5.3 Tragedy and triumph of East Timor


A victory for freedom and solidarity

Sergio's commitment to the people of East Timor (Timor Leste), who were harshly repressed by the tyrannical Suharto regime of Indonesia, testifies to his faithfulness to the causes to which he was committed. His involvement with the Timorese people began from the time he started to work for CCFD in 1984. He continued his commitment as director of the Centre Lebret and also after his retirement. He maintained his involvement throughout the courageous battle of the Timorese until independence in 2002 and then continued to support the rebuilding of the country.

This third section begins with the historical background to the dramatic destiny of a small island that had been virtually abandoned by the international community during its costly battle for independence. This is followed by a testimony on the involvement of CCFD and the Centre Lebret through the East Timor Solidarity Association (ASTO). It concludes with a piece by the Community Development Centre (CDC), an indigenous East Timorese NGO and with the moving testimony of a great friend of Sergio who he rescued from the repression.

The long struggle for freedom of the Timorese

For decades public opinion took little interest in what was happening in this small country in the Indonesian archipelago near Australia. Many people even questioned its right to independence. But that was to misunderstand the people and their determination.

The story of this small island country with a little over one million mostly Catholic inhabitants is chaotic and tragic. Colonised by the Portuguse then the Dutch in the 17th century, invaded by Japan during World War II1, East Timor eventually returned to the Portuguese sphere of influence before proclaiming its independence in November 19752. A week later Indonesian troops invaded and annexed East Timor after already controlling West Timor which was already part of Indonesia. Resistance began immediately.

In May 1998, the Suharto dictatorship fell in the face of a popular uprising in Indonesia. A year later, the “yes” vote triumphed in a referendum on independence organised by the UN. Less than a month later, Indonesian-backed paramilitary groups began to sow terror among the population. Australian troops with a UN mandate landed in East Timor and established a transition regime. On 20 May 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor Lest (East Timor) was finally proclaimed.

Two hundred thousand people lost their lives over the course of the terrible Suharto period, a quarter of the total population, all this under the indifferent eye of the international community. Yet European solidarity associations including the East Timor Solidarity Association (ASTO) and CCFD continued to raise awareness concerning the drama experienced by the Timorese people and their legitimate right to self-determination. Over the years, ASTO built links with the Timorese in exile or passing through France who would later play key roles in the governance of the new nation.

Thus, as the 21st century began, everything needed to be rebuilt. Development was needed and to achieve this, the Timorese needed the means necessary. Sergio, working with ASTO and CCFD, offered considerable support for the launch of the Community Development Centre (CDC)3.

Timor Leste reborn from the ashes

ASTO was founded in 1976 after a meeting between French activists and Timorese refugees from several countries including Portugal. It continued its work for over twenty years throughout the troubles of East Timor but without great success...

Later ASTO secretary general René Barreau became an “emissary” to East Timor Sergio who had begun his work for CCFD. Here René tells the story of the incredible rebirth of the country.

I first met Sergio in 1986 in the CCFD Projects Commission4. Sergio had experience around the world but at that time I was only familiar with Africa. However, our common vision of development projects drew us together immediately.

CCFD helped the East Timorese people who refused to accept the fait accompli of annexation by Indonesia. It encouraged the various groups that worked to provide information on what was happening.

At that time CCFD's support consisted of a program of assistance linked to FRETILIN5 and Bishop Belo of Dili supporting immigrants and refugees from Timor as well as information programs exposing the terrible human rights situation in the country. CCFD support enabled ASTO to publish the newsletter Timor Informations targeting Timorese in exile and to intervene with humanitarian NGOs and the UN.

