Social and Pastoral BulletinNo. 92 Oct. 25, 1999
Hayashi Hisashi, SJ (Jesuit Labor Education Center)
It was July 1991. I made a phone call to the Seminary of Lahane (East Timor)
looking for somebody who could speak English. They answered me back: "Yes,
Fr. Karim will help you". I was on my first short visit to East Timor,
and I stayed in the compound of Dili's Bishop center with the person accompanying
me. But, since the youth was pompously preparing the official visit of
a delegation of Portuguese politicians, there was a strict check on outsiders
and I finally decided to go to the Jesuit residence. There I met for the
first time the rector of the Seminary, Fr. Karl Albrecht. He told me that
when he became 60 years old he received a new assignment, volunteering
to come to East Timor. He knew the promoter of Credit Unions in Japan,
Fr. M. Lafont, SJ. He, also, told me about the beginnings of the SELA (Socio-Economic
Life in Asia) organization.
| We visited together the classrooms of the seminary where he was accustomed
to talk to the students about holding a wide vision on the future of East
- 1 -
|Filled with enthusiasm, more than with words, he often invited the students
to share with others a solidarity that will break the double barbed wire
symbolically carved in the tabernacle of the seminary's chapel by Fr. Cunya.
From the top of the mountains of Dare, Fr. Albrecht pointed at the site
where the new seminary was about to be built and he spoke to me about the
future of East Timor. Some time ago, several Timorese political prisoners
confined in Cipinang (Jakarta) prison had earnestly asked me to assist
the young Timorese, and I asked Fr. Karl's advice, about the matter. He
opened the way to assist in the training of young people doing their studies
in the seminary. Since then, each student sent kind letters, with their
own photographs, to the benefactors and this helped to create strong ties
between East Timorese and Japanese working at the grass roots.
I keep fond recollections of Fr. Karl, like his humorous remarks concerning the times of the Japanese military invasion of Indonesia that helped to ease somehow my tensions, or the glass of Scotch whiskey he made me drink at once before departing when he perceived my uneasiness. I still remember when at the airport he took my luggage and followed me to the last waiting room to see me off. His extraordinary good heart and warmth has always impressed me deeply. His cordiality born from his missionary vocation was ever present.
| The next time I planned my next visit to Dili, I was denied a visa by
the Indonesian government. Upon looking for further information, I was
advised to wait patiently for a while. I continued for 5 years, providing
financial support and exchanging letters, but due to my laziness I often
was careless about answering letters. Once, at the beginning of the New
Year I wrote a letter to Fr. Karl that crossed over the Ocean with a letter
sent by him from Dili. That impelled me to imagine with hope that, even
if it was impossible for me to go to East Timor, there were other ways
to continue and deepen our solidarity.
His letters never touched on the tragedy of Santa Cruz cemetery (November 1991). Last August, hurrying home from a visit to Liquica, Atabae and Batugate together with the staff of UNHCR I asked Fr. Karl about the experiences of Santa Cruz. He remained silent like a stone, and I thought at the time that it was due to his difficulty in hearing. Reflecting on that now, most probably I mercilessly, tread him underfoot by touching on one of his deep sad experiences, because, as a missionary, he loved both Indonesia and East Timor. I am now overwhelmed with shame. After a few minutes of silence, our conversation took a different trend.
- 2 -
|He continued the conversation, and whenever I remember his thoughtfulness
for others I feel tears come to my eyes. In less than a month, since then,
he was shot by a gunman and was buried in the soil of East Timor, offering
himself for Indonesia and the new East Timor.
It took four years till I could again make it to the airport of Comoro.
The new seminary in Balide had already been built at the side of Santa
Cruz cemetery. It was pleasant to meet Fr. Karl again. Whenever I remember
shaking hands with each one of the students, their smiling faces and their
impressive chorus, I feel that Fr. Karl, their rector, was the one to bring
out their best to greet a Japanese priest friend. At the time, in 1996,
there was, of course, a fluent situation with regard to East Timor. According
to some gossip I was not fully aware of, they wanted me to remain only
in Dili, but by arrangement of Fr. Karl, the Superior at the time, I could
somehow move around the place.
| Upon our return from Manatuto, since we did not bring lunch with us, we
dropped in a small restaurant to eat. The strange combination of a German
(in fact he had Indonesian nationality) and a Japanese provided ground
for some strain, and Fr. Karl looked somehow perplexed. Then, some graduates
from the seminary got out of a truck together with a group of young people
and entered the same restaurant. Fr. Karl asked them to order food for
us, because he was not sure how to do it. The graduates were delighted
to take care of their beloved teacher. I remember that their warm relationship
helped to relax the atmosphere there.
I went around with him on several occasions, but, to tell the truth, I felt the limitations of a missionary holding Indonesian citizenship. He did the unbelievable to make me sense the realities of East Timor.
