Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Place Safe for Clergy, Refugees Nun Details Massacre in East Timor Church

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Place Safe for Clergy, Refugees Nun Details Massacre in East Timor Church

Article excerpt

KUPANG, Indonesia -- Father Dewanto was the first to die, said Sister Mary Barudero.

The militiamen had lined up outside the old wooden church filled with refugees in the East Timorese town of Suai Monday afternoon, and the young Indonesian Jesuit priest stepped out dressed in his clerical robes to bravely meet the trouble.

A burst of gunfire cut him down. Father Francisco followed. The blood soaked his white robes. The militiamen waited for the senior parish priest, Father Hilario. When he did not emerge, they kicked down the door to his study and sprayed him with automatic fire.

A nun watched from the window of her nearby house as a massacre followed, said Barudero, who was nearby at the time and spoke with the witness less than an hour after the killings. The militiamen entered the church filled with refugees, and began firing long bursts from their weapons. Then they threw hand grenades into the huddled victims. As they left, blood flowed down the doorstep.

Inside, there had been only young children and women, babies at their mothers' breasts, and pregnant women, Barudero said. The men had fled days earlier. Barudero, who works as a nurse, had sent four of the pregnant women back to the church from her hospital in Suai just two hours earlier to await further progress on their labor.

"They went to the church because that's where they felt safe. They felt being near the priests was protection," said the 64-year-old nun, vainly fighting her tears.

Her account of the massacre, also reported Thursday by the Vatican's missionary news agency Fides, is one of the first graphic descriptions of the violence that has wracked the East Timor at the hands of Indonesian military-backed militiamen who opposed independence for the province.

CATHOLIC CLERGY TARGETED

Among the first victims have been Roman Catholic clergy, seen by the militia as having supported independence for East Timor. Most citizens of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, are Roman Catholics. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country.

Barudero, a Filipino-born Indonesian citizen who belongs to the French order of Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, agreed to talk to a reporter because "I have lived my life. I am not afraid to die."

Other refugees still feel the militia's reach in the supposed safety of western Timor, and have been warned not to talk to reporters. Barudero's colleague who watched the massacre, and who belongs to the Canossian order of nuns, has fled to Australia, but still is afraid to be identified, she said.

Fides said about 100 people were killed in the Suai massacre. It quoted witnesses as saying 15 priests were killed in Dili and Bakau, and some nuns were killed in Bakau.

Here in the western part of the island of Timor, refugees who have fled the violence in East Timor still have cause for fear. …

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