Sergio paid close attention to our work and our publications and he also discreetly assisted in this. But the key element in his motivation was a letter from Bishop Belo, that unknown and isolated bishop, who had the audacity to write to the Secretary-General of the UN on 6 February 1989 saying:

“The decolonisation process in Portuguese Timor has not yet been completed by the United Nations and it would be good not to allow it to be forgotten... I therefore request you, Secretary General, to implement a more normal and more democratic decolonisation process, including a referendum. Up to the present time, the people have never been consulted. It is always others who speak in the name of the people. It was Indonesia who said that the people of “Timor Timur” had chosen integration but the East Timorese people have never said that. Portugal wants to let time solve the problem and during that time we will die as a people and as a nation.”

One of the first people to visit Timor

Sergio was already familiar with many Asian countries but he wanted to come and visit Timor and its bishop. This would have been at the end of 1989 but he spoke very little about it at that time, no doubt because of the need for discretion. However, Bernard Berger, current president of ASTO, shared this confidence with me.

“I remember this anecdote but not the date. I was in Bangkok and Sergio had just returned from Timor where he had gone for the first time. He difficult in obtaining a visa and to obtain addresses except those for tourists and he received a cold welcome in his hotel. He had wanted to obtain a meeting with Bishop Belo who he did not know and it was not easy. People were very cautious... Sergio finally succeeded in meeting the bishop and this changed everything. Immediately, they took care of him at the hotel and looked at him like a prophet. The Timorese completely changed their attitude from that date.”

He was probably one of the earliest French visitors to East Timor under the Indonesian occupation. The network of contacts that he developed was dense and vast. The fact that he spoke many languages also helped6. However, you will nowhere find a report of this trip. That was not his style. Plus he also wanted to avoid compromising his contacts.

In August 1990 another opportunity presented itself when the East Timor came up for the discussion on decolonisation at the UN in New York. It was not my scene nor his but he encouraged me to go with the then president of ASTO, Michel Robert, and with Paulette Géraud from the Centre Lebret. He found the finance for the trip. All this was taking place at the time of the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. Government had decided to intervene in Iraq. And in the midst of all this, we were asking the International Community to mobilise against the annexation of East Timor by Indonesia which had made it its 27th province. Sergio had told me before I left that we needed to insist that “freedom, human rights and the rights of people to determination could not be divided up.”

In 1991, there was another opportunity when several Australians and Europeans were able to go to Timor as tourists. But there were the same risks. Nevertheless, we took with us a French women of Portuguese origin and Sergio arranged everything clandestinely, including contacts, finance, tickets, itineraries, various “covers”, e.g. development, agriculture, the Church... We all had to remain very discreet including after our return in order to safeguard the security of the contacts that we had made with the local Church. Nevertheless we were able to publish an editorial in Timor Informations that I was the only one able to sign since Sergio absolutely could not be identified with ASTO.

Go out in the field and you will see!

This article also illustrates a little known side of Sergio, namely his contained anger with those institutions that spoke much but did little. Here are some extracts from what he wrote concerning the massacre at the cemetery of Santa Cruz in Dili7 on 12 November 1991.

“Here are the facts: 200 dead in Dili, the capital of Timor. If the war in Yugoslavia is the shame of Europe, the Dili massacres are the shame of Indonesia.

They tell us that human rights NGOs exaggerate the bad treatment, torture and deaths in Timor. Even the press remains silent. However, the NGOs understand the military and police pressure. Witnesses have gone there...

They told us that Indonesia was a great modern country open to tourism and democracy. But it is a country with 13,000 islands of which 6,000 are inhabited and of which at least two are overpopulated, namely Java and Bali, and has been under a military dictatorship since 1965, a colonial dictatorship...

They told us that a small country had no future as an autonomous nation. Yet there are 43 independent members of the UN that are less than 20,000km2 and have fewer than a million inhabitants. East Timor has 700,000 inhabitants and an area of 16,000km2. A quarter of independent countries do not have more and are not just “wretched tribes”.

They also told us that troops would not fire in cold blood on foreigners. Elsewhere perhaps... But in East Timor the Indonesian army acts as an occupying force and has always reacted with the language of arms, terror, massacre: 200 dead, 80 prisoners shot, a foreign journalist killed and two beaten and imprisoned.

