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Church Attacked: No Sanctuary Left In East Timor

The massacre taking place in East Timor right now is of such a magnitude that even the traditional places of sanctuary for the local people - Bishop Belo's residence, the Catholic medical clinics, church offices etc - are no longer safe and are under attack from both paramilitary thugs and the Indonesian military.

Caritas New Zealand spokesperson, Louise May, says that her organisation is extremely disturbed to hear the Bishop Carlos Belo's residence, which has been harbouring about 1000 terrified East Timorese, has come under attack from the rampaging militia and military.

"We don't know how he is, or how his staff are, nor the 1000 refugees who are sheltering there. We have been trying to get through to them over the past 24 hours but as yet have had no luck getting through. We have also tried contacting the Caritas East Timor office in Dili, and others in East Timor. We cannot get through to anyone. It is as if our communications have been cut off from East Timor. We are desperate for news of our people there and for information from them about what is going on there right now", says Ms May.

"We hear disturbing news that the Catholic Diocesan office in Dili has been burned down, and that the Caritas East Timor office has come under attack and may also be burning. We don't know how the staff are, or where they are. According to volunteer UN observers in Dili, the Sisters at the Motael medical clinic in Dili have been warned that the clinic is to be attacked and destroyed by the paramilitary group, the Besi Merah Putih (the red and white iron). In the suburb of Becora in Dili, bodies of Timorese killed by the violence lie abandoned behind the convent of the Canossian Sisters."

"The church has traditionally provided sanctuary in East Timor for any people who have been fleeing violence, fleeing for their lives with nowhere else to go. But now, with the way things are in East Timor, even these places are under seige and there is nowhere that the people can go to escape the violence and the killings. The situation is desperate. The international community must step in to put an end to the ethnic cleansing of the Timorese by the Indonesian military, and the political slaughter of the pro-independence and general population by the Indonesia-backed paramilitary minority."

ENDS

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