East Timor: A Land of Challenges for the Jesuits
It was a long-anticipated agenda of the Superior General of the Jesuits, to visit Dili, East Timor during the month of July. Nevertheless, the pandemic hasn’t left it untouched and prevented him from going there.
It is a small country of 1.2 million inhabitants that occupies, as its name suggests, the eastern part of the island of Timor in the Indonesian archipelago. 50% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day - a growing country but one that faces enormous challenges. Long a Portuguese colony, the territory was annexed in 1975 by Indonesia. A bloody war lasted for years and led to a unilateral declaration of independence in 1999. The country was recognized by the United Nations in 2002, the third last to be recognized (before Montenegro in 2006 and South Sudan in 2011).
Jesuit missionaries have been present there for a long time. At present, of the 46 members of the Independent Region, there are 35 Timorese and 11 foreigners. However, it should be noted, that 24 of the 35 Jesuits from East Timor are scholastics. There are very few formed priests. One of the legacies of Timor’s colonial past is the place of the Catholic Church.
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