Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday February 28th

Sunday marks a week since most of the group left home for Timor Leste. A fitting day then for us to break off a bit earlier from meetings by 4pm so we could get in some R&R.

But first we all looked forward to celebrating mass in Dili and just our luck there is an English mass here at 10:30 . It was a pretty mixed congregation as many folks from different lands were present. A packed house (actually they spilled out into
the parking lot) and Fr Rolf helped celebrate mass with eight of our delegation also participating by bringing up the offertory. And even though we have been here only a short while, we bumped into people we had met already. It was another reminder of how important a role the church plays in peoples lives as the saying goes here that there are only 3 events when Timorese people really get together in their finest clothing besides Sunday, Marriage, Baptism and Funerals. And again all in the church.

Our afternoon session was with the Justice and Peace Commission - Dili Diocese, which is one of our partners. Our new friend Nue who also housed us yesterday, is the project Coordinator who heads up the Human Rights Desk project. This helps to monitor human rights violations and encourages people to come forward in each of the parishes by working closely within them. This afternoon we met with people
who are part of another project, the youth outreach project coordinated by Melanie. The amazing success story of this project is that they have managed to bring the youth members together where no other program has managed to so before. They now also regularly meet with the local police to breakdown the barriers which until now have seemed impenetrable. They glowed about how they get trained in capacity building skills and learn about the roles they are expected to play in society and what will happen to them if they don’t comply. This is all new here for this generation as there has been little in the ways of laws, legal detention, courts or consequences besides paying with your life.

Then off to see some of the country side just outside of town and find a sandy beach where the waves are calm and the coral is plenty. Our new friends from La’o Hamutuk, Charlie and Jill had volunteered to show us their favorite snorkeling spot and sure enough we had an awesome time enjoying one of the many tourist gems that are available here.
Another great way to finish our day especially as today was pretty sunny considering we are here during the rainy season. Our trip back to town was filled with anticipation for a great meal at the nearby Turkish restaurant where we have befriended the owner Antonio.
It has been a good day and a fitting way to prepare for what looks like will be a very busy week coming up.


PS we are aimimg to be up at 5am to see if we can find a way to watch Canada beat USA in Hockey! Go Team.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday February 27, 2010

Day 3 in Timor Leste and yet another perspective of this amazing country. It was a pretty somber day by most accounts though a bit of levity was thrown in to help us all in dealing with our emotions. We met with Bishop Ricardo of Dili today as he opened his home to us and talked passionately of the issues that faced his country. His primary focus is health, education and the formation of the people so as to create a sustainable society. These are not easy tasks to accomplish and the solutions are very different in the Districts (rural areas) than within Dili. It is uplifting to see how the mandate of Development and Peace is so well designed to serve this purpose as the Bishop’s goals are so developmental and rely on a shift of thinking within society. Though the immediate needs are great, the Bishop stressed how everyone must realize that the work of all involved will need a long term commitment to Timor Leste. To underscore the complexities involved we were invited to have some refreshments in his dinning room and though by all appearances, it might seem like any other, this one has much historical significance. As the church has often played key roles in the history here, this same room and table has been the site of many negotiations as opposing parties came to rely on the role of the church to bring the parties together in dialogue and resolution.

We carried on this theme in a more somber way as this country is full of recent examples where violence has reared its ugly head and martyrs have become catalysts for change. Being hosted by our partners from the Justice and Peace Commision, we visited 3 very significant memorials commemorating key events in the recent history. Starting at the site of the Nov 12, 1991 massacre of 180 to 2,000 students during a memorial inside the Santa Cruz Cemetery which was caught on film by Max Stahl. This film was smuggled out to be broadcast to the rest of the world for the first time exposing some of the atrocities that were happening here. Then we proceeded to the 2006 memorial of policemen murdered by the military which set back much of the progress that had made the Timor Leste transition to independence a success in the eyes the UN and the world. We also paid our respects at the 1999 memorial where 12 refugees from Liquica were seeking safety at the governors house though were still tracked down by militia which then killed them and the governors’ son, stuffing them in this well. The reverence local people still have around these memorials and the homage that is continued to be paid at each of them is a testament to the people here. We were all very moved and drawn into a bit more of the pulse which drives Timor Leste.

We also had a chance to meet up with one of our counter parts here, Trocaire, the Irish Catholic Deveopment agency. It seems our questions are endless and when we aren't meeting with partners we continue to benefit from the participation of Father Rolf and Jess Agustin to fill in the blanks or clarify the points missed in translatin as they have both been here before and were part of many events here.

