BBC NEWS
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: Special Report: 1999: 05/99: East Timor  
News Front Page
World
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Education
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
CBBC News
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
East Timor Wednesday, 6 October, 1999, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Bishop Belo: Timor's spiritual leader
Bishop Belo was awarded the Nobel prize
By Religious Affairs Correspondent Jane Little

East Timor
Carlos Belo, a naturally shy, softly-spoken man, is an unlikely hero, but circumstance has propelled him into becoming a crusader-priest, known the world over for his outspoken defence of the rights of the East Timorese.

As bishop of the capital, Dili, he is spiritual guide to around 700,000 Timorese whose Roman Catholic heritage has become part and parcel of resistance to Indonesian rule.

In the absence of political activists who were imprisoned or living in exile it was the church - formerly conservative and losing members - which took up the lead in local opposition to Jakarta.

And it was Bishop Belo who surprised everyone by becoming its politicised leader.

Symbol of peaceful resistance

Born in 1948 in the town of Baucau, he spent the dramatic, violent years after the 1975 invasion living in Portugal and then in Rome.

His return as bishop was requested by former President Suharto who believed he would be easier to handle than his outspoken predecessor, Bishop Costa Lopes.

He wasn't.

In his 16 years in the post, he has become a symbol of peaceful resistance and frequently criticised the oppressive policies of the regime which saw thousands killed and imprisoned.

But he has walked a fine line and has been accused in the past by Indonesians and pro-independence activists alike of being a traitor.

Bishop Belo has used the high profile that the Nobel peace prize gave him to raise international awareness of East Timor, keeping up pressure during his recent exile in Europe.

Calls for dialogue

He was in favour of the referendum for autonomy for East Timor, but argued that such a vote could not be held in an atmosphere of violence, so there should be a transitional period first.

"It is necessary first of all to disarm the militias and ... then to organise a dialogue for reconciliation - then you can do the direct ballot," he said, speaking in the weeks ahead of the vote.

In the light of the violence that erupted immediately after the referendum his words have proved prophetic.

Now after his much-heralded return and the joyous reception that he received, East Timorese will look to their spiritual father to steer them through the difficult times ahead.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jim Fish
Report on Bishop Belo receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996
The BBC's Simon Ingram:
Bishop Belo is a hugely respected figure
Eats Timor: One year after the vote for independence

Key stories

Profiles

INTERACTIVE GUIDE
See also:

06 Oct 99 | Asia-Pacific
10 Sep 99 | World
09 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Links to more East Timor stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more East Timor stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes