Two CAFOD Partners from East Timor, Mericio Akara and Emanuel Bria, braved the cold weather to visit St Joseph’s, Wealdstone in Westminster Diocese on the first Sunday of Advent. They spoke at the evening Mass and told the congregation about their efforts to promote development in the world’s newest nation.
They thanked the parish – run by Salavatorian missionaries – for its generous support of CAFOD’s work and felt the solidarity offered by Catholics in the UK gives a tremendous boost to their efforts. “Our Advent theme of ‘Stay Awake’ brings us all together as we join our efforts to bring justice and peace to the world,” said Bria.
Akara and Bria work for an organisation called Luta Hamutuk, which means ‘struggle together’. With natural oil and gas revenue being the biggest source of income for East Timor, Luta Hamutuk aims to build the capacity of the people to claim economic justice and benefit from these profitable resources. The government has promised to fund health, education and infrastructure with the money and this too is monitored by Luta Hamutuk, working alongside local communities.
Development over the past decade has been a slow process, but protecting people’s rights to prosper from their land’s rich natural resources is crucial to its success. The visitors spoke of some of the variety of programmes funded which give people improved livelihoods, incomes and services.
On August 30, 1999 the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia. A brutal backlash from the departing Indonesian military killed many people, destroyed roads, schools, and hospitals and left three-quarters of the population homeless.
A decade later East Timor continues to struggle to achieve the peaceful and prosperous future the nation hoped for. Catholic bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for work “towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor”.
Today, the East Timorese often feel like a forgotten nation, with forty percent of the population living on less than a dollar a day, but CAFOD has supported work there since 1989.