Belo Carlos Felipe Ximenes

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Belo Carlos Felipe Ximenes in Asia

Belo Carlos Felipe Ximenes

Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, born in 1946, bishop of East Timor and recipient of the Nobel Prize for peace in 1996. He became widely recognized for encouraging a peaceful struggle for East Timor’s independence following its invasion by Indonesia in 1975. Belo shared the prize with East Timorese resistance leader José Ramos-Horta.

Belo was born in Baucau, in East Timor, then a Portuguese colony. He studied philosophy from 1973 to 1975 at the Instituto Superior de Estudios Teológicos in Lisbon, Portugal. From 1976 to 1979 Belo studied theology at Lisbon’s Universidade Católica Portuguesa. He moved to Rome, Italy, and was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1980. Belo acquired a bachelor’s degree in theology from the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome in 1981.

When he returned to East Timor in 1981, Belo taught at Fatumaca College in Baucau, becoming the school’s director in 1983. That same year the Roman Catholic Church named him apostolic administrator (representative of the Vatican) of the East Timorese capital of Dili. He was consecrated a bishop in 1988.

Belo became a spiritual leader and spokesperson for East Timor following Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of the region. Indonesia forcibly annexed East Timor in 1976, and approximately one third of the population died in the brutal occupation that followed.

Belo used his religious offices to try to focus international attention on the occupation of East Timor. He wrote extensively on the conflict and granted interviews with media representatives. Despite widespread violence, illness, and starvation in the region, Belo urged the people of East Timor to counter the occupation through nonviolent protest. He also sought to negotiate peacefully with the Indonesian government. Belo tried to improve the lives of the East Timorese by helping build schools and health clinics, founding a commission to monitor human rights, and establishing an independent radio station.

In 1999 the Indonesian government agreed to allow the East Timorese to vote on whether to remain part of Indonesia or become an independent nation. The East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to become independent, but hundreds of East Timorese were killed in the aftermath by anti-independence militias, allegedly supported by the Indonesian military. Belo, along with Ramos-Horta, called for the creation of an international war-crimes tribunal to prosecute Indonesian army generals for their alleged role in the killings and in other human-rights abuses that took place under Indonesia’s rule. (1)


Notes and References

  1. Encarta Online Encyclopedia

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