- 3 -
|Fr. Karl liked swimming and brought me to dive at a beautiful beach. I
declined to go swimming thinking of the Timorese people unable by the strict
situation to enjoy swimming, but Fr. Karl loved the ocean of Timor, as
a gift from God. He was much concerned about the future of Timor, feeling
that environmental destruction had already started.
After a sabbatical year he was relieved from his responsibilities in the seminary and in the Jesuit region and moved to the residence of Taibesi, and although devoted to pastoral work, he continued his warm contacts between the seminary and Japan. A little later he joyfully helped to establish sister links between the High Schools of Taisei in Fukuoka and St. Joseph in East Timor. This is, again, a sign of how deeply Fr. Karl was thinking about the future of East Timor.
In 1998 the situation started to change further, and foreign commitments in East Timor made big turns. Last May, after the massacre of Liquica, I landed for the fifth time in Dili on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. It was the day of the silent procession of the clergy and religious people.
| After passing by the Santa Cruz cemetery, when it became dark the candles
were lighted; they continued uninterruptedly giving light to Dili in the
darkness, at the unison of prayers for peace. I was the only participant
there from Japan and I walked praying fervently with all my heart that
the lights will never be turned off. I was scared at the thought of an
armed attack of militiamen using drugs, from some unexpected place, but
that chilly night the procession of candles with prayers for a hopeful
situation of non-violence seemed to have some temporary results.
When the procession reached the plaza in front of the residence of bishop Belo in Recidere, I found Fr. Karl and went to meet him. He was peacefully praying and he turned around taking notice of me, and, without changing much his face as if it was natural that I should be there, he welcomed me to pray with the people. The next day he invited me to work together with him in his new appointment as director of Dili's JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service). We went together to visit the refugees of Liquica and Dili.
- 4 -
|He told me that, since he was of age already and the refugees were spread
out confronting many hardships, he would, for the time being, take care
of refugees in Dili. He explained to me that he worked under Caritas, with
the Church of East Timor, but since men were the targets of attacks by
the militia, he was forming a team of religious sisters.
In order not to create any problem I did not take any picture of Fr. Karl setting up a place to provide permission for distributing food to the people. Coughing, he felt sad at the fact that there were so many hungry refugees with so little food relief. We saw a young mother, with a broken leg and dirty wounds, looking lonesome without any more food and pulling by the hand two small kids. Fr. Karl looked sadly at her embarrassed because he could not do anything. He shed tears that night feeling hopeless. I perceive that, at the end, all he was able to do was to give his life for those people. After 10 years of missionary activity in East Timor Fr. Karl died. His life was the last gift he was able to afford for the people of East Timor.
| Last August 9, on his way to say mass for the Carmelites of Hera, Fr.
Karl dropped me off at the Turismo hotel at 5:30 AM. I was going to join
the UNCHR convoy to Viqueque. For security reasons the plan could not be
implemented. There was no way to move out of Dili and, in spite of knowing
how badly relief goods were needed in the remote areas, I became irritated,
because there was no possible way to deliver them.
On August 10, Fr. Karl came to me at around 9:00 AM and invited me to take a swim together. That morning, he looked amazingly angry and much disappointed. I doubted myself: "Going swimming at such a terrible time!" I was waiting directions from somebody to deliver relief goods to refugee sites…Nevertheless, I gave in to the rare demand of Fr. Karl. I said to him that I did not bring a swimming suit, but he told me he had two. I just took a look at his fat belly, but anyhow that day I decided to follow him no matter what happened. Most probably I wanted to return all he had done up to then for me.
- 5 -
| There was an exit to the sea in the road going from Becora to Hera: a
coast of mangroves without any sign of life, a beach with incredible stories
of brutal violence. Bishop Belo had appointed Fr. Karl the responsible
priest to take care of the refugee issue in the Dili diocese, and together
with the local Caritas and other NGOs he made the plans to tackle this
important urgent situation. As a result, UNHR tried to work its programs
through the channel of F. Karl.
In fact, the organized coordinated programs did not really work. Later I heard from some East Timorese that, the fluidity of the situation and the abundance of urgent action to be taken, did not leave space for organized planning. Meetings were called but it was already time to move on. The ways to cope with the situation and the analysis of the facts done by the locals did not match well with the Indonesian Jesuits and the ways of Indonesian naturalized, German missionary, Fr. Karl. That morning he had an appointment with bishop Belo, but he was absent. He went to Caritas but nobody was there. He had been handed responsibility, but it was like striking at the air. There was often no news from UNHCR. For a priest 70 years old it was certainly too hard to bear. The bishop had appointed him to be a liaison between the UN, the militia, and the Indonesian army, the Church and NGOs. Since I had been appointed JRS delegate by the Japanese province it was easy for me to realize what was going on, while working with Fr. Karl.
