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