman, U.S. Bishops' International Policy Committee
Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio
Chairman, U.S. Bishops' Committee on Migration
National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference
September 30, 1999
The welcome arrival of the first contingents of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) has prompted the departure from East Timor of many militia members responsible for the violence against innocent East Timorese civilians. The terror visited upon the people of East Timor, however,has yet to end completely.
In East Timor, thousands of persons remain in hiding and are afraid to return to their homes, while elsewhere in Indonesia a significant number of East Timorese are in dire need of protection.Reportedly, 200,000 displaced persons in camps in West Timor and nearby islands remain subject to the brutality and control of militia elements.
The immediate safety of East Timorese driven from their homes, with the eventual goal of their safe return, should be a priority for the international community. The United States must take a leadership role in working with the Indonesian government to achieve these objectives in a timely manner. In order to protect those who remain in grave danger and alleviate suffering already inflicted on East Timorese residents, the U.S. Catholic Bishops recommend that the following actions be taken as soon as possible:
The international community must wait no longer to bring to bear on this intolerable situation its full measure of concern, using humanitarian, financial, and judicial institutions to right the wrongs which have occurred. There is a profound thirst for justice in East Timor, justice long delayed and now brutally mocked. We call on all nations, including first and foremost Indonesia, to begin to redress the injustices against the East Timorese people and to protect their right to reclaim their homeland.
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