The people of Timor-Leste have observed many anniversaries this past year.
It is 40 years since the first Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste, which occurred on November 28, 1975. At that time, the Indonesian military was assembling to invade the territory. Portugal had abandoned Timor in August and the Australian government had indicated to President Suharto that Indonesian control of Timor would be preferable, as it would make it easier to conduct negotiations over the resources of the Timor Sea. The Restoration of Independence occurred in 2002, after the Timorese voted for freedom.
October 16 is the anniversary of the deaths in Balibó of the five Australian-based journalists who had gone to Timor to report on the impending Indonesian invasion. In 2007, after thirty-two years and six other inquiries, the NSW Coroner found that the five had been murdered Indonesian military under the direction of Yunus Yosfiah, who still lives in Indonesia.
It is the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese, including the missionaries. Special celebrations have been continuing all year. The Timorese acknowledge the role of the Catholic Church in providing spiritual, human and material support to the people. Of particular significance is the Church’s role during the Indonesian occupation, when it contributed to the international legitimacy and credibility of the Resistance.
December 7 marks the 40th anniversary of the Invasion, remembering the beginning of the 24-year long Occupation which caused the violent deaths of nearly 200,000 people. The next day, December 8, marks the anniversary of the death of Roger East, the sixth journalist to die as a result of efforts to let the world know of the Invasion.
We are fortunate to have opportunities to assist the Timorese people who have suffered so much and are making such terrific progress in their growth as a nation.