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1999 NCC News Archives

NCC Executive Board Appeals to President Clinton, United Nations
To Maintain Presence, End Atrocities in East Timor

Church World Service Explores Assistance for Refugees

September 8, 1999, NEW YORK CITY -- The National Council of Churches (NCC) Executive Board today issued a statement urging the Clinton administration to support a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force for East Timor and appealing to the UN to maintain a substantial presence in Dili and to take immediate action to put an effective end to all human rights violations there.

Meanwhile, Church World Service, the NCC’s emergency response and humanitarian assistance arm is exploring possible responses to refugees in West Timor and preparing to support other international responses once they become possible.

The Executive Board, which carries responsibility for the Council’s governance between annual meetings of the NCC’s General Assembly, opened its meeting with a prayer for East Timor, where as many as 200,000 people, nearly a quarter of East Timor’s population, have been driven from their homes since a UN supervised referendum resulted in 78.5 percent of the population voting for independence. Church World Service staff in Indonesia reports that the people forcibly deported by militias are seeking refuge in West Timor.

The Board adopted a statement detailing the current situation and the ways "the Indonesia effort to nullify the result of the referendum through violence and killings has been denounced by the international community." In the midst of the current upheaval, "the Executive Board has been made aware of various urgent reports from ecumenical partners and Church World Service staff on the ground." Immediate response includes "the churches of the Gareja Masehi di Timor (GMIT) providing shelter, food and basic health services to the displaced."

Additionally, church leaders in the region are meeting in order to plan their massive emergency response. CWS staff in Indonesia is exploring a possible response through the Church of Kupang, a new partner. CWS assistance for refugees in West Timor will likely include providing tents and providing hygiene kits and blankets. CWS is also prepared to support other efforts as part of work by the Action by Churches Together (ACT) International Network, but ACT said a humanitarian operation can only be launched in East Timor once the security situation allows for it.

The statement stresses the NCC’s longstanding concern for East Timor. Hosted by the Protestant Church in East Timor, two NCC ecumenical delegations recently visited East Timor. Through letters, reports and educational materials, the NCC has pressed the case of the 900,000 inhabitants of East Timor, who have long endured colonial occupation, poverty, social and economic stability.

On September 2, NCC General Secretary Joan Brown Campbell appealed to President Clinton "to make a clear statement to the Indonesian government that the violence must stop and that there will be material consequences if they do not fulfill their responsibility." The Executive Board issued the statement today because "the situation has changed dramatically for the worse" since Dr. Campbell’s appeal.

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