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Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor

Ch 4. Transfers by religious institutions

The ‘civilising’ mission has always been the most obvious area of co-operation between European imperial powers seeking to expand their territories and Western Christian missions attempting to convert the ‘heathen’ inhabitants. Education was central to achieving this goal. As the church educated adherents to the new religion of the colonisers, it inculcated the language and culture of the coloniser, thereby helping to foster a population loyal to the colonial government (Johnston 2001: 77; Tuck 1987: 20–33; Steenbrink 2003: 25,174).1 Portuguese Timor was an excellent example of such co-operation. During the Salazar dictatorship, from 1940 to 1974, the Catholic Church was a powerful political force and in the colony in Timor its influence was exercised largely through education (Carey 1999). In its institutions of higher education, the church educated a generation of indigenous elite who came to think of themselves as Portuguese (Kohen 1999: 37–39).2

New Order secular and religious leaders in Indonesia, like their Western colonial counterparts, also worked together, as eminent Indonesian political scientist, Daniel Dhakidae (2003: 734) has noted. Secular and religious leaders supported each other in East Timor in their respective projects of integration and conversion. Indonesian Catholics welcomed the expansion of Catholicism in the eastern islands of the archipelago and the church sent religious staff to help with development and to conduct Christian mission.3 As Islam is the majority religion in Indonesia, Islamic missionary organisations also arrived to engage in mission and educational activities.

For Muslims as well, education is central to mission and conversion. Unlike the Catholics who had an extensive school system during the Portuguese era, Muslims had only one religious school, attended by the descendants of Arab Muslims living in Dili. There were no converts to Islam among the indigenous population,4 but after integration Islamic organisations sought to expand their religious activities; however they faced opposition from Catholics in the territory.

Religious educational institutions, like their secular counterparts, have sometimes deemed it necessary to remove children from their families in order to inculcate new ideas, especially the precepts of a new religion, and break the influence of old traditions and beliefs. As was discussed in the Introduction, the children selected for removal from their families were often the most impoverished and vulnerable members of the group. Indonesian Islamic organisations also decided to send East Timorese children to Indonesia to be educated in Islamic schools and these organisations sent approximately 1,000 young indigenous East Timorese to Indonesia during the 1980s and 1990s. The transfer of these young children to Indonesia is the main focus of this chapter.

Religion in East Timor

Before we begin to consider these transfers, we need to understand the role of religion in New Order Indonesia, and especially how this played out in East Timor. In 1975, most religious leaders in Portugal, in Portuguese Timor and in Indonesia supported the integration of Portuguese Timor with Indonesia. They feared the atheism of communism and many believed that a Fretilin-led government would pose a threat to religion; they preferred to put their trust in Indonesia’s Pancasila doctrine.

The New Order guaranteed freedom of religious practice, but required all citizens to adopt one of its officially sanctioned religions. With the arrival of the Indonesians in East Timor, the people there were forced to adopt a religion or risk accusations of being atheists and, therefore, communists and potential members of Fretilin. Religious leaders and organisations in both Indonesia and East Timor supported the New Order policy. Together with the practice of forced relocation of the population, this policy gave impetus to conversion projects, but it also led to competition among the religions represented in East Timor and contributed to religion assuming a greater role in politics in the territory than would otherwise have been the case (Steenbrink 2004: 229–230; Mubyarto et al. 1991: 30–31; Ummat 1996a: 55–56).

Catholicism spread rapidly to become the dominant religion. At the time of the invasion, 70% of the population of Portuguese Timor adhered to traditional religious practices. They lived in clusters of houses around their traditional or sacred house (uma lulik), all descendants or putative descendants of the original founder of the sacred house (Mubyarto et al. 1991: 26–27, 30–31).5 In the years before 1975 the Catholic Church had trained many indigenous East Timorese as catechists – laypersons with basic religious training but not ordained as priests. Catechists encouraged people in the concentration and relocation camps to become Catholics (Kohen 1999: 28–29). Initially the expansion of Catholicism in East Timor was supported by the Indonesian military, especially through the influence of the powerful Major General Benny Murdani, himself a Catholic, who was responsible for developing the New Order’s strategy for the integration of the territory. Murdani had close links with the Catholics on the staff of the anti-communist Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which advised on integration strategies. CSIS was both anti-communist and supportive of the army’s anti-Islamic measures (Porter 2002: 135; Mujiburrahman 2006: 122,134–149). By 1990, 90% of the population was Catholic (Kantor Statistik Propinsi Timor Timur 1990: 128)6 and almost all influential, educated East Timorese were Catholics.

Supporting the Catholic Church in East Timor did not, however, fulfil the New Order’s expectation that the Church would afford legitimacy to integration.7 The Portuguese leader of the church at the time of the invasion, Bishop Dom José Joaquim Riberio, supported integration initially but changed his mind after witnessing military abuse of the people and the desecration of churches (Dunn 2003: 297). Monsignor Martinho da Costa Lopes, an East Timorese who replaced him in 1977, was also outspoken against the Indonesian occupation and was removed from office in 1983 under pressure from the New Order. The young, inexperienced East Timorese, Dom Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, was not as malleable as the Indonesians had assumed. He too began to speak out against abuses, most famously in 1989 when he wrote to the United Nations that the East Timorese were ‘dying as a people and as a nation’ (CAVR 2006: 3.15 Nos. 397–401,415–416,432,445–450).8 The international links of the Catholic Church and the awarding of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Bishop Carlos Belo and Jose Ramos Horta, the future president of East Timor, were crucial in drawing attention to the human rights situation in East Timor (CAVR 2006: 3.15 No. 398). It was during the Pope’s visit to East Timor in 1989 that the anti-integration demonstrations by the clandestine movement commenced (CAVR 2006: 433; Pinto 2001: 34), much to the dismay of the Indonesian authorities who had hoped that the visit of the head of the Catholic Church to the territory would bestow legitimacy on integration.

