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08 October 2008

Church still a leading light in East Timor struggle for justice

Christian Today 7 October 2008 - The church's ability to keep the East Timorese community strong through 25 years of occupation and conflict will also be "instrumental" in helping the poverty-stricken country to move forward, a leading Timorese politician, Fernanda Borges, will tell a UK audience when she visits London on October 14.

Fernanda Borges MP, a committed Christian and East Timor's only female party leader, will also say the British government and the international community can now assist her nation by helping promote accountability for past human rights violations and reparations for the victims of those violations.

She will declare that 'transitional justice' for the victims of the occupation is essential to long-term peace in East Timor and regional stability in South East Asia.

"Attempts to deny or delay justice will only fester political insecurity and sink the Timorese people further into poverty," says Borges. Despite achieving independence in 1999, East Timor is still one of the poorest countries in Asia, with 40 per cent of the population living below the poverty line.

As a six year old, Borges witnessed the horrors of war first hand. Now, three decades on, she has been dubbed East Timor's "Iron Lady" for her uncompromising commitment to achieving justice for her people.

"The church has always been a leading light in our struggle and the Catholic value system is still very important to the Timorese people," says Borges. "We now need help from Christians worldwide to ensure that justice, respect for human rights and the rule of law are enshrined in the modern day values of our newly independent nation".

Borges will deliver her address, 'Tipping the scales of justice in a new nation', in support of international development agency Progressio's 'East Timor: Who Cares?' campaign.

The campaign is calling on the UK government to support the development of a Timor-based transitional justice centre to help the East Timorese government promote accountability, which will include the recognition of past atrocities.

Progressio's Executive Director, Christine Allen, said: "East Timor is approaching the 10th anniversary of its 1999 landslide vote for independence.

"Fernanda Borges is one of the courageous politicians who has sided with the Timorese people to call for justice as an alternative to amnesty and impunity.

"We must heed her calls and speak out in solidarity with the people of East Timor so that the tenth anniversary of the independence vote can truly be a celebration of justice and hope for the people."

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