Lest we forget.
Timor-Leste (East Timor), an island nation north of Darwin, Australia, is one of the world’s newest countries. It has a long history with the Catholic Church, beginning with its colonization by the Portuguese Dominican mission in 1556. Timor-Leste was under Portuguese rule until it joined other Portuguese colonies in declaring its independence on November 28, 1975. Nine days later, it was invaded by Indonesia and struggled for independence until the international community finally responded in 1999. During the occupation, much of Timor-Leste’s already fragile infrastructure was destroyed, and even today the country is still recovering.
It was just then, when all seemed lost, and after both the humanitarian agencies of the International Committee of the Red Cross and that of the United Nations were thrown out of the country, that the world became aware of two marvelous initiatives and developments. In the midst of the carnage and destruction, the first powerful ray of hope came from the leaders of the Church. Priests, nuns, and other church workers, had constantly supported the people, 98% of whom were Catholic, in their quest for human rights, democracy, and self-determination.