Tribute of a Timor Lover

A. Walter Dorn, 20 September 1999

 O Timor, how great has been your suffering!
 How many sons and daughters you have lost in your struggle!
 How many fruits you have been denied through the centuries!

 Still, the fairest fruit is soon to be yours: independence.
 You have paid the price with the sweat of your brow,
 with the blood of your people,
 under the whip of foreign taskmasters.
 Struggle, cry and work — all these you did.   
 Finally the world heard your cry and recognized your struggle.

We, the United Nations, came to help you determine your future.
We said: "Your choice, your vote, your future.  We are with you."
But we were wrong.   We allowed ourselves to believe that your
oppressor would become your protector.
We led you to the pasture but forgot that it was the location of a slaughterhouse.
It WAS your vote.  It WAS your choice but it WAS NOT your
future all together.
We stood by and then left you as the forces of darkness and prejudice
enveloped your land.
Now we return to count the dead and to help the living.
Still, many of your people remain in the jaws of terror, in another
land under the control of another power.  May they return
quickly to be embraced by you, O Timor.

Through the darkest hours, you have kept the flame of hope alive
in your heart.
You dared against fate and foreign oppression to believe in your future.
Now from the spirits of your fallen and the hearts of your living will
surely spring the goal supreme:  freedom.

Those of your admirers who love your natural beauty, cherish your humility,
will pledge to do what we can to make your independence dream a reality,
your freedom a celebration and your security a matter of  our own.  
May God give us the strength never to fail you again!
Viva Timor Leste!


When I left for East Timor at the beginning of summer 1999, little did I realize that my life would become inextricably intertwined with the lives of so many East Timorese and, indeed, with the life of an entire people.  This poem pays tribute to those remarkable, resilient, wonderful people. 

I served as a UN District Electoral Officer in the summer of 1999 leading up to the Referendum (“Popular Consultation”) of 30 August 1999.  I was stationed in Suai and registered many people at the Ave Maria Church in Suai, the site of the subsequent massacre (6 September 1999).  This poem is dedicated to my friends, the late Padre Francisco and the late Padre Hilario, of Zumalai and Suai, who died in the massacre. At the request of the Vicar of the Dili Cathedral this poem was translated into Tetun and Bahasa Indonesia for display in the foyer of the Cathedral.
Writings, presentations and photos from the deployment to Timor.