Monday, February 11, 2008

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

A state of emergency has been declared in East Timor following this morning's attempt on the life of the young nation's leader, President Jose Ramos Horta.

Since the attack -- a failed coup attempt which left several others dead -- the ailing head of state has been rushed to Australia for emergency surgery. Ramos Horta took wounds to the chest and stomach, and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped unhurt from a separate ambush. Wire reports relay fears that the surprise attacks could spur a new outbreak of violence on the island after a prolonged season of calm.

Following decades of forced occupation by Indonesia, the onetime Portughese protectorate won independence in 2001. A leader of the nonviolent freedom movement, Ramos Horta won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize alongside the territory's shepherd, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo SDB, who subsequently retired young to return to the missions. Over ninety-five percent of East Timorese are Catholic, making the island one of the church's few major footholds in Asia.

In accepting his Nobel, Ramos Horta pledged "that God's modest gifts of health and wisdom to me will always be put to the service of peace and justice not only for my country and people but also for the cause of peace, freedom and democracy everywhere where my faint voice can be heard."

Last month, he was welcomed to the Vatican for his second meeting with Pope Benedict.

SVILUPPO: The president is reported to be "out of danger" after a bullet in his lung was removed.

PHOTO: AP File/Ed Wray