Instead, the East Timorese Catholic Church became the one place where East Timorese could express themselves with some degree of openness away from Indonesian control (Archer 1995: 127). Catholicism became integral to East Timorese national identity, setting East Timorese apart from their Indonesian Muslim oppressors, although by no means all Catholics had the same attitude towards integration (Carey 1999: 86; Archer 1995: 127). The Church with its ‘East Timorese character’ was accepted internationally as representing the authentic voice of the majority of East Timorese and became the focus of the independence struggle.

During the Portuguese administration there were few indigenous East Timorese Protestants or Muslims. A small number of East Timorese had become Protestants in the late Portuguese period (Gereja Kristen di Timor Timur 1989: 4–5),9 and a community that had grown to approximately 650 Muslims, descendants of Arabs from Hadramaut (now Yemen) had lived in Portuguese Timor since the 17th century. Most Arab East Timorese lived in Kampung Alor, in the western area of Dili, where the An-Nur mosque had been the focus of their worship, ceremonies and religious education for many years (Bazher 1995: 28–38,45–50; Media Dakwah 1995a: 41–49; Hill 1976: 45). The members of the Arab community were accepted in East Timor and there was no impediment to the practice of their faith. With the arrival of the Indonesians most Arab East Timorese supported integration, although there were some who did not, notably Mari Alkatiri the first prime minister of independent East Timor.10 There were no adherents to Islam among indigenous East Timorese.

Conversion to Islam and Protestantism gained some momentum immediately after the invasion. Because of the absence of religious leaders in the concentration and resettlement camps, Indonesian soldiers and civil servants often played a direct role in ensuring that East Timorese adopted a religion. Many battalion commanders, non-Catholics as well as Catholics, encouraged East Timorese without a religion to adopt the religion they themselves practised. To teach and assist the new converts, the military, which strictly controlled entry to and travel in East Timor, gave permission and protection to many Indonesian religious personnel to travel and work in East Timor, where they had to co-operate with the military and support its integration policies.

Indigenous East Timorese who chose to become Muslims or Protestants were only ever a small percentage of the population – the often-cited 10% included many outsiders from Indonesia. They were often regarded with suspicion by the Catholic majority as being less nationalistic and identifying more with Indonesia. This applied especially to Muslims.11 In the early 1990s, 70,000 people who were not East Timorese were living in the territory (Elson 2001: 254–255) and this number expanded to 150,000 by the end of the decade.12 Many of the newcomers were Muslims (Kompas 1998). In 1995 there were approximately 3,500 indigenous East Timorese Muslim converts, living mostly in remote districts of East Timor (Republika Online 1995b; Viera 1998). By the mid-1990s mosques had been built in the main centres of all districts and smaller worship rooms (musholla) had been constructed, as well as madrasah to teach the Koran, elsewhere (Bazher 1995: 102,105–111). While not numerous, these schools and places of worship served mainly those who were not East Timorese; with the exception of the main mosque and several worship rooms in Dili, they had all been built since the arrival of the Indonesians.

To many East Timorese, mosques and Islamic schools were symbols of the Indonesian presence and of contest with the East Timorese Catholic Church (Catholic Institute for International Relations 1993: 7). Following the demonstration at the time of the Pope’s visit, the frequency of anti-integration demonstrations by frustrated youths in East Timor increased (CAVR 2006: 3.17 No. 433). Most demonstrations were nonviolent, but between mid-1994 and mid-1996 a series of violent religious riots broke out targeting Muslims and Islamic institutions. The rioters, many only school children, burnt mosques, worship rooms and Islamic schools, as well as the homes and businesses of Muslim migrants, especially those of the Bugis voluntary migrants from South Sulawesi, who were accused of dominating business and trade and taking jobs from East Timorese. The Protestants had also built many churches in East Timor and the anger against Indonesia spread to them, resulting in several Protestant churches being burnt (Human Rights Watch 1996).13 Indonesian security forces responded by arresting perpetrators, but they also placed restrictions on the daily practice of Islam in problem areas. Some Islamic schools were closed and the procedure for obtaining permission for the building of mosques was tightened (Azra and Umam 1998: 418; Republika Online 1995a; Bazher 1995: 53).14 In this climate of unrest some Muslims decided that the only way to educate indigenous East Timorese children as Muslims was to send them to Indonesia.

Islamic mission in East Timor

Islamic mission in East Timor posed a dilemma for the regime. In the earliest years the army and many New Order officials, such as the Minister for Religious Affairs, were responsive to Catholic sensitivities about the growth of Islam. They continued to be so even when it was clear that the Catholic Church was not offering its anticipated support for integration. One of the main reasons for their continuing support was the officials’ fear that any suggestion of proselytising by Muslims in East Timor would not help to convince the international community that integration was good for East Timor (Azra and Umam 1998: 418; Seno Joko Suyono 2004; Bazher 1995: 53).

Some Islamic organisations, state and non-state, did not share this sensitivity to international opinion, believing that Islam should be allowed to flourish in East Timor, as elsewhere in Indonesia, and that the religious needs of Indonesian Muslims living in the territory should be met. They argued that the East Timorese should become like Indonesians because, in fact, they were Indonesians and this, in the ideological discourse of Pancasila, included tolerance of other religions.15 David Day’s argument that a supplanting society must successfully populate its newly acquired territory (Day 2008: 7–10) reminds us that the Indonesian authorities needed to provide a suitable space for the many Indonesians living in the territory, most of whom were Muslims – public servants, security personnel, official transmigrants and voluntary migrants. These Indonesians were necessary to the success of the integration project and it was unacceptable for them to live in Indonesian territory without access to religious facilities.

The spread of Islam in East Timor began with the military, especially those officers and soldiers who were zealous proselytisers. Many belonged to the military’s Spiritual Guidance organisation, Rawatan Rohani Islam, similar to chaplaincy services.16 They were assisted by Indonesian civilians and Arab East Timorese Muslims working for organisations such as the Indonesian Red Cross.17 In some areas ‘freelance’ Islamic preachers, with no apparent affiliation with any Indonesian organisation, accompanied the army when it was engaged in dangerous missions, such as in East Timor. They helped soldiers in their daily practice of Islam and also encouraged indigenous East Timorese to become Muslims (Media Dakwah 1990: 54–55; 1995a: 41–49).18

The most active Islamic mission organisation in East Timor was the Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII), the Indonesian Islamic Propagation (or Missionary) Council, the largest national Islamic mission organisation. In 1981 it sent seven preachers from East Java to East Timor, who were soon joined by others who spread out to work amongst indigenous East Timorese in every district (Media Dakwah 1995a: 41–49; Bazher 1995: 62). Soldiers assisted the DDII preachers with transport and logistics, especially those soldiers and officers with a missionary agenda (Suara Hidayatullah 1995b: 83). The activities of the DDII were also supported by the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), the official state-organised Indonesian Council of Islamic Scholars, which had been formed by Suharto in 1975 as a means of establishing New Order control over Islamic political activity. In the early 1980s Suharto’s support base was still the armed forces, although by the end of the decade he had become more closely aligned with other groups, including Islamic groups such as the MUI (Porter 2002: 78–79, 132–136; Olle 2009: 98). There were anti-New Order strands within the DDII,19 while the MUI, despite being a New Order creation, incorporated elements that diverged from New Order orthodoxy. In order to secure the co-operation of a broad range of Islamic groups, the New Order had to make some concessions to the different factions. Possibly in distant East Timor the missionary activities of the DDII were tolerated (Bruinessen 1996: 24). However, the army’s shift away from supporting the Catholic Church in East Timor did not translate into overt military support for the expansion of Islam there, and Islamic mission organisations were frustrated in their goals.

The resistance to the building of schools and worship places eventually led DDII leaders to decide to send children to Indonesia to be educated. However, the tension among decision-makers about the expansion of Islamic facilities and the role of Islam in East Timor was also apparent in relation to their attitude to the transfer of children to Indonesia. This tension probably accounts for the fact that the transfers were permitted as long as they were conducted in a low-key, almost secretive manner.

The public acknowledgement of the departure to Indonesia of Iqbal Menezes, the controversial convert from Uatolari, was an exception. According to Mario Carrascalão, had the removals become public knowledge, the program would have been questioned and scrutinised, both in East Timor and Indonesia. He believes that if children from influential families had been sent away by the DDII, the families would have dared to challenge the transfer of their children. This probably accounts for the selection of children from remote districts of East Timor – Los Palos, Viqueque, Same, Suai – and from the poorest families, families with little access to power and more vulnerable to persuasion by DDII members and soldiers to hand over their children. Orlando de Araujo, village head for ten years till June 1999 of Kuluhun, the local suburb in Dili where the DDII established Yakin, its educational institution, was often invited to functions in the complex in his capacity as village head. He observed firsthand that the facilities at Yakin, the classrooms and accommodation for remote students, were quite adequate, although all of the teachers came from West Timor. Throughout the occupation, Orlando lived directly across the road from Yakin institution, yet despite this proximity and his contact with Yakin, he understood that the facilities catered for the children who lived there and was unaware that the institution had also been the channel for transferring many children to Indonesia.

The DDII had the support of members of the local East Timorese Arab community to set up the Yakin institution in 1982.20 It was called the Nasrullah Islamic Welfare Foundation (Yayasan Kesejahteraan Islam Nasrullah), abbreviated to Yakin. On the site it built schools at various levels and student accommodation (panti asuhan) and MUI’s East Timor headquarters, a large three-storey building that opened in 1997 (Kompas Online 1997).21 A mosque was planned for construction on the site, but as a result of the opposition, permission was not forthcoming (Bazher 1995: 53). Thus Yakin was integrated with institutions and individuals hoping to expand Islamic activities in East Timor. The An-Nur Mosque Foundation and another organisation working in East Timor, the Hidayatullah Al-Ishlah Foundation, which had an office in Fatuhada in Dili, also sent small numbers of young children to Indonesia (Suara Hidayatullah 1995a; Aditjondro 2000: 136–137).22

While Yakin’s main function was education, it was referred to in official publications as a social welfare organisation (Biro Pusat Statistik 1997: 112). There are a few references to Yakin’s educational activities in the Islamic press, but none in the major national newspapers (Media Dakwah 1990: 54–55; 1998: 56–57; Suara Hidayatullah 1995a: 28; Ummat 1996b: 36). Ambarak Bazher’s 1995 history of Islam in East Timor makes no reference to the indigenous children sent to Indonesia by Yakin, not even in the chapter on the development of Islamic education in East Timor; there is only an obscure reference in a table in the appendix (Bazher 1995: 112).23 In contrast to the lack of information about the transfer of indigenous East Timorese children to Indonesia, Bazher lists the names of all 29 Arab East Timorese children sent there at the end of the 1970s by the Department of Religious Affairs, with the names of the three institutions in Java where they studied (Bazher 1995: 54–62).24 The children sent to Indonesia by Yakin and the Department of Religious Affairs were alike in that they were East Timorese sent to Islamic institutions in Indonesia; it seems strange, therefore, that the author discloses all the details about the small number of children who, as Arab East Timorese, could be identified easily as Muslims, while the information about the transfer of the much larger number of indigenous children is presented so obscurely. One can only conclude that the author deliberately chose to dissimulate.

