East Timor celebrates its tenth birthday

A local woman from East Timor mourns for her relatives during the 10th commemoration for pro-Independence activists that were killed in 1999's vote for independence in Dili, East Timor August 26, 2009. Courtesy of Reuters.

A local woman from East Timor mourns for her relatives during the 10th commemoration for pro-Independence activists that were killed in 1999's vote for independence in Dili, East Timor August 26, 2009. Courtesy of Reuters.

24 year occupation by Indonesia
100,000 deaths during the occupation
10 year anniversary of East Timor’s independence.

East Timor may be one of the youngest countries in the world but it has a long and painful history in its recent past. Dominated geographically by the imposing chain of islands that make up Indonesia, East Timor found itself taken by force by its neighbour in 1975.

When Indonesia left the country in 1999, leaving in its wake a terrorised population who had fled their homes, it destroyed much of the infrastructure. The effects are still being felt day and the country is battling unemployment, low wages and a lack of access to education.

Caritas doesn’t currently have an office in East Timor but it has worked side by side with its people for many years. When the winds of independence swept across the country in 1999, Caritas provided material help in the form of food, shelter and clothing to people returning to their homes after being forcibly removed.

To help independence take root, Caritas offered practical lessons in peacebuilding which taught people how to get along together and overcome hostility.

During the occupation Caritas set up a radio station to offer access to information that East Timorese wouldn’t normally get.

East Timor has oil and gas reserves which could guarantee a brighter future, but it is still facing the enormous economic, social and psychological impact of occupation.

Bishop Carlos Belo, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work towards a peaceful solution in East Timor, once said, “”Society is a succession of interwoven rings in which each generation has the duty to contribute to the next generation in order to live in the world peacefully fraternally. On your shoulders, dear young people of the entire world, weigh the responsibility to transform tomorrow’s world into a society where peace, harmony and fraternity reign.”

On their shoulders and on all our shoulders. On this tenth anniversary of independence, let us offer up a prayer for “peace, harmony and fraternity” for the people of East Timor.

A local woman from East Timor mourns for her relatives during the 10th commemoration for pro-Independence activists that were killed in 1999's vote for independence in Dili, East Timor August 26, 2009. Courtesy of Reuters.

A local woman from East Timor mourns for her relatives during the 10th commemoration for pro-Independence activists that were killed in 1999's vote for independence in Dili, East Timor August 26, 2009. Courtesy of Reuters.

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Filed under Asia, Peacebuilding

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