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.