The transfer of indigenous children to Indonesia by religious groups was potentially an even more explosive issue in East Timor than building Islamic schools and mosques there. In 1995 local anger against the transfer of children erupted in Suai district. Hanafi Martins, an East Timorese preacher, was taken into police custody for trying to send 22 children from Daisua village to one of the Hidayatullah network of schools, recently constructed on the outskirts of Kupang, West Timor. As a young man Hanafi had been sent to Purworejo, Central Java, to be trained as an Islamic preacher by Burhani Tjokro Handoko, the Direktur Jenderal Bimbingan Masyarakat (Dirjen Bimas), Director General of Islamic Community Leadership. When Hanafi returned to East Timor he worked for the Hidayatullah Al-Ishlah Foundation. The case was taken up by the police after the parents protested, and the children were returned (Kompas 1995; Aditjondro 2000: 136–137; Media Dakwah 1995c: 42–46; 1996: 15–16; Suara Hidayatullah 1995a: 28–29). The number of children sent to Indonesia by the Hidayatullah Al-Ishlah Foundation in East Timor was small (Aditjondro 2000: 136–137).25 It seems quite possible that this foundation was sacrificed to protect and draw attention away from the activities of Yakin, which had the support of the MUI and transferred children on a much larger scale. At the time of the religious riots, Bishop Carlos Belo told the London-based Catholic Institute for International Relations that proselytising by Muslims may have fanned the riots and referred to 400 East Timorese children in Islamic schools in Java (Catholic Institute for International Relations 1993; Carey 1995: 11). No Indonesian leader engaged him in discussion about his comments; the only response mentioned in the press was that he surely was referring to the Hanafi Martins case, where Kupang, not Java, had been the intended destination for the children and in this case the children had been returned (Media Dakwah 1995c: 42–46).

Motivation for transferring children

Like all those who sent children to Indonesia, Yakin and other Islamic institutions said they wanted to help the poor and backward East Timorese. They emphasised the benefits of the free education they offered and their contribution to development in East Timor. Nevertheless, if we look more closely at the operation of Yakin, it is evident that proselytising Islamic faith in East Timor was the main motivation for sending indigenous children to Indonesia. This was made explicit in a small low-key ceremony organised by Yakin before departure for Indonesia. The children had to take an oath promising to return home after they had completed their study in order to spread Islam in East Timor.26 The purpose of sending them to Indonesia is also clear from the nature of the education most received, namely, to become Islamic teachers or preachers. Only in a few cases were children educated in disciplines that would help them contribute to broader development in East Timor.

We can also learn a lot about the motives for transferring children by looking at the receiving institutions in Indonesia and Yakin’s rationale for selecting these institutions. The main condition for selecting an institution was that the receiving institution was willing to pay for the education and care of the East Timorese children it accepted. Thus, many of the institutions were those that cared for Indonesian orphans and children of the indigent. Yakin also chose institutions with few entrance criteria. Of course, institutions stipulated some criteria, such as the numbers they could accommodate and preferred age and sex. Institutions generally liked younger children, no older than ten years of age, as they were easier to influence and train. Most children sent by Yakin were under 15 and many were under ten years of age. Yakin generally did not use institutions that required evidence of children’s performance at school and it did not set aside sufficient funds to follow-up children after they left East Timor; the responsibility for the children lay with receiving institutions. This manner of operating reflected Yakin’s focus – to educate as many children as possible in Indonesia. If there were insufficient children already living in the Yakin complex in Dili when an offer arrived from an Indonesian institution, Yakin sent staff to the districts of East Timor in search of children who fulfilled the criteria.

Yakin sent children to institutions with a wide range of Islamic theological orientations; there was no systematic attempt to inculcate a particular position.27 Many of the earliest placements were in Sulawesi and in East Java. The first preachers in East Timor came from the Al Fatah Darmo Mosque in Surabaya, East Java, and they probably had contacts who could help with placements (Bazher 1995: 61; Media Dakwah 1995a: 41–49). While some of the institutions, such as the Maccopa institution, were linked to the DDII, most of the institutions that received East Timorese children were run by national Islamic organisations, such as Muhammadiyah, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Persatuan Islam (Persis). Some private institutions established by wealthy individuals also received East Timorese children.28 Muhammadiyah organises an extensive network of childcare institutions (panti asuhan) for poor children throughout Indonesia and many East Timorese children lived in these institutions which found suitable placements in nearby Islamic schools.29 George Aditjondro, the only Indonesian academic who wrote, albeit briefly, about East Timorese children transferred to Indonesian Islamic institutions provided a list of some of the institutions in Java and Sulawesi (Aditjondro 2000: 135).30

The assistance which the childcare institutions received from the Islamic tax (zakat), in particular for the new East Timorese converts (mualaf), enabled many institutions in Indonesia to accept East Timorese children into their care. Paying zakat is one of the five obligations for Muslims; it is distributed to the poor and especially to new converts to Islam. The indigenous East Timorese children met these two criteria and those caring for them had a right to request funds from mosques and wealthy individuals and businesses, which were obliged to help. Being able to access these funds helps explain why Islamic institutions (pesantren and panti asuhan) were willing and able to accept East Timorese children.31 By caring for these East Timorese children, the institutions combined religious fervour and nationalism; a religious obligation was fulfilled and support was given to Indonesia’s nationalistic attempt to draw the East Timorese into the Indonesian family. Bandung and South Sulawesi were areas where many Muslim East Timorese children and students congregated because Indonesian Muslims in these strongholds of Islam were generous in their assistance.32 Suharto’s Dharmais Foundation also contributed to the support of East Timorese children living in Indonesian institutions.

