Church agency calls for calm amid East Timor violence

By staff writers
15 Aug 2007

The Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD), an agency of the church in England and Wales, has called for calm in East Timor amidst the violence that has escalated since Xanana Gusmao was appointed to be Prime Minister by the country’s new President Jose Ramos-Horta.

Around 1,000 East Timorese have been forced to flee from their homes, many hiding in the mountains and in need of food and clean water, when gangs rampaged - torching homes and setting up road blocks. Church and government property has come under attack.

The offices of the Catholic Relief Service have been burnt to the ground in Baucau and an internally displaced persons camp served by church workers has seen “significant unrest and destruction”, reported CAFOD.

Alex Cooney, CAFOD’s Southeast Asia Programme Manager declared: “We are calling for calm in East Timor. Our support and sympathy goes to our partners who have suffered through the violence and we hope to see calm return to the country."

Cooney continued: "There is much hope for East Timor, and these elections have been a big step forward. We have long been involved in East Timor and remain committed to partnership in one of the world’s newest nation.”

Ramos-Horta made the decision last week to appoint Gusmao as leader of a new governing coalition after no single party one a majority in parliamentary elections held on 30 June 2007.

Supporters of the former ruling party, Fretilin, have staged violent protests to express their opposition to the new coalition. The party believes it has the right to rule because it secured the most votes in the June polls.

Joaozito Viana from Luta Hamutuk (‘Struggle Together’), an NGO focussing on economic justice, said: “We urge the Government to keep talking with the Fretilin Party to resolve the security problems.

Viana went on: “It is important that all political parties are involved and work together to resolve constitutional problems. We hope these issues can be solved through dialogue and not through violence.”

CAFOD has worked in East Timor for over 20 years, supporting the people during some of the hardest times in their bid for independence.

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