By Fr. Efren de Guzman svd
After 20 years of serving in Angola, working with the lepers, some encounter with the danger of death, plus the occasional bouts with loneliness in that far, isolated land, I am now moving on to a new assignment; I will be working with the Jesuits and members of other congregations and lay people in East Timor. Similarly, the main thrust of my life will be on community development. As much as I wouldn’t want to leave Angola and the life will be on community development. As much as I wouldn’t want to leave Angola and the life with the people there I have loved through the years, I have to answer God’s call for me to go to another land. And in my heart I believe God will take care of the people I am leaving behind.
What is the situation in East Timor today? After 24 years of Indonesian oppression and violence in East Timor, a referendum was held on August 1999. it was preceded by terrorization and killing of East Timorese people by Indonesian militia groups to persuade them to vote for integration into Indonesia. The militias destroyed 70% of the buildings, fields and livestock and at the same time forcefully evacuated into West Timor (part of Indonesia) between 250, 000 and 300, 000 East Timorese – some 40% of the population of whom hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed.
The result of this brutality are psychologically and physically ruined lives and a divided people; those bribed to be pro-Indonesian are now exiled from their homes and too scared to return and those who have chosen to stay at home are angry about the losses they suffered in 1999. The United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor is the official interim government, which consults with the National Council of Timorese Resistance, which is regarded as the vice of the Timorese people. UN agencies, foreign and local NGO’s are in East Timor to help keep the peace, establish government, keep the people alive with food, supply shelter, open health clinics, retrieve deportees from West Timor lack qualifications, skills and experience. The country needs civil servants, agricultural advisers, teachers, builders, economists, police, doctors, nurses. And I am glad I am here, a missionary.
“His love for us never lets us down, leads us to trust him in our troubled world. O blessed assurance! The glory of his presence, rich and full for all eternity...?