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Suai Church Massacre: Communities to build statues of three priests, Hilario, Dewanto, Francisco

Suai Church Massacre: Communities to build statues of three priests, Hilario, Dewanto, Francisco

DILI, 24 feberuary 2023 (TATOLI) – Almost 24 years after the Suai Church massacre, communities in the municipality of Covalima discussed building the statues of the three priests, Father Hilario Madeira, Father Tarsisius Dewanto, and Father Francisco Soares, who was killed in the massacre, in september 6, 1999.

“Today, we organized a meeting to discuss the plan to build the statues of the three priests, including a sanctuary. So, we discussed the design and budget for the construction of the statues and the sanctuary,” the President of the Organizing Committee, Domingos Oliveira “Fotiriba”, told reporters in Covalima.

He said that the next meeting will be with the priest of Ave Maria Suai Parish, the President of the Covalima Municipal Authority, veterans, and survivors of the massacre to discuss the preparation for the construction of the statues.

The priest of Ave Maria Suai, Sebastião Eugenio da Cruz Correia, said that the Ave Maria Suai Church is an important historical site for the next generation to honor and pay respect to those who were killed in the massacre.

The Suai Church massacre occurred on september 6, 1999, in Suai of Covalima municipality, two days after the results of the independence referendum were announced.

This devastating massacre has become known as the Black September of East Timor.

According to the excerpt from Chega!, in the morning of september 6, the Laksaur militia group under the command of M78 and M59 gathered at the Koramil in Salele, which was also the militia headquarters.

Following the arrival of a truck full of TNI soldiers, M78 told his men that they would attack the church that day. The militia group under M78 and M59 went to the Kodim in Suai and then to the house of the district administrator, Colonel M133 [East Timorese]. In the afternoon, at about 2.30 pm, the militia group left the house for the church. M133 followed them from behind, dressed in a TNI uniform and armed with a rifle. 

On arrival, the militia and TNI members surrounded the church. The attack began with the throwing of two grenades into the church compound and was followed by a shooting. They entered the church compound and attacked the people sheltering there. They killed many civilians including three priests, Father Hilario Madeira, Father Tarsisius Dewanto, and Father Francisco Soares. 

Between 27 and 200 people were killed during the attack and another 30 in targeted killings that followed. 

Five Indonesian officials—Lieutenant Colonel Liliek Kusardiyanto, Captain Ahmad Syamsudin, Lieutenant Sugito, police Colonel Gatot Subiaktoro, and District Head Herman Sedyono—were tried in Indonesia for these crimes but were acquitted.

 

Jornalista: Celestina Teles

Editor: Cancio Ximenes

Translator: Filomeno Martins/Editor: Nelia Borges 

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