Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, International Policy Committee
U.S. Catholic Conference
September 7, 1999
Our worst fears have become reality in East Timor. The clear desire of the people of East Timor to shape a new future is being met by widespread, indiscriminate violence. The population is being terrorized by anti-independence militias, reportedly with the support, or at least acquiescence, of the Indonesian military and police. The attack on Bishop Belo's residence is just one example of the impunity with which these forces are operating. We thank God that Bishop Belo has been safely evacuated, but fear for those who have nowhere to go and remain at the mercy of rampaging militias.
As he has for so many years, Bishop Belo today expressed the fears and hopes of the people of East Timor: "They are very sad and they feel that they are unable to fight against all the ways of violence and they expect that the international community should act urgently and immediately to protect their people."
I welcome the commitment of the United States to take urgent action on East Timor. It is vital that our government use strong and effective pressure to convince the Indonesian government to meet its responsibilities to stop the violence and ensure that the wishes of the East Timorese are respected. If Indonesia is not willing or able immediately to fulfill its responsibilities to the people of East Timor, then the United States should support the prompt deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to establish order, protect the innocent, and ensure a peaceful transition to independence.
The people of East Timor have suffered terribly for many years. The international community must not permit the dawn of a new day to be turned into yet another nightmare.