However, some indigenous East Timorese Muslims felt that the Arab East Timorese who organised the transfers treated them and their parents as second-class Muslims, as Muslims in Indonesia from Arab backgrounds have often thought themselves superior to non-Arab Muslims. In particular, the indigenous East Timorese criticised their continued designation as mualaf long after they had converted to Islam. They considered that they were ‘commercialised’ in order to obtain funds to promote the spread of Islam in East Timor, which was part of the strategy of Yakin’s organisers to support integration.33

Military support for Yakin

The military as an institution, as well as individual soldiers, supported the transfer of children to Islamic institutions in Indonesia. From the late 1970s devout soldiers helped DDII fulfil its mission activities. When they returned to Indonesia many took young East Timorese youths and placed them in Islamic institutions to be trained as teachers and preachers.34 Many of these young East Timorese men, or their fathers, had worked as TBOs, for example Salanuddin (Raimiru) from Quelicai, Mohammad Miolo (Fernardo Hornai) from Caiwati and Mohammad Johari (Bonifacio Moreira) from Uaitame, Quelicai, Baucau district.35 Most of them were sent to the Darul Istiqomah Pesantren, established in 1970 in Maccopa sub-district, Maros, about 25 kilometres from Makassar in South Sulawesi. Although DDII in Indonesia does not usually build its own educational facilities, the Makassar branch of the DDII has close links to this institution. The Darul Istiqomah Pesantren received many students from Sulawesi, but also from distant provinces, such as West Irian and the newly incorporated East Timor. The first East Timorese students arrived at the Darul Istiqomah Pesantren in the late 1970s (Media Dakwah 1991: 55–56).36

As we have seen, the DDII decided to build Yakin institution to facilitate its activities. The military gave the DDII access to a large block of land it had seized after the invasion, its previous Chinese owner having fled to Australia in 1975. Initially the location was used as a sub-district military command (koramil). Military support for Yakin continued throughout the occupation in the form of a military guard post with approximately 12 soldiers on rotational duty,37 although this did not prevent damage to Yakin facilities during the religious riots in 1995 (Media Dakwah 1995f: 11–17; 1995e: 50–51).

Anecdotal evidence of military involvement in the transfer of children to Islamic institutions is supported by a secret military document, possibly originating from the zealous Islamic generals identified earlier, that was shown to an East Timorese parliamentarian in the mid-1980s by a senior Indonesian military officer, a Catholic, who was concerned about the practice.38 It suggested that soldiers should promote the transfer of children in order to help the expansion of Islam in East Timor. Individual soldiers co-operated with this instruction by suggesting to parents that they send their children to Indonesia with Yakin, ‘suggestions’ that were difficult for parents to refuse. Abidin Haryanto from Quelicai, south of Baucau, was a TBO for a soldier who encouraged him to send his seven- and five-year-old daughters to Java with Yakin; the children left for East Java in 1993. Leonel Guterres, also from Quelicai, recalled that in 1995 the parents of a group of 13 children from poor families had been pressured by soldiers to hand their children into the care of Yakin. The military also used the Yakin program to transfer youths, including street children, whom it deemed likely participants in anti-integration demonstrations, just as it had done for the Department of Manpower program described in Chapter 3. Sudirman (Alacino), who came from Baguia in Baucau district, ran away to Dili at about 15 years of age. His parents were dead and he had trouble living with his relatives. He arrived in Dili with no money and spent the first night sleeping at the bus station where a soldier found him and immediately suggested he should join a group of children Yakin was about to send to Makassar. Sudirman felt that he had to comply as he had no other plans, but he did not understand what he was agreeing to.

Various sub-district military commanders (danramil), in Quelicai also supported transfers by Yakin, including using intimidation and manipulation to ensure that transfers proceeded. In 1994 a group of parents from Uaitame village in Quelicai appealed to East Timorese civilian leaders to return their children (25 in all, between the ages of eight and 12) who had been sent to Indonesia by Yakin against their wishes. Eusibio Jeronimo, the sub-district head of Quelicai, lodged a complaint on behalf of the parents with the governor, Abilio Soares, who called the parents to Dili. The sub-district military commander from Quelicai accompanied the parents, thus monitoring the governor’s comments and ensuring that the parents felt intimidated.

The military also involved itself in this case through its advisor for social and political affairs. This staff member was appointed to the office of the district administrator to give political guidance, to monitor and control civilian affairs, and to ensure that conflict did not escalate and that the government position was followed. After the parents’ visit to the governor, the district head of Baucau called them to a meeting at which the military advisor persuaded them to allow their children to stay in Indonesia. It is possible that the parents were deceived about the conditions of the free education offered to their children, learning only after the children’s departure that they would have to convert to Islam; whatever the facts, the parents were denied their right to demand the return of their children.

Civilian leaders such as district and sub-district heads were merely puppets and were powerless to obtain justice for the East Timorese, including this group of parents. Eusibio had taken the parents’ complaint directly to the governor because the children had already left East Timor; he considered that the transfers needed to be addressed urgently. He was summoned by the advisor for social and political affairs and reprimanded for reporting directly to the governor instead of through the ‘proper channels’, beginning at the local level. The demand that ‘proper channels’ should be followed was a typical means employed by military and New Order officials throughout Indonesia to thwart local discontent. In the opinion of Loekman Soetrisno, a distinguished Indonesian academic, the official political channels in East Timor did not work for the East Timorese (Loekman Soetrisno 1995: 74). Even as governor, Mario Carrascalão was unsuccessful in securing, at one mother’s request, the return of her child sent to Sulawesi by Lieutenant Colonel Azis Hasyam. Azis had connections with staff from various government departments who helped send children to Islamic institutions in Indonesia from the earliest years of the occupation.39

Transfers by Yakin

Yakin’s attention was not directed primarily to providing education on their premises in Dili, but to finding placements for the children in Islamic schools throughout Indonesia. Children lived and studied at Yakin usually only until a suitable placement was available in Indonesia. Yakin’s function of channelling the children to Indonesia was similar to Seroja’s in the late 1970s. Syamsul Bahari from Viqueque was nine years old when he was taken to Yakin by Alex Freitas Haryanto (Lukman), an older East Timorese convert to Islam who was home on holidays from Sulawesi and acting as a Yakin staff member. Syamsul’s father had been a TBO from 1983, but five years later was killed by Indonesian soldiers. Syamsul spent one year studying at Yakin after which he was sent in a group of 32 children to Bandung, in 1989. Iqbal Menezes lived there in 1991 for three months until Yakin found a place for him in Malang. The two daughters of Abidin Haryanto, Siti Aminah (Amlia Soares) and Siti Khodijah (Olinda Soares), were aged seven and five years when they left for East Java in 1993, along with 30 children, many of them of a similar age; all these young children had been gathered together at Yakin to await their departure to Indonesia.

