East Timor Religious Conflict

September 12, 2013
East Timor is a part of an island near the easternmost tip of Indonesia. It has 8.2% arable, 4.57% permanent crops, and 83.27% land used for homes, shops, etc. The land has a plentiful amount of natural resources such as petroleum, natural gas, gold, but it remains in deep poverty. It is approximated that 98 percent of the population is Catholic, 1 percent Protestant, and less than 1 percent Muslim. East Timor was part of Portugal's colonial empire until 1975, when it declared itself independent, only to be overrun and occupied by Indonesia nine days later. December 7th 1975 was the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, which centered in the capitol of Dili. At that time, Indonesia was being supported by countries such as, USA, UK, and Australia, for various reasons, some of which include, gas and oil reserves, location, and economics. Before the invasion the population had an approximated 650,000 people. When estimated the number of deaths since the invasion by Indonesia (mainly Muslim), the number is as high as 200,000 (about 30% of the population) lives lost due to starvation, murder or sickness. The crisis was caused by many different sources, but perhaps the most important; Indonesia’s desire for Muslim control over the entire archipelago, and East Timor’s longing to be an independent, Catholic nation. East Timor’s independency would affect the physical geographic landscape by becoming the first state within the archipelago of another country. This could be an interesting advantage as being the first of its kind, and hopefully help unify the two diverse cultures. A disadvantage could be being largely separated on an island surrounded by potential enemies with no close allies.

In 1999, in a UN referendum, a vast majority of East Timorese voted for their independence from Indonesia. Immediately after the vote was cast, anti-independence Timorese militias (which happened to be organized and supported by the Indonesian military) commenced a punitive movement. Through the militias, approximately 1,400 Timorese had been murdered, and 300,000 unwillingly pushed into West Timor as refugees. The majority of the country's infrastructure was also demolished during the harsh outbreak. In 1999, through global pressure, and The International Force for East Timor being deployed, the violence and outbreaks came to an end.

Though the outbreaks have ended, there have still been many disputes between the Muslims of Indonesia and the Christians of East Timor. The Muslims want to take control over the land, while the Christians want to keep their home, oil resources, and become an independent state.

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