From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Ramos-Horta Focus of Lutheran Peace Prize Forum

From Brenda Williams <>
Date 20 Feb 1998 13:32:17


February 19, 1998


     MOORHEAD, Minn. (ELCA) -- For 23 years Jose Ramos-Horta has fought a
bloodless battle to free East Timor from the "occupying forces of
Indonesia."  Speaking to more than 1,300 Lutheran students at Concordia
College's Peace Prize Forum here Feb. 13-14, the 1996 recipient of the
Nobel Peace Prize said, "No amount of force or violence will ever be
sufficient to resolve an ethnic, political, social and economic problem."
Concordia is a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
     Ramos-Horta, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent
efforts for a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict in East Timor,
told students, "Empires do not last forever.  Regimes do not last forever.
Through the power of ideas -- our convictions -- you, each of us, all of
us, can make the changes."
     In 1975 Indonesia invaded the tiny country of East Timor and killed
200,000 of its citizens, nearly a third of the total population.  Since
then, Ramos-Horta has campaigned for humans rights and self-determination
for the former Portuguese colony.  He was born in Dili, East Timor.
     "With economic chaos buffeting Asia, now may be the time for
countries like the United States to pressure Indonesia into giving East
Timor the right to self-determination," said Ramos-Horta.
     Ramos-Horta met with the Rev. H. George Anderson, presiding bishop of
the ELCA, Feb. 18 to discuss the issue of East Timor.  "My conversation
with Jose Ramos-Horta spotlighted the precarious political situation in
Indonesia.  We are in one of those critical periods when prayer and courage
are required, so that we do not miss the possibility for a lasting peace in
East Timor," said Anderson.
     A statement adopted by the Ninth Assembly of the Lutheran World
Federation (LWF) in Hong Kong, July 8-16, "supports the ongoing peace talks
... and prays that in the not too distant future a solution ... will be
reached."  LWF is a global communion of 124 member churches in 69 countries
representing over 57 million of the world's 61 million Lutherans.
     This year's Peace Prize Forum theme, "Striving for Peace: Visions of
Authentic Development," focused on development in Asia and the Pacific Rim,
and the struggle many nations face as they deal with issues such as peace
and self-determination.
     "People pin their hopes on enlightened leaders within the Communist
party," said Nien Cheng, an author and human rights activist from China,
who spent seven years in solitary confinement.  In her presentation to
students, Cheng compared the Chinese situation to the former Soviet Union,
noting it was leader Mikhail Gorbachev who created the atmosphere to change
toward democracy.
     "That will happen in China, but not right away," Cheng said.  She
warned against those who would punish China for a human rights record she
acknowledged as "very repressive."  Cheng said she hopes Chinese leaders
will allow change as they feel more secure about their relationships with
the United States and other western powers.
     The forum included seminars on a variety of topics from Christian
social responsibility to hunger in North Korea.
     The Rev. Ishmael Noko, LWF general secretary, said in a workshop,
"Peacemaking involves taking risks all of the time, sometimes to the extent
that we are lonely."
     Kristi Svor, a student at Concordia and member of Shepherd of the
Hills Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls, Minn., said, "Peace starts with
yourself before you can try to help other people.  It begins by being a
good neighbor, praying and being a friend.  Attending this forum is a once
in a lifetime opportunity for me, and I'm impressed that Jose Ramos-Horta
addressed Lutheran students on issues of peace and human rights."
     Walter Mondale, former Vice President and U.S. Ambassador to Japan,
challenged students to develop "a life attitude of respect for others, a
fundamental and life-changing tool.  Learn a new language and travel to
different countries, not just Europe.  Get to know other students from
other backgrounds.  There is opportunity for you to do that in a college-campus atmosphere."
     "Peace begins with each one of us.  Peace comes from within," said
Eric Alleckson, the 1998 student associate president at Concordia.  He
encouraged other students at the forum opening "to open your hearts and
your minds to the message offered here ... such words may change your life,
and they will change the world."
     For me, it is a great pleasure and privilege to be invited to the
Peace Forum as part of a general effort to educate people around the world
about the situation in East Timor," said Ramos-Horta.
     The Peace Prize Forum rotates annually among the five midwestern
colleges of the ELCA of Norwegian heritage:  Augsburg College, Minneapolis;
Augustana College, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Concordia College; Luther College,
Decorah, Iowa; and St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.
     Held in cooperation with the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, this
series of forums was created to offer an opportunity for Nobel Peace Prize
laureates, diplomats, scholars and the general public to share in a
dialogue on the underlying causes of conflict in modern society and on the
dynamics of peacemaking.

For information contact:
Ann Hafften, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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