Evangelical Missionaries Fear Bloodshed In East Timor

Monday, April 24, 2006

DILI, EAST TIMOR (BosNewsLife) -- Evangelical missionaries in East Timor warned Monday, April 24, of new bloodshed after troops dismissed from the armed forces threatened to wage a new guerrilla war in the troubled Southeast Asian nation.

Thousands reportedly joined a protest rally Monday, April 24, organized by the nearly 600 sacked soldiers in the capital Dili, waving banners and
posters denouncing the dismissals.

The former soldiers, mainly from the country's west, were sacked after they protested against alleged favored treatment given to soldiers from the east, a key centre of resistance to the Indonesian occupation before East Timor became independent in 2002.

Demonstrators also demanded that President Xanana Gusmao dismisses his government.


Christian rights investigators told BosNewsLife there are reports that since Sunday, April 23, Government representatives left East Timor on a special flight and that President Gusmao was likely the only high official remaining in the country.

Christian advocacy group Voice of the Martyrs Australia (VOMA) said it had been advised
Monday, April 24, there "is a strong possibility of fresh trouble in East Timor," which it suggested could impact missionaries and Christians.

VOMA told BosNewsLife that several of its contacts, identified as evangelical missionaries Chris and Margaret Smith and Ferdie and Jeannie Flores, were among Christians impacted by the upheaval.

"Today [Monday April 24] well-armed Police, Special Police and Border Police are patrolling the streets of Dili. Yesterday, Sunday, April 23, Chris [Smith] was stopped and ordered out of his car while it was searched," added VOMA, which investigates persecution in East Timor.


In a statement obtained by BosNewsLife, Chris Smith said he had asked those supporting his evangelical work to "pray that at least over the next few weeks God can touch the hearts of people to prevent more violence, more destruction and even death", a reference to clashes in recent years.

Between the referendum on independence and the arrival of international peacekeepers in late 1999, anti-independence Timorese militias backed by by the Indonesian military "commenced a large-scale, scorched-earth campaign of retribution," the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said.

The militias killed about 1,400 Timorese and forcibly pushed 300,000 people into West Timor as refugees, according to US officials.

While 90 percent of East Timor's roughly one million people are Roman Catholic, evangelical and traditional Protestant Christians comprise up to 3 percent of the population, according to estimates. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from East Timor and Australia).

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