world council of churches

Indonesia and East Timor: The Ecumenical Response
Background Information

Minute on Indonesia

(Adopted by the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, 26 August - 3 September 1999)

The World Council of Churches, in pursuance of the minute adopted by the Eighth Assembly at Harare, and in cooperation with the Christian Conference of Asia, sent an ecumenical delegation to Indonesia in late January 1999. This was followed up with a staff visit to East Timor in late June and early July 1999 related to the planned United Nations supervised referendum. Since the fall of Suharto in May 1998, the Council has monitored developments in the country and has kept close contact with the churches, particularly those in East Timor and Irian Jaya. The WCC sent a message to the Government of Indonesia expressing concern about the growing incidence of communal violence and attacks on places of worship in Ambon and other parts of Indonesia, and about continuing human rights violations by the security forces, particularly in East Timor and Aceh, where women and children have suffered most. The WCC and many of its member churches and partner agencies have provided support to the Indonesian churches' efforts to assist the people and provide witness in these difficult circumstances.

The Central Committee expresses particular concern now about the dangers confronting East Timor in the post-referendum period, as a consequence of the division of the community between the pro-autonomy factions, some of whom have been armed by the Indonesian military, and pro-independence sectors. In light of the present climate of hostility and conflict, the Central Committee requests the General Secretary to address an appeal to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, urging him to consider an alteration and a further extension of the mandate of the UN presence in East Timor beyond the referendum period until peace and security there is restored.

The continuing communal violence in Ambon and the increase in repressive measures by the security forces in Aceh and Irian Jaya remains a matter of grave concern for the WCC. The Central Committee assures the churches in Indonesia of the WCC's ongoing support for them as they struggle through this difficult period.

The Central Committee calls upon WCC member churches to:

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