Statement on East Timor, September 15, 1999

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English

Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, International Policy Committee
U.S. Catholic Conference

September 15, 1999

We welcome the agreement of the Government of Indonesia that an international military force enter East Timor to secure and maintain the peace in the region.

The action of the international community must first put an end to the massive human rights violations that, by all accounts, are still occurring. It must also address the broad and urgent need for humanitarian assistance to the people of East Timor, especially the many thousands of internally displaced. Food, water, medicines and sanitary facilities are needed immediately. International agencies must also have free and full access to protect displaced persons in East and West Timor; those who have fled to other countries deserve full protection as refugees.

Despite the welcome reversal of Jakarta's policy on the peacekeeping force, the recent history of broken promises warrants a certain skepticism that the violence will be stopped immediately and the people's right to return to their homes will be respected. Sustained pressure from the international community and especially from the United States ought to characterize all dealings with the Indonesian authorities. Not only must the peace be secured but the expressed will of the vast majority of the people for a free and independent East Timor must be respected.

What has happened this past week has left a deep and lasting scar on the face of East Timor. As in the Balkans, as in Africa, and now in East Timor, the Second Millennium is ending with the horrors of communal violence, ethnic cleansing and unrestrained military brutality. Crimes against humanity have been committed and those responsible must be held accountable.

We join in prayerful solidarity with the suffering people of East Timor, with their brave bishops, Carlos Ximenes Belo and Basilio Do Nascimento, and with their clergy, religious and lay leaders. Many have paid with their life's blood for their selfless commitment to the people they served. May a new East Timor rise from the ashes of this tragic time.