The earliest record of transfers of young indigenous East Timorese children to Islamic institutions dates from 1984 and they continued until 1999. Most of these transfers were conducted by Yakin, but its records were lost when the complex was destroyed in 1999. Haji Salim Sagran, the director during most of the Indonesian period, claims the organisation sent from 200 to 300 students to Indonesia, but this number is far too low. His rehabilitated records in 2002 listed 51 Yakin-sponsored students still studying in Jakarta, but this number does not include all those in Bandung and Sulawesi or any of the children sent in earlier years, even those who were still there in 2002, such as the two daughters of Abidin Haryanto, mentioned above. In 1986 an East Timorese parliamentarian sighted a list of names of 80 to 100 children sent to Indonesia by Yakin during that year alone;40 and the 400 East Timorese children in various Islamic institutions in Java referred to by Bishop Belo in 1993 did not include the greater number of children in Sulawesi. Iqbal Menezes, who completed a dissertation at the State Islamic University in Jakarta in 2002 about the history of Islamic mission in East Timor, puts the number of children sent by Yakin in the high hundreds and Al-Bana, another East Timorese student at the same institution from the mid-1990s, thought that the number would be at least 1,000. A DDII member in Makassar also confirmed that many hundreds of children were taken to Makassar, both by Yakin institution and also by soldiers who supported Yakin’s program.41 My own estimate, which accounts for children in all areas of Indonesia, is at least 1,000 children. Small numbers of children were also sent by the An-Nur and Hidayatullah Al-Ishlah Foundations and, as will be explained later, some East Timorese Muslims who had been sent to Indonesia by Yakin in the early years later took children to Indonesia on their own initiatives, outside the Yakin framework.

The An-Nur Foundation associated with the mosque in Dili, which had organised the transfer of 29 Arab East Timorese children in the late 1970s, also sent indigenous children to Indonesian institutions. The children sent by An-Nur were older and usually had completed junior high school. Unlike the children sent by Yakin, they were generally selected on the basis of merit and were usually more successful. The Foundation helped them with contacts to continue their education beyond high school. Julia completed her elementary education at a government school in Baucau, after which she studied at the An-Nur Junior High School in Dili. In 1992 she was selected on the basis of her achievement to go to Makassar, with 15 other girls and 15 boys, most of whom graduated from senior high school and some of whom went on to study in Malaysia.42

We turn now to consider the role in Islamic mission of the young East Timorese men, sent by Indonesian soldiers and public servants to Maccopa institution in Sulawesi and other places in Indonesia. These young men were the first generation of indigenous East Timorese Muslims. They returned to East Timor in the late 1980s and early 1990s and had an important role to play in organising the transfer of indigenous children to Indonesia. On completion of their training, the DDII and Yakin sent them back to East Timor to spread Islamic faith. We have already encountered Hanafi Martins who was educated in Java and returned to work in Daisua village in Suai; he worked for Hidayatullah, rather than Yakin, but the pattern was the same. The indigenous preachers worked alongside the Indonesian DDII preachers already stationed in the districts, teaching and preaching and helping to organise children to Indonesia (Bazher 1995: 62). They began by persuading members of their own families to convert to Islam. In 1990, ten years after leaving East Timor, Fernando Hornai, who took the Muslim name Mohammad Miolo, returned to Caiwati, Viqueque district. He built a simple mosque from local construction materials and, by 1999, 30 of a total of 520 families had become Muslims, most of whom were his relatives.43 This pattern was repeated in other villages where the indigenous East Timorese preachers lived and worked.

Yakin organisers claimed that they sent only children whose parents were Muslims to Indonesia. Indeed, many of the children were from Muslim families, such as the children of the first preachers and teachers; others were from among the small number of converts in concentration camps when all East Timorese had to adopt a religion. Older children sent by Yakin confirm that being a Muslim was a condition of acceptance by Yakin and that, before they joined the program, they had to agree to become Muslims or to convert. Organisers told parents that with an Indonesian education their children would become someone of note (jadi orang)44 and some parents were probably persuaded that they would gain respect and status among Indonesians if they and their children converted to Islam.

Despite the organisers’ claims, Yakin also sent many children from non-Muslim families, especially from poor families, and orphaned and fatherless children, mostly from remote areas of East Timor. Parents and guardians who were poor were more easily intimidated by soldiers and more susceptible to incentives, such as the offer of free education and care of their children, and of food, clothes and even monetary incentives for themselves, if they sent their children with Yakin.45 Many Catholic parents were not happy that their children had to convert. The family of Boavida, who fled East Timor with Yakin as a means of avoiding suspicion of involvement in anti-integration activities, was not happy that he became a Muslim.46 Villagers in Caiwati, Viqueque district, are still indignant about the four young children from their village whom they said were secretly made Muslims the night before they were taken away to Indonesia by Yakin staff members.47

The children usually travelled to Indonesia in a group accompanied by an East Timorese Yakin staff member, often an older student, such as Johari, Miolo and Salanuddin, returning to his institution after a vacation period. Sometimes Yakin sought the help of Indonesians willing to accompany children to their destinations. In 1992, for example, a Javanese businessman with a branch of his business in Dili took Siti Khodijah from Luro and two other girls and seven boys when he returned to Surabaya in East Java. On arrival in Surabaya, the ten students lived in his house for two weeks while he checked their placements with the institutions that had agreed to receive them. He then accompanied the three girls to Pesantren Putri Al Taqwa in Tanggerang, near Jakarta, and the boys to Pacirin in East Java.

