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Fight for good, Chan tells Timorese

By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Jakarta

The crowds in Dili's national stadium were excited. It is not every day you see Jackie Chan enjoying the show from the stalls.

Hollywood star Jackie Chan demonstrates martial arts moves at the national stadium in Dili, East Timor, on Wednesday
If you use martial arts to help somebody, you're the hero
Jackie Chan

Chan, actor and martial arts expert, is visiting East Timor this week, as a goodwill ambassador for the UN children's fund, Unicef, to talk to youth groups about peace.

Fresh off a helicopter trip to meet young people from outside the capital, Chan led Dili's martial arts groups in a demonstration of his skills - a small figure in a bright blue T-shirt, surrounded by a crowd of young and curious Timorese.

But he did not just come to show them some new moves - he also came to talk about the meaning and role of martial arts.

And his message was very simple: "If you use martial arts to help somebody, you're the hero. If you use martial arts just on the street to fight somebody, even if you win you're not the hero - you're nobody."

The assembled crowd cheered, but will his message get through to those members of East Timor's martial arts groups that were involved in the lethal violence here two years ago?

Then, infighting among the security forces opened up ancient divisions between people from the east of the country and those from the west.

Some martial arts groups were sucked into that violence, in which 37 people died and more than a tenth of the population were driven from their homes.

'Spreading the message'

I asked some of the young people gathered at the stadium whether they thought Jackie Chan's message would get through to the people it needed to.

Hollywood star Jackie Chan meets young people in Dili, East Timor, on Wednesday
Chan may have an inspiring message, but much more is needed

"They must listen," said one man, "because for so long they've been creating problems, people have suffered because of their actions and now we have someone very famous visiting us, spreading the message, they should listen."

Another man agreed.

"They need to listen so they can change and stop all the problems they've been creating - and Timorese can live in peace."

Despite the optimistic mood inside East Timor's national stadium, tackling the problem of youth violence is going to take much more than a simple message of peace.

It is going to mean the government tackling some difficult, long-term issues - like getting investment to kick-start the economy, and building infrastructure to attract it.

Because the main reason young people join martial arts groups in the first place is boredom.

More than 15,000 young people enter the job market here every year, according to the World Bank, and they are competing for about 400 jobs.

If the government is looking for a silver bullet, it is employment.





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