They told us that the Catholic Church enjoyed a privileged status as an “association”. Yes, legally. But the army treats churches, bishops residences like those of the Red Cross, to arrest those who have taken refuge there.

Governors, jurists, citizens and activists of all levels, kindly look at the facts, go and see on the spot if you still can. I went there recently and the terror that announced itself with today's massacre was already keenly felt.”

The Santa Cruz massacre and the arbitrary measures that followed on the part of the Indonesian military authorities had unexpected local and international repercussions. They also provoked tension between Indonesia and the Netherlands, the former colonial power. Another period of difficulty for the people was about to begin..

Creating opportunities for dialogue

In June 1992, CCFD organised a major event, Terre d’Avenir, (Earth of the Future), an international development forum that attracted 60,000 people including several government ministers and more than 30 local and foreign bishops. It was a genuine event, with expositions, debates and meetings with partners from the whole world; from Beijing to Benin, Brussels to Cairo.. On the ASTO stand, Jose Ramos Horta, now president of Timor Leste, in exile from 1975 to 1992, was able to meet and dialogue with Wahid Abdurrahman, then an Indonesian leader of an opposition party to President Suharto. We can guess the pleasure of Sergio who was the “artisan” of this meeting and many others.

Later after he had left CCFD and joined the Centre Lebret, one of his greatest joys was to be able to welcome Bishop Belo to Paris in June 1995. The borders of Timor were slowly, very slowly opening... Sergio's contribution was to bring him to Europe accompanied by an Indonesian bishop where they were received by many NGOs as well as by government and religious leaders. Thus, Bishop Belo was able to concelebrate mass with Bishop Béranger in the basilica of Saint Denis in the north of Paris.

In 1995, with his contacts, Sergio was able to invite Cardinal Etchegaray from Rome to attend a gathering of 15 European Timor solidarity NGOs in Paris8. Sergio always knew someone!

Two Nobel Peace Prizes

1996 was a great year with the attribution of the Nobel Peace Prize to Bishop Belo and José Ramos Horta at Oslo. While some people who had done little for the Timorese people were quick to be present for the presentation of the prize, Sergio who had worked enormously among French politicians for the award of the prize, would have preferred to stay out of the limelight. Nevertheless, he finally accepted to represent ASTO at Oslo.

I believe that the article below, of which we present a few extracts, is the first that he signed in his own name for Timor Informations. He worked for ten years in the shadows before speaking up in his own name in order to avoid compromising his partners. But as he said: “Now we can no longer act as if Timor does not exist!”

“The presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize 1996 is still present in our memories and hearts. That this prestigious Scandinavian institution has focused its attention on a small island of the Indonesian archipelago and towards this people who are forgotten in the great economic and financial negotiations with the power that has occupied it for more than twenty years rejoices us.

“In a way, it is also a recompense for all those around the world who refused to accept the invasion of 1975 as a fait accompli. On the contrary, this recognition comes a gesture of friendship and solidarity with those in Indonesia who are seeking justice, peace and democracy...

“What will tomorrow be made of? Certainly many things have changed as a result of this recognition from Scandinavia. It will be more difficult for the partisans of closed door negotiations and realpolitik to do as if the Timorese people do not exist.”

Shortly after his election in 1999 as president of the Indonesian Republic, Abdurrahman Wahid, friend of Sergio, paid a visit to the Timorese. During his message to the crowd gathered in Dili, the capital, it clearly showed that something had changed definitively. “You were oppressed and we were under tyranny. But, thanks be to God, that past period of deprivation and great suffering is coming to an end.” And he added: “Let us start to build a better future together for Timor Leste and for Indonesia.”

Gus Dur, as he was known familiarly, promised that Timorese students who wanted to complete their studies in Indonesia could do so and the doors would be opened. He expressed a desire for good relations to be quickly established.

