World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Update
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: media

14 September 1999


cf. WCC Central Committee Press Release No. 12 of 1 Sept. 1999
cf. WCC Central Committee Press Release No. 16 of 2 Sept. 1999

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has been greatly saddened by the death of the general secretary of the Christian Church of East Timor (GKTT), Rev. Francisco de Vasconcelos. According to information received from the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) de Vasconcelos was shot by pro-autonomy militias on Friday, 10 September. He was travelling from the capital Dili to Baucau to seek safety after having received death threats.

De Vasconcelos is one of several church leaders among the many victims of the violent conflict in East Timor. "We have pointed out that church leaders, like Rev. de Vasconcelos, have been in particular danger", wrote the WCC's acting general secretary, Georges Lemopoulos, in a letter of condolence addressed to PGI general secretary Rev. Dr Joseph M. Pattiasina and to the GKTT congregations.

Dwain Epps of WCC International Relations, said that "de Vasconcelos was a courageous church leader who chose to stay with the members of his church."

The letter notes that "since the conclusion of the referendum in East Timor, the WCC has done all within its power to convince the international community to provide protection for the civilian population in the territory." WCC staff have been closely monitoring the situation in East Timor. During the period of the August referendum the WCC remained in contact with the GKTT, a WCC member church, which helped coordinate the delegations of international monitors.

According to reports from the region, the anti-independence militias have apparently targeted church leaders and church premises. GKTT staff have sought shelter in Hosanna Church in Dili. In a message conveying the news of the death of de Vasconcelos, PGI general secretary Pattiasina called on the churches to assist the people in East Timor.

Epps has called upon WCC member churches and partner agencies to engage in advocacy with their own governments which would allow the United Nations (UN):

  • to take immediate steps in consultation with the parties concerned to disarm all factions and restore law and order in East Timor;

  • to strengthen its presence in order to defuse conflict and prevent further acts of violence in East Timor;

  • to protect the right of all sectors of the population, irrespective of their position with respect to the recent referendum and the results of the ballot, to full participation in the political life of the country in a free and democratic environment;

  • to provide effective guarantees for the safety and security of all the people in East Timor and put an end to the present killing and destruction in the territory;

  • to ensure that those guilty of crimes against the people of East Timor are appropriately charged and brought to trial.
Click here a list of press releases, statements and reports concerning Indonesia and East Timor

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 336, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.