by Peter Stanford
CHRISTIAN groups from around Europe and Pax Christi International have come together to publish a Christian Reflection of the sufferings of the people of East Timor since their country was forcibly annexed by Indonesia in 1975.
The reflection, the result of a series of international meetings, details the condemnations of the Indonesian action by the United Nations, by the EEC, by Portugal, the former colonial power in this south east Asian country, and by Catholic'.and Protestant groups Europewide.
It also pays tribute to the witness of the Catholic Church in East Timor in "consistently reporting violations of human rights and making plain the degree to which the people of the territory, Christians and nonChristians alike, feel themselves to be oppressed in their daily lives and in their hope for freedom and peace".
A guerrilla war has been in 'progress between the illegal Indonesian occupying forces and guerrillas of the Fretelin organisation representing the people of East Timor in their demand for a say in their own future.
Speaking of a "human disaster", the Christian Reflection details the brutality of the Indonesian occupying forces. "It is believed that more than 200,000 people have died out of an original population estimated to number less than 700,000". Furthermore, it reports, "whole communities have been moved from their homes into villages under army surveillance. The country has been bombed with artillery and from the air. Subsistence agriculture, upon which most Timorese based their lives, has become impossible in many parts".
The Reflection catalogues torture, imprisonment without trial, disappearances and extrajudical killings since 1975. People "cannot trust one another or speak freely". Families have been separated, birth control programmes
compulsorily instituted, schools destroyed, children indoctrinated in Moslem Indonesian values which conflict with their Catholic, Portuguese culture.
The Reflection urges that the people of Timor be consulted before any settlement is agreed for them by Portugal and Indonesia. "Only an electoral process internationally organised and supervised will ensure that East Timor's people express their wishes freely and fully exercise the right of selfdetermination".
"We are challenged by the cry of the Timor's people. Brothers and sisters in the churches of Asia, let us carry together our share of responsibility for the tragedy which has overtaken East Timor", the Reflection ends.
Copies of the Christian Reflection are available from the Catholic Institute for International Relations, 22 Coleman Fields, London NI, price 50p.