Radio for the voiceless

In 1995, Radio RTK was the only Catholic station broadcasting. There were two other stations, KRI, which belonged to the Indonesian government and Lorosae Radio, which belonged to the Indonesian military. Thus there was no chance of impartial information. Because of legal restrictions on broadcasting and a lack of funds, Domingos Sequeira, who was then director of RTK, was unable to accomplish the mission that the Catholic Church had confided to him to fulfil the role of an independent radio station to broadcast information and a civic education program.

On the eve of the Nobel Peace Prize presentation in Oslo, Sergio met Domingos in a restaurant. The latter asked for financial support from CCFD. ASTO helped him prepare this request as part of a humanitarian and development project for East Timor in order to avoid Indonesian government restrictions on financial aid to Timor.

It was the beginning of a long relationship that Domingos sets out in the pages that follow.

Sergio was very involved in the Timor cause and the struggle for independence, a dream that he shared with many Timorese and which was achieved in large part thanks to Radio RTK. He was convinced that this station could contribute to build a community in which human rights would be respected in justice and where the leaders would silently listen to voice of the voiceless.

From independence to development

In 1999, after the election of the new Indonesian president, official consultations began between Indonesia, Portugal and Timorese representatives. In Paris in December, the Prime Minister Lionel Jospin organised a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Declaration on human rights and invited all Nobel Peace Prize winners. In September the 9th Meeting of Christian solidarity organisations in Europe was held. Dom Basilio Do Nascimento and José Ramos Horta both took part and expressed their views on the future of Timor Leste. The NGOs presented their action based on three axes, namely peace initiatives, human rights and development aid. Sergio expressed it in these terms: “Now it's not enough just to spread information but we need to go to the field and take part in the development process.”

This was the new orientation of ASTO which prepared a development project with Dom Basilio that can be summed up as follows: “A Timorese organisation in relation with the Church but independent of it, a local group in Baucau, working for local development of people involving villagers as much as possible.”

Since ASTO was unable to implement such a project, Dom Basilio committed immediately to finding several local Timorese leaders. For his part, Sergio requested help from a specialised body IRFED-EDI9, directed by Luiz de Sena. CCFD and Misereor10 were requested for finance. A calendar of exploratory missions was established. Sergio, Bernard Berger and Luiz de Sena went to Timor in 1999 during the referendum. The tragic months that followed caused the calendar to be changed but the will to implement the project remained and it finally took off in 2000.

At Sergio's request, Luiz de Sena published an article in the Centre Lebret's Foi et développement11 magazine entitled “East Timor, birth of a nation”. He even obtained financing from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris. In his article, Luiz pointed out the risks of large projects that failed to involve local people: “Funding agencies are very impatient. Financiers only understand the short term. There is therefore no time to lose with working with the habits and local cultures.. So it would be desirable to move from a logic of emergency aid to a logic of development and that we avoid implementing large projects (except where necessary), and above all to give priority to small projects that provide for large scale participation of a maximum of local people. Finally, the first people to be thought of should be men and women and only later the expensive technicians.

“The ideal would be for a joint effort by NGOs who claim to intervene from a human perspective to focus their attention on promoting human resources in the country. And to come together in a way to limit “official aid” and listen to the demands of the people, the centres of interest, the concrete needs, rhythms and capacities of the people for their own development. In a word, to enable aid to reach the people and to be within their reach... After the end of the emergency of food and health security, the next urgency will be to form citizens.”

Repairing the broken pots

The project began, developed and spread rapidly over four districts of East Timor with many villagers becoming involved. However, the first team of expatriate experts from IRFED had difficulty in adapting.

To ensure the future of the project, Sergio, who was not actually legally responsible for the project, negotiated with Dom Basilio, who came to Paris several times. During the independence celebrations in 2002, Luiz de Sena changed the team but Sergio, who was closely following the project, felt that in spite of support from various interns, IRFED-EDI could not lead IRFED-Timor for long. And so in 2003, IRFED-EDI left Timor but Sergio refused to abandon the Timorese.