The state gave its support to transfers through the MUI, whose East Timor branch wrote letters of introduction on behalf of the children for Yakin staff to carry to institutions in Indonesia. In some areas MUI helped directly in finding placements, such as the Bandung branch in West Java, which found places for a group of 32 children in 1988.48 DDII staff in branch offices throughout Indonesia also helped contact institutions willing to receive East Timorese children.49 In some cases the children arrived in a particular town without suitable placements arranged, sometimes because the offers had expired and the places filled by others. The Yakin staff member accompanying the children then travelled around lobbying Islamic institutions until places were found.50 Usually children were accepted into institutions in groups of three or four.

Sometimes the children were taken into the homes of benefactors who paid the children’s school fees and provided them with free lodgings in exchange for the student doing tasks for the family. In 1988, when Yunus Arabah arrived in Bandung, one of a large group of East Timorese children, his story was broadcast on the radio and in the media and a local resident offered him a place in their home.

As with children sent to Indonesia by Dharmais Foundation, the agreements Yakin made with parents were informal and parents were often not properly informed about the departure of their children to Indonesia. Like some of the families who gave their children to Dharmais, many parents now claim that they thought their children were going to study at the Yakin complex in Dili, and they did not give Yakin permission to send them to Indonesia. Paulino and Faustina Hornai from Caiwati, Viqueque, sent their son Mahmud Mathius Hornai to Yakin in 1992 and learned that he was in Indonesia after his departure.51 If time permitted, older students who were about to leave were sent home to ask permission from their parents, but younger students who could not travel alone were unable to do so. Information was usually passed to the parents by a preacher or a relative, but often not until the child had left East Timor.52 Most parents and children said that there were no formal, written agreements with Yakin, although the evidence is conflicting. Salim Sagran claimed that there were written agreements, and Vicente Pereira, from Garuca village in Quelicai, Baucau, whose daughter Maisaro was sent by Yakin to Sulawesi in the 1980s, said he signed a written agreement.53

The number of children transferred away from a particular village may not have been large, but their departure had a significant impact on the communities from which the children came. One of the complaints from village leaders and elders was that Yakin often took children without consulting them. It is a normal practice throughout Indonesia for visitors to inform village heads of their presence in a village and to take their leave from them, even more so if members of the community will be away from the village for many years.54 Another concern amongst villagers was that if their children became Muslims they would not fulfil their traditional social obligations, for example in relation to burial rites; they might also not follow other prescriptions, such the taboos applying to choosing marriage partners and paying the bride price.55 Villagers exaggerated the number of Muslims and talked about ‘Islamic villages’ when the proportion of Muslims was only small – 30 out of 520 families in Caiwati, Viqueque district, and only 1% of the villagers in Uaitame where Johari worked.56 The concern was as much about the break in village harmony and social solidarity as it was about the fact that the children were educated as Muslims.

Treatment in Indonesia

Yakin, through its field staff, mainly the older East Timorese students, tried to ensure that the East Timorese children stayed on at their institutions in Indonesia to complete their education. This was what the children had promised in the oath they made before leaving East Timor. Young children were discouraged from communicating with their parents because it made them homesick and distracted them from studying. They were not provided with trips back to East Timor in case they did not return after their vacation.57 The Al-Taqwa Girls’ Pesantren in Tanggerang did, however, pay for Siti Khodijah from Luro and the two other East Timorese girls to visit home in 1994 after three years absence. One student at an institution in West Java told me that he missed his family and wished he could return home for the Idul Fitri Islamic celebration at the end of fasting, as did all the other Indonesian students living at his institution each year. The organiser of the institution said that he offered trips home to all the children, including the East Timorese children, as there was money for their travel costs for this important religious and family celebration, but that the East Timorese children always rejected his offers, as they had been instructed to by Yakin’s East Timorese staff.58 The receiving institutions were probably unaware of the situation of the families in East Timor and the political dynamics leading to the children being sent there – and kept there – in much the same way that the institutions that had received children from Seroja had little understanding of the children in their care.

As a result, the children lost contact not only with their families but also with their East Timorese culture and languages. They were educated as Muslims and had to adopt Islamic faith: they were given Islamic names, which some combined with their East Timorese names, and wore Islamic dress – the girls usually wore the jilbab (the Islamic headscarf) in the style of Indonesian women. Most were sincere about their faith, although that was not uniformly the case. One Indonesian Catholic who lived close to an Islamic institution in Indonesia often met East Timorese children from the institution. They had Muslim names and wore Islamic dress, although they told him they were still Catholics. Some of them would ‘coincidentally’ turn up at his house for the Christian celebrations of Easter and Christmas, the girls removing their Islamic headdress only when safely inside his house.59

There was no procedure for central record-keeping, even though it was the responsibility of Yakin to keep track of the children and keep parents informed. Certainly it was a demanding task to crosscheck enrolments with individual institutions, as the children were scattered in small groups throughout Indonesia. East Timorese staff of Yakin or older East Timorese students in Indonesia conveyed information to parents in East Timor,60 but even young children were moved around and sometimes ran away to other places, making it difficult to track them and, inevitably, some children fell through the gaps. One young boy, Igidio, who was sent to Jakarta by Yakin when he was in the first year of elementary school, could not remember where he came from or anything about his parents, and the older students did not know how they could help him.61 Helping children maintain contact with their parents was not the responsibility of other students but of the organisers of the institution; in this regard Yakin was negligent in its duty of care.62