During our nightly group supper the debrief was filled with so many moving accounts of what we have witnessed in only such a short time. From empathy and sorrow to the wonderment of the resilience of the people and also the international community for trying to be part of the solution to help the people of Timor Leste

Friday February 26th

Is it only the end of day 2?? We are now exhausted and overloaded with information, images, food and emotions. What a day! We started with a history lesson from La’o Hamutuk while we sat under a thatched roof during a torrential down pour. There are so many issues here in such a newly independent country. One tries to draw parallels with other situations but there really is no model or example to work from. The tragedies of a “Scorched Earth Campaign”, political turmoil, violence, colonialism, occupation, forced famine, a resistance movement now a military, a first ever police force to introduce and enforce the new laws that are a patchwork of new laws; they seem to have seen it all here and in such a short period of time. The work of our partner La’o Hamutuk is to try and make some sense of all the intentions and actions of the international institutions present in the country by monitoring, analyzing and reporting on the issues relating to the physical, economic and social reconstruction and development of the country. We had so many questions and great conversations that it was hard to leave. But next we were off to visit the Timor Radio Station that was established in 1993 by
Development & Peace through the local Catholic Church during the occupation years. This has been fundamental in helping to create a voice for the people and provides an avenue for civic education programming. So much of what we take for granted in our country has been thrust upon people here in a very short time as the veil of terror and control lifts and people try to understand the new roles they play in creating a civil society. We proceeded to be the guests on today’s live cross country call in show. For an hour we responded to questions and conversed over the air with people which only ended after the producers cut us off so we would not miss our next appointment.

Off to meet the head of Political Policies for the UN mission in East Timor. More background and a better appreciation for the complexities involved in “everything”. From coordination of agencies, the politics of a foreign presence, to protocol and on and on it goes. There is no easy answer or short term plan that will make everything all right. Just as there is no logic in staying too long in a place where the people are working towards the goal of complete self reliance. We left with many conversations still going on and the vans were full of chatter about what we just learned. Trying to figure out if the glass was half full or half empty after a 12 year UN presence, is it working? Depends who you talk to. That question was soon answered in another manner. A trip to an orphanage was proof enough that some people can see a direct positive result for all the hard work and tireless energy they seem to have and with no politics involved. We met 51 kids who sang and danced and showed us around as if we were the toast of the town. What a delight and a perfect way to end an exhausting day by being around the youthful energy of tomorrow’s leaders.


PS: While meeting with the United Nations fellow today we were informed that the United Nations Security Council will pass a resoltion to extend its peacekeeping mission here for another 1-2 years.(though it officially had not occured yet as we are 17 hours ahead here) Their mandate was to run out this week, though there was no shred of evidence that anyone was packing their bags just yet.

Friday, February 26, 2010

February 25 - Day 1 Dili

Thursday February 25th

We’ve landed in Dili, so our journey finally begins after days of travel to get here. Our first sight coming off the runway was of a series of large UN helicopters, not one, but many. This image is not lost on us for long as the sight of white UN marked transports and compounds are everywhere. Literally everywhere!! It is clear to see why there is some resistance to the large UN presence here as it really can be overwhelming at times and makes one wonder about how, or if, everyone can work together efficiently.

A few of our first impressions on day one are regard to the tremendous welcome we are receiving. In a city and country with so many foreigners, to get such a genuine welcome is heartwarming. It makes you feel very humble. Our first example of this came at the airport where we all received a traditional “tais”, a hand woven scarf. This hospitality was even more evident at our first dinner in East Timor compliments of the Sisters of St Paul Chartres as they hosted us along with representatives of many of the organizations we came here to meet. What a great way to start our trip.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bali Transit

We arrived in Bali yesterday afternoon. Bali is our transit point to East Timor which only has one flight a day going there from here. We also chose Bali to do our orientation, as the members of the delegation are from across the BC/Yukon region. We met up with Jess and Fiona who have been traveling around and meeting with partners in Indonesia for over the past week. They had a lot of tall stories to tell us about the fish they caught in one of the communities.

The group had the moring off this morning to play tourist while Jess, Fiona and I went to see about the tickets for our flight to Dili. There were a few problems with the tickets, but they were corrected within two hours. This gave the three of us a couple hours for lunch and to do some shopping for things we had forgot before headding back to our hotel to do the orientation for East Timor.

Tomorrow morning we depart early for Dili in East Timor. Jess tells me we are to expect the media to be there to greet us at the airport with our partners. After the fish stories, I am not sure to believe him. Nonetheless, we all know that this trip to East Timor is not just important for us but also a very important historical moment for our partners. It is a chance for us all to live the solidarity in person that we often talk about.


PS: The fish story was a fish story of my own making.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Introductions anyone?

On February 21st, members from the BC/Yukon Region of DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE are traveling to East Timor as part of a 12 person delegation. The delegation consisting of Roberta and Dale Dodge, Mary and Paul Doyle, John Gabor, Rev Rolf Hasenack, O.P., Dorothy and Dick Mynen, Gerhild Neugebauer, Linda Olaksew, Fiona Connelly and Jess Agustin. During the stay in East Timor the group will be meeting with the organizations DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE has been supporting in the country since East Timor sought its independence in 1999.

As the world’s newest country, East Timor is emerging from over 425 years as a Portuguese colony, followed by 25 years of Indonesian occupation and rule. The path to independence has taken a severe toll on the people of this tiny nation of 900,000. During the recent 25 years of occupation, it is estimated that over 180,000 people were killed; many more were victimized and suffered dire hardship.

DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE played a role in the transition leading to East Timor’s independence following the arrival of the United Nations in September 1999 to temporarily govern the country after the withdrawal of Indonesia. DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE was one of the first non government organizations (NGO) in East Timor, supporting a variety of programs ranging from capacity building, human rights promotion and strengthening civil society organizations.

Okay, were almost ready, ... I think...