The impact of the Indonesian annexation on the role of the Catholic Church in East Timor, 1976-1995

  • Louise Mary Crowe

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    The Catholic Church in East Timor has undergone major transformation as a result of the imposition of Indonesian rule. The Church's symbiotic relationship to the Portuguese State was severed with the 1975 Indonesian invasion. Its four hundred year presence in East Timor had been characterised by its lack of inculturation with East Timorese society. In the twenty year period of Indonesian rule this elitism has been replaced by a commitment to service of the East Timorese people which sees the Church institution firmly embedded within East Timorese society. Both the policies of the Indonesian State and the East Timorese perception of the Church as the only legitimate vehicle of dissent have contributed to the growth in Church membership which now exceeds 90% of the East Timorese population.

    The repressive Indonesian military presence in East Timor has created a widespread resistance to Indonesian rule. Increasing Church opposition to Indonesian policies, most vocally articulated by indigenous Church leaders, has exacerbated the strained relations between the Church and State. The Church has become a focus for the expression and maintenance of East Timorese culture and identity. The international organisation of the Catholic Church has provided the Church in East Timor with a degree of protection and autonomy from the Indonesian State. Sensitive to international criticism and the toleration required by its Pancasila doctrine, the State has been able to curtail but not suppress Church opposition, raising new challenges for the State's ability to control dissent. In its search for justice and peace in East Timor, the Church must also address new challenges to its role, including increasing religious pluralism within East Timorese society and diversity of opinion within the Catholic Church.
    Date of Award1996
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDennis Shoesmith (Supervisor)

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