As a consequence of the poor reporting system, information that did reach parents was often minimal and out-of-date, and sometimes Yakin staff members kept parents ignorant of their children’s situation. Yakin staff members often worried that other parents, on hearing negative stories, might decide against sending their children away. This lack of information and transparency usually went unchallenged as long as there were no serious problems. But the death of children in distant places showed how ill-prepared and unwilling Yakin was to fulfil its responsibilities. Ismail from Uatolari, in Viqueque district, died of illness at the Al Mukmin Pesantren in Ngruki near Solo, Central Java, about a year after his arrival in 1992 or 1993. Taufik, the East Timorese preacher who had organised his departure, did not inform the parents of their son’s death for almost a year. According to one East Timorese who was in Java at the time, Ismail’s parents knew that their son was in Java, but when the parents belatedly received the news of their son’s death, they were angry and accused Taufik of sending Ismail there without their consent. As Ismail’s father had a job in the governor’s office, with more influence than the average parent of children sent to Indonesia by Yakin, his outspoken complaints resulted in Taufik having to leave Uatolari.63 In another case a family had sent three of their children to Surabaya with Yakin. One of the children died, but Yakin refused to assist the family to visit their child’s grave. After independence the family requested their two other children be returned to East Timor, but again Yakin refused to help.64

Many East Timorese children were exposed to danger because Yakin did not monitor their movement away from their original placements. Although I am unable to estimate the numbers, it was quite common for students to leave their institutions or to be transferred to other institutions. Often children were unable to adjust to the discipline and demands of an Islamic institution. The physical conditions in which they lived were no different from those of other Indonesian children in the institutions; they all usually had to work hard to provide for themselves and pay their school fees. However, the culture, and especially the style, of Islamic education were unfamiliar to East Timorese. The contrast between the freedom of life in a mountain village in East Timor and the strict discipline of study and long hours spent daily in chanting prayers and reading the Koran in Arabic was often too demanding for East Timorese children and led to defiance and arguments with the organisers of the institutions. Many moved out of the institutions they had been sent to, sometimes with and at other times without the permission of the organisers. Sometimes they went to another institution, if they could find one prepared to take them in, while some ran away without informing their carers. Abdul Kholiq, who was sent to Java by Yakin in 1992 when he was seven years old, moved between several institutions. Initially he was sent with 30 other East Timorese children to the Baitulamin childcare institution in Bareng, Jombong, East Java and was then sent by Baitulamin him to a Muhammadiyah institution, also in Jombang. Because of conflict at this institution, Abdul Kholiq was sent to another Muhammadiyah institution in Rungkut, Surabaya, where he was again unhappy, so in 2000, now 14, he ran away. He took a job as the nightwatchman at a small telephone kiosk in Surabaya where he ate and slept and helped to clean the nearby school, earning enough to pay his school fees until the telephone kiosk was closed a year later and he had to drop out of school.

Many Muslim East Timorese students whose placements collapsed gravitated to Bandung or Makassar in search of solidarity and support from older East Timorese students. Abdul Kholiq, like the children taken to Indonesia by soldiers, did not have the resources to return home and Yakin provided no alternatives for students unable to adjust to life in the institutions. One 15-year-old student who ran away from an institution in Makassar in 1986 was afraid of being caught and returned to the institution. He approached a Catholic priest who took him in and paid for his fare to return to East Timor.65 Not all managed to find another institution or to join up with older East Timorese or find someone who could help them. In Bandung there are stories of young East Timorese living on the streets; others became involved in crime and, almost certainly, in prostitution.66

Yakin promised only to support students until they had finished high school,67 but, having lived in Indonesia for many years, some students were uncertain about returning to East Timor. During the 1990s, many East Timorese Muslim students in Bandung and elsewhere in Indonesia sought help to continue their study from private benefactors and donations from mosques. In this way they were able to provide for their tertiary education and to help younger students. As more students moved to Bandung, the financial and psychological demands on the older students living there increased. Some of the students who moved there, like Abdul Kholiq, were dissatisfied with their institutions and ran away, while others wanted help to find a new placement or continue their study. Some were homesick and came to Bandung for the company of other East Timorese and many suffered from stress because of the length of separation from their families. In 1994 Syamsul Bahari contacted Yakin asking for assistance but received no response. The Bandung students then decided to form the Ikatan Pelajar Mahasiswa Islam Timor Timur (Ipmitim), an association of East Timorese Islamic university and school students which functioned like the student organisations described in Chapter 3. In order to help younger students, they contacted receiving institutions directly, operating in much the same way as Yakin had by requesting institutions to accommodate a small number of East Timorese children in need of a placement. Over time Ipmitim developed links with many institutions throughout West Java who took in East Timorese children and they received assistance from the DDII and MUI in Bandung.68 On special days, such as the celebration of Idul Fitri, Ipmitim organised activities for all the Islamic East Timorese students in the Bandung area, thus enabling them to keep in contact with one another. By default, Ipmitim took over the responsibility of Yakin and became the point of contact for institutions in relation to younger East Timorese children at institutions.69

Older students in Makassar in Sulawesi also found sponsors to enable them to stay on in Indonesia and continue their study. In the early 1990s they set up their own accommodation facility in Makassar, the Panti Asuhan Al-Anshar, under the leadership of Mohammad Johari. According to Johari, the children felt more at home living with older East Timorese who understood their language and culture. The strict regime of the Islamic institutions was adapted and the children at Al-Anshar attended Islamic schools only as day students. Al-Anshar attracted other East Timorese besides students living in Sulawesi, and it became a home away from home for them as well. East Timorese sent by Yakin to other institutions in Sulawesi often left their institutions to join Al-Anshar. At times there were more than a hundred East Timorese of all ages living there.70 Johari funded Al-Anshar by requesting donations from mosques and local businesses, such as the well-known Makassar business, Bosowa. According to many students who had lived in Makassar, it was easy to garner donations, just as it was in Bandung. Johari obviously proved to be a successful lobbyist, when in July 1995 he received a donation of Rp80 million (approximately $US32,000 at that time) from the Japanese government for the construction of a childcare institution (Suara Pembaruan 1997). Johari regularly returned to East Timