We are now five days into our new life in Timor-Leste. Sr. Aurora and Sr. Guilhermina have taken us in hand and have begun the necessary introductions to this new world. Yesterday was one of the most impressive and helpful introductions. It was the anniversary of the Massacre of Santa Cruz, solemnly and collectively celebrated each year on November 11 to honor the more than 200 killed on that day by the Indonesian government in 1991. The massacre took place at a cemetery in Dili where a large crowd had gathered to remember one of their fallen comrades. It was filmed by a western journalist and eventually revealed to the outside world. This single event was the catalyst that eventually brought a bloody independence to Timor Leste.
On Friday, David and I had the distinct privilege to be part of this year’s events. It began with a very large outside Mass celebrated by the bishop in commemoration of the massacre. Then, we walked with thousands of others to the Santa Cruz cemetery in the tropical morning sun, accompanied by speeches and drums, along the seashore to our destination. We may well have been the only Americans in this march.
Another introduction was a visit on Thursday to a former prison and center for torture of political prisoners. There we discovered more information on the complicity of the major western powers, including the US, in the tragic past of Timor Leste. We believe we are here, in part, to make reparations for our government’s sinful response, both in omission and commission, against this small Catholic country.
The most inspiring introduction has been to Sr. Guilhermina Marcal, a Timorese Canossian who heads the small compound where we temporarily find ourselves. Solidly built, straight backed, this amazing woman commands total respect from the president of the country to the numerous gang members she has pulled off the streets. She embodies much of the recent history of Timor in her own person and responds to our questions at supper with stories that strain our credulity. We will write about her more in the future. [posted by Rory]