From the Worldwide Faith News archives

NCC Delegation Visits East Timor

From (United Methodist News list)
Date 02 Sep 1997 15:46:47

Reply-to: (United Methodist News list)
"UNITED METHODIST DAILY NEWS 97" by SUSAN PEEK on April 15, 1997 at 14:24

Note 296 by UMNS on Sept. 2, 1997 at 16:22 Eastern (3164 characters).

Produced by United Methodist News Service, official news agency of
the United Methodist Church, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., New
York, and Washington.

CONTACT:  Linda Bloom                              484(10-71B){296}
          New York (212) 870-3803                     Sept. 2, 1997

NCC delegation witnesses
struggle in East Timor

               by United Methodist News Service

     The people of East Timor continue to struggle under
involuntary rule by Indonesia, according to United Methodist Bishop
Melvin Talbert, San Francisco Area.
     Talbert, president of the National Council of Churches (NCC), 
led a 10-member ecumenical delegation to East Timor and Indonesia
Aug. 16-29.
     The visit was in response to an invitation by 1996 Nobel Peace
Prize Laureate Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo and the Rev. Arlindo
Marcal, moderator of the Protestant Church of East Timor. Belo had
spoken with NCC and church leaders during a May 30 visit to New
     "I was saddened by what I experienced in East Timor," Talbert 
said. "It is clear to me that the people are living under severe
oppression because of the invasion of East Timor by the
(Indonesian) government 20 years ago and because of the constant
pressure of the military."
     U.S. churches "need to do all we can" to convince the U.S.
government to "change its diplomatic approach" in hopes of
resolving the situation, according to the bishop.
     Both the NCC and the United Methodist Church support the
rights of self-determination for the people of East Timor, a former
Portuguese colony on half a small island in southern Indonesia. It
has been occupied by Indonesia since 1975.
     An ecumenical study of Indonesia, sponsored by the NCC's
Education for Mission/Friendship Press, is planned for 1998. "I
think that timing is right," Talbert said, adding that he hoped
churches involved in the study will "find ways to respond
appropriately to our sisters and brothers in Indonesia."
     After the five-day visit to East Timor, the delegation
traveled to two cities in Indonesia. In Yogjakarta, the group met
with Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian representatives to talk
about interfaith relations. In Jakarta, they met with the
government's minister of religion and with representatives of the
Communion of Churches of Indonesia and the Human Rights Commission.
     Talbert said he was impressed by the diversity of culture in
Indonesia and noted that the setting provides "a tremendous
opportunity for interfaith relations."
     Church World Service, the NCC's humanitarian aid agency, has
been active in Indonesia since the 1960s and continues to support
projects for rural survival. It also has been involved in relief
and rehabilitation programs in East Timor.
     Other United Methodists in the delegation were the Rev. John
Chamberlin, pastor of First St. John's United Methodist Church in
San Francisco, who serves as chairman of the NCC's East Timor
Working Group, and Rebecca Cunningham, a deaconness from the
Philippines who is working as NCC staff on the East Timor issue.
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