He asked ASTO to pick up the project and to act as guarantor for the funds granted by CCFD, Misereor and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Although a Steering Committee was launched to accompany the transition process, it was exhausting work12. Sergio spent days and nights to sort out the funds and to present their use based on European standards. Denise his spouse often worked with him. Several times he came to my home at Cagnes-sur-Mer to work on the documents. He was exhausted but never had a harsh word for the incompetent persons whom he had had to sack or who had abandoned. His close relations with Franz Pils from Misereor as well as certain high ranking officials in the Ministry also helped.

Beginning in 2003-04, ASTO no longer had the capacity to carry on the project alone. Thus, Sergio identified another partner, who worked with the same spirit, namely the Mouvement pour la coopération internationale (MCI or Movement for International Cooperation). Another former CCFD worker, Marlyse Thommen, assisted and represented him, following the project and making several visits to Timor. They recruited another new expatriate, Olivier Langoisseux, who transformed the IRFED-Timor project into a Centre of Community Development. 

I prepared the first draft of the constitution, Sergio revised them and Olivier adapted them to the Timorese context in order to submit them in Dili at the end of 2004. Henceforth, Sergio often reminded us of the perspectives of the project, namely to train Timorese in community development, to build relations with other partners in the region and to aim for financial autonomy of the association. This autonomy was in fact only achieved in 2008-09.

A peace maker

In 2002 on the occasion of the celebration of independence of East Timor, it was just and logical that Sergio should participate in this extraordinary event but as usual he wanted ASTO to send three of its oldest activists, Marie-Thé Chaffaut, Umar Saïd and myself.

On 15 November 2003, Sergio visited the Gregorian University in Rome to support a friend, Domingos Sequeira, who was presenting his doctoral thesis on the "Political involvement of priests in the history of the Church." It was a thesis that was particularly important to the history of Timor over the course of the previous 25 years. Around 40 Timorese who were then in Europe also attended the thesis defence.

Sergio wrote few articles but he revised many, particularly those that I sent to him for Timor Informations. I think that he revised and corrected all the issues from No. 50  to 102 before sending them to the printer. He was very keen that this small magazine that dealt with Timor should also deal with Indonesia and the articles of Umar Saïd contributed to this. Often a few words nuances or strengthened a particular article even if he did not agree politically with a particular author. In general, Sergio did not like those who were too rigid and had little time for those of sectarian views.

Sergio preferred to share his ideas and thoughts one to one and informally with people whom he met at home or in his office, or on the phone or by internet. He was a peace builder in the middle of political conflicts. He was a “quiet worker”, who worked without publicity building a social network of key people from various nations. His power was not that of a public tribune but of someone who knew how to build an incredible network of relationships around the world. That was his genius. But, if he felt used by a self-proclaimed expert, he could also say ironically: “He never sends down the lift.” All that quietly.

Sergio was also a great man because like most committed people he had a spouse, Denise, who discreetly accompanied him. A great woman in fact!

Sergio was my best friend. Today ASTO has become an orphan…

Rebuilding civil society

In November and December 2007, the newly established Community Development Centre (CDC) wanted to review its activities and decide to hold a workshop entitled “Mission and vision” with participation from several funding partners13, two external evaluators, one from the North and one from the South, as well as several members of the Centre Lebret network in South East Asia.

In reality, Timor was far from the usual path of most travellers but Sergio was very determined to ensure that CDC personnel could get to know other regional partners from countries such as India and also Kalimantan (Borneo) in Indonesia14.

Thus, the meeting turned into a small international seminar in Baucau, second city of East Timor. The CDC president had also suggested that a young team from Justice and Peace of Timor could also participate. The meeting marked a turning point in the history of CDC, an NGO that had responded to a desire of Dom Basilio do Nascimento, bishop of Baucau, to have a non-confessional centre in his diocese to meet the needs of local people. This dream had been heard and supported by ASTO and the Centre Lebret-Irfed.

In the testimony that follows, a Timorese leader of CDC explains Sergio's role in the launch and conception of its action.

There were thousands of victims during the war in Timor. Many international groups showed solidarity and generosity and came to Timor to see how to help the people who had suffered so much.

Sergio represented one of those international organisations and he showed a high degree of solidarity with the poor and suffering of our country. From 2000 to 2003 he gave an impulse to significant actions that led to a conception of appropriate development for the leaders of Timor, and which served as a reference for them in the reconstruction of the country. All the ideas below are based on a sharing with people who met Sergio during that period.

For two years Sergio was the main person to lead our organisations in its emergency actions. He visited Timor 25 times over that three year period and remained two to three weeks each time during which period he launched many projects. During each stay he visited local communities and their leaders and met government and church leaders.

In the meetings with the latter, particularly with Dom Basilio Do Nascimento15, évêque de Baucau, he discussed the kind of civil society to build and the way to participate in the change in life of the poor so that they would gain better conditions of life.

In interviews with government leaders in the districts of Viqueque (administrative centre and seat of the United Nations), he held discussions on models of good governance to rebuild the country.

When he met local leaders from Lospalos in the same district, he reflected on community models and the participation of the later in the development of Timor.

In the meetings with different community groups in the districts of Baucau, Manatutu and Lospalos, with several members of the Centre Lebret-Irfed, he proposed significant concepts for access to democratic life.

We can cite three of these recommendations here:

  • motivate the people to implement themselves the actions that will enable them to escape poverty and suffering for a better life and show the communities that they themselves should take the initiative for development,
  • enable Timorese to themselves discover successful models of development to allow them to do things for themselves,
  • encourage them to work to overcome the poverty gap and finally to gain access to better living conditions.

Many changes took place in the communities that Sergio visited from the beginning of 2000. He transmitted to them significant experience and skills on how to bring development to a country.

The new CDC was very conscious that its organisation could grow thanks to the strong network that Sergio had created from the beginning within civil society, the Churches and government. CDC continues to benefit from these links.

In the name of the Timorese community, particularly those who benefited from Sergio's solidarity, we unite ourselves in prayer! May God bless his soul in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ for eternity! May He bless his family and grant them long life!


A heart of gold in Paris and in Timor

These lines are written by one of Sergio's best friends, Domingos Sequeira, a native priest of East Timor..

What comes to me are the marvelous experiences that I had with Sergio as a close friend. He knew how to integrate the verb “love” into the many aspects of his life, not just with me as a diocesan priest living in the world's poorest country but also with my well-loved country Timor Leste. All this took place against the backdrop of the darkest period of our history, from the Portuguese colonisation to the occupation by the armed forces of Indonesia before independence on 20 May 2002.

The joy of living

I first met Sergio on 9 December 1996 right at the moment of the attribution of the Nobel Peace Prize to my bishop, Mgr Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo in Oslo. It was a dinner in one of the best restaurants of Oslo with representatives of many international Catholic organisation that in one way or another had supported Timor Leste during the struggle for independence.

My first surprise was to discover his sense of humour, his joy of living and a smile that was capable of touching anyone in any circumstances. After the meal we spent some time discussing the political situation in Timor Leste before the prize ceremony to the two co-awardees José Ramos Horta, later president of the country, and Bishop Belo. I saw that Sergio was very well informed about the situation and his desire to do something in solidarity with the suffering people was clear.

To keep his promise of solidarity, Sergio came to Timor Leste in May 1997. I had the opportunity to organise his meetings with the two bishops, Bishop Belo of Dili and Bishop Basilio Do Nascimento, the new bishop of Baucau, as well as with priests, nuns and lay people, most of whom were clandestine activists who backed the fight for independence. Over the course of his five day visit, Sergio was able to gather much information on the real life of the people, not just in terms of poverty but in terms of the dramatic consequences of the illegal and inhuman occupation of Timor by Indonesia.

He could see the real commitment of the Catholic Church, particularly through the action of Bishop Belo, who strived to protect and help victims of injustice and expressed himself in a loud voice on behalf of thousands of voiceless people. He could thus understand the delicate situation of the Church among the victims. Following this visit, he felt even more strongly called to undertake a solidarity campaign in France to support the Church in Timor Leste. Clearly this campaign had begun well before his visit and here I would like to particularly mention René Barreau and his wife Marie-Therese, Lidia Miani who also worked for CCFD and of course Sergio, who had previously been responsible for CCFD.

A gift for making lasting friendships

From May 1997 to August 1999, Sergio visited Timor Leste several times. The 30 August 1999 is a historically important date for the Timorese people because, following the agreement signed between Indonesia, Portugal and the USA under the aegis of the United Nations, a popular referendum was organised. The result in favour of full independence from Indonesia was approved by the vast majority of the population. And Sergio as a human rights activist of long date wanted to witness this historic event with his own eyes. He arrived in Dili on the eve of the referendum. Since the hotels and hostels were all full, I proposed that he stay with my best friends, Gunawan and Manuela Soares. Sergio also became friends with them.

It was such a strong friendship that in 2008 we all went to Paris to meet Sergio and Denise, his much loved wife. Sergio and Denise did everything for us during that trip even though I could see that his health was suffering. Nevertheless, he never mentioned his illness. On the contrary, he continued to be a radiant, smiling, joyful person speaking of the positive side of life.

Unfailing support for victims

Immediately after the 1999 referendum, violent clashes broke out, started by the anti-independentist militias with support from elements in the Indonesian army. From the referendum until the arrival of the multinational force in September 1999, the Timorese militias carried out a massive operation of destruction and repression, killing around 1300 Timorese and forcefully chasing 300,000 refugees into West Timor.

I was one of those refugees. To my great surprise, two days after my arrival in Kupang in West Timor where I had hidden myself to escape the militia, a local priest came to tell me that a diplomat from the French Embassy in Jakarta had launched an appeal to find me and bring me to Jakarta. I left my family and took a plane where I met the Embassy Secretary who gave me a message and informed that Sergio had requested his assistance to find me and save me from death.

With this testimony, I want to affirm that my friend truly had a heart of gold. With tears in my eyes, I remember this great moment of my life and I pray to God all might that his soul may rest in the peace of heaven.


1 The Japanese occupation caused more than 50,000 deaths.

2 Portugal's Carnation Revolution began in April 1974.

3 CDC (Centro de Desenvolvimento Comunitario) is supported by MISEREOR in Germany, CCFD in France, the Mouvement pour la coopération internationale (MCI) in Switzerland and CAFOD in the UK.

4 This is the CCFD commission that decides on which projects the organisation will support. René was also a member of the CCFD national executive.

5 Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, founded in September 1974 by Xanana Gusmao.

6 In Timor several languages are spoken as a result of various invasions, e.g. Portuguese, Dutch, English…

7 In November 1991, the Indonesian army fired machine guns at the crowd gathered at a peaceful demonstration in a cemetery at the tomb of a young man killed several days earlier. Total : 271 dead, 382 wounded and 250 disappeared.

8 A l’époque, Président du Conseil pontifical Justice et Paix et émissaire de Jean-Paul II pour les missions difficiles.

9 IRFED-EDI : Irfed-Europe développement international.

10 A German Catholic NGO.

11     Foi et développement, November 1999, n° 278.

12 A working group formed by representatives of ASTO, Centre Lebret and IRFED-EDI.

13 CCFD and the MCI at that time.

14 International participants were: Lawrencia Kwark for CCFD, Selim Benaïssa for MCI, Josef Pampalk from Austria and Carlos Roque from Mozambique, who were the external evaluators, Samy Lourthusamy from India, Stepanus Djuweng from Kalimantan, Olivier Langoisseux from Switzerland, the last expatriate in the project coordinated by Marlyse Thommen in the name of the Centre Lebret-Irfed and ASTO.

15 Don Basilio was one of the most respected personalities in the country.