We changed our clothes in the rocks and I put on the big swimming suit of Fr. Karl. During the few hours we were together he taught me that, no matter what the disappointments are, one must be accustomed to live face to face with reality. It was one of my life experiences to swim with this person, Karl, and to get to know him as he was.
| Twice the popular consultation was postponed and I had to leave Letefoho
on August 22. I was already back in Japan on August 30, the day people
of East Timor showed their amazing human respect. The day I left Comoro
airport, Fr. Karl came a little late to see me off and told me smiling,
"Do you leave us here alone in East Timor?" It was painful to
hear that. Then sitting at my side, he added, "I must ask your forgiveness
for something wrong I did to you. We were the two JRS persons here, but
I left you alone, in spite of so many things we had to do. I was taking
care of a medical team from Germany and that took all my time. Really,
forgive me". I answered him back that, it was my 6th time in Dili
and I was able also this time to do what I wanted to do, that he should
not worry at all. He looked at me and said, "Next time you come here
again, I will not be here. Most probably, by December of this year the
refugee issue will be over. My task here will be finished and, next year!
, I will probably be working in Jogyakarta. I will not meet you here any
more. On the other hand, the Jesuit residence they are building here is
too elegant and I feel I can not stay here because I came to live among
the poor Timorese."
He spoke with a big voice, although we were together with the regional superior who was making big efforts to build the new residence, where he placed great dreams to start new pastoral missionary activities. When I told him that I would look for him again, he strongly shook my hand, and with his eyes fill with tears he stood up saying, "How good it was to be working in the same ministry for 10 full years." I want to continue, without complaint, the same life style that made me capable to shake hands that way.
- 6 -
Fr. Dewanto offered his first mass on August 15, 1999 in the seminary
of Bunda Maria Fatima, and a few days later he went to Suai where Fr. Hiralio
was working. I met him before his departure for Suai and told him jokingly,
"Take care. I do not want to have to attend your funeral." I
see, now, I should not have told him that. Suai was his first and his last
appointment. Because he had had the celebration of his first mass days
before, as well as his farewell, not many people were present at his departure.
Upon leaving, he smiled at my remarks, through the window of the car and
said goodbye to us.
It was Tarcisius Dewanto. When I met him in my next visit to Dili I did
not recognized him immediately, but he came smiling towards me and said,
"Have you already forgotten me?" He was very affable and had
a special soft touch.
- 7 -
|Feeling shy he spoke earnestly. He played the guitar and liked to sing
Japanese songs. One of his favorite songs was "Kokoro no Tomo"
of Itsuwa Mayumi:
He repeated it several times till he could remember the verses and sing them. He enjoyed singing together with me. The evening before leaving for Suai he was sitting in front of the computer, with a Japanese song written in Roma-ji on the screen. He asked me whether the spelling was good. While singing, he was adapting the musical notes. He prepared everything so that, a few days later, high school students could sing it. I wonder if he was able to hear in his heart the song, "Kokoro no Tomo", gracefully sung at the Culture Night, by the high school girl students of St. Joseph when he was already in Suai surrounded by refugees.
| The situation in Suai worsened. I asked at the time, "Why does a
newly ordained priest have to be sent to Suai?" They answered me,
"Well, since he speaks Tetum language with a Java accent, he can practice
in Suai much better. After all, it is only till December, so he can have
a good experience there." When I remarked that Suai was going to become
a dangerous place after the general elections, one of his young Jesuit
friends said with a dim look that, he had been sent at the request of bishop
The west regions of the country became increasingly dangerous. It reminded me of the time of the Docomo offensive invasion in 1975. The Indonesian army and the militia had occupied the areas near the border of West Timor, and the population took shelter in churches and nearby religious sites. A Timorese priest could be killed at any time. The militia was ready to kill anybody approaching the water reservoir. The situation had become critical and there was no more food available. Fr. Luis who came by truck from Suai said that, there was no more rice left in town.
- 8 -
|Yayasan Hak, a local NGO was not allowed to function and UNHCR was not
able to reach the places where refugees were. The Church, standing between
the people and the militia (the Indonesian army), became the target of
attacks. Bishop Belo and others looked for priests from Java. I felt that
Fr. Dewanto was sent to Suai in order to become like a breakwater or a
bulletproof jacket. Nevertheless, the bullets pierced and destroyed him.
When I heard that his funeral mass took place in Jakarta, I felt that the forces behind the troubles in East Timor were going to use the incident to prove that, there was a civil war going on in East Timor. They wanted to manipulate the news and spread to the world that militiamen had killed an Indonesian priest. I screamed through the e-mail, "Appeal to people that the Indonesian army has killed a priest from Java." Fr. Dewanto's death should not be overlooked so much.Following orders from above, a high rank Indonesian military person took Fr. Dewanto out of the presbytery and shot him in the back. A witness, living in a refugee camp in West Timor, testified: "Fr. Dewanto, you offered yourself, together with Jesus, on the altar of the land of East Timor just two months after your ordination.
|You gave your 33-year-old life as an act of respect for the people of East
Timor who, by their self-determination, showed their human dignity as creatures
made in the image of God. You offered your life for the coming of God's
kingdom, especially so that love, peace and justice can be implemented
in East Timor."
- 9 -