National Catholic Register


Vatican Notes & Qoutes

BY Jim Cosgrove

October 10-16, 1999 Issue | Posted 10/10/99 at 2:00 PM


Why No Muslim Condemnation of Timor Violence?

FAMIGLIA CHRISTIANA, Sept. 24—In an interview with the Italian magazine, a leading Vatican official questioned why Muslim leaders have not spoken out in condemnation of militia violence against the mostly Catholic population of East Timor.

Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, a deputy secretary of state in charge of foreign affairs, said Muslim silence on the fate of East Timor's Catholics contrasted with the church's defense of Muslim victims in the Balkans.

“It is sad to see that no Muslim religious leader has raised his voice to condemn the massacres and the destruction [in East Timor], while Pope John Paul II was a strenuous defender of human rights when the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo found themselves in the same situation,” he told the Italian weekly Famiglia Cristiana in late September.

The archbishop said the violence in East Timor is the result of a political clash and does not represent a “religious war.” Nevertheless, he said, a worrisome religious element has surfaced. For example, fanatical Muslim groups have been among those perpetrating recent attacks against Catholic institutions, he said.

Archbishop Tauran expressed strong support for the United Nations decision to approve a multinational peacekeeping force in East Timor, but he said the process of authorizing and deploying such a force was too slow.

The international community needs to find “rapid mechanisms to prevent and resolve dramas of this dimension,” he said.

He said the Timor violence illustrated that the United Nations in particular needs to be equipped in a way that “makes it able to respond effectively to this type of situation.”