IRLA Secretary General Meets the President of East Timor

On March 2, an IRLA delegation led by Dr John Graz, accompanied by Liberty magazine editor Lincoln Steed and Dr Jonathan Catholico, met East Timorese President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Mario Horta at the Timorese Presidential Palace. Dr Graz stated “it was an excellent meeting at which we were able to get past diplomatic pleasantries and discuss specific challenges to religious freedom and possible ways to address them effectively.” President Horta reaffirmed the commitment of his country for human rights and religious freedom. He further recognized that the society is, at times, having a difficult time adjusting to the nation’s growing religious diversity.

During the four day visit, the delegation also met a number of government and religious leaders, including the Catholic Bishop, the Vice Minister of Education, the leader of the opposition (who is also the former Prime Minister), the President of the Parliamentarian Commission on Religious Affairs, and European Union Ambassador Juan Carolos Rey and diplomats from the United States Embassy.

The goal of the delegation’s visit was to engage constructively with governmental and civic leaders to find practical means to reduce discrimination and societal hostility that is directed at times against non-Catholics. "It was a very useful visit,” states Graz, “in spite of challenges, the Government officials we met with made a credible case that they are committed to protect religious freedom for all, and that, further, they were open to practical steps to reduce instances of religious based discrimination. It is worth noting that the leader of the opposition is Muslim, which illustrates that while religious freedom challenges persist, East Timor is moving in the right direction to create a society in which all peaceful people of faith are respected."