Timor-Leste 12 November: Dili

Sacrifice leads to hope

The 12th of November is a public holiday and is now known as National Youth Day in Timor-Leste. It celebrates the future of Timor’s youth while commemorating the anniversary of the Santa Cruz Massacre in 1991 when over 250 East Timorese youth were killed by Indonesian soldiers.

We began in Dili's Motael Church where we attended an outdoor memorial service for those killed, preserving and perpetuating their spirit of sacrifice and freedom.

Flowers to be placed at the graves of those killed were set in front of the congregation to receive blessing before being taken to the nearby Santa Cruz cemetery.

The Peace Torch was lit and blessed as part of the ceremony.

The torch was treated with much reverence and carried by relatives of those killed in 1991.

Many Timorese carried photographs of relatives who died on November 12, 1991. They had walked this same route in memory of Sebastião Gomes, a supporter of independence for Timor-Leste who was shot and killed by Indonesian troops at the Motael Church on October 28th of 1991.

British cameraman Max Stahl captured footage from the events of November 12, 1991. This footage instrumental in bringing international attention to the situation in Timor-Leste. Max can be seen here on the far right of the group of cameramen on the platform, still capturing video in Timor-Leste.

An estimated 7,000 people participated in the march, predominantly youth.

Upon arriving at the Santa Cruz cemetery the Peace Torch was ushered on stage.

Most of Timor-Leste's leaders were present and passed the torch. H.E. Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, centre, passed the torch to H.E. President of the Parliament Dr. Vicente Guterres as a visiting member of the Portuguese Parliament looked on.

Dr. Francisco Guterres Lu-Olo former President of the Parliament passed the torch to Timor-Leste's first Prime Minister Dr. Mari Alkatiri as H.E. Maria Goretti Guterres Marques (third from the right) looked on. Closest to the camera is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta, who we also met yesterday.

Jose Ramos Horta receives the Peace Torch from Dr. Mari Alkatiri.

Gregorio Saldanha President of Committee for the 12 of November remberence service.

H.E. Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão spoke first and invoked a minute of silence in memory of those who lost their lives.

Dr. Agraha, representing the Peace Run, was honored to be able to share Sri Chinmoy's words from a visit in 2004 when he said of Timor-Leste's fight for independence, "I bow to the great heroes of your beloved country who have fought against centuries-long bondage-night and have freed your country. Freedom! Freedom!"

H.E. President of the Parliament Dr. Vicente Guterres.

We took the torch to the grave of Sebastião Gomes inside the Santa Cruz cemetary, who gave his life on October 28th, 1991.

Back at the Hotel-Timor we expressed our gratitude to Sara Montes for so kindly accommodating our team for our entire visit in Timor-Leste.

Sara has been exceptionally gracious and kind to us throughout our stay.

Cláudia Pinto, a member of the group Timor-Leste Youth for Peace, very kindly served as official translator for Agraha when he spoke at the Santa Cruz Cemetary.

Finally, Mara Bernardes de Sá Namaganoa, centre, was absolutely indispensible for everything that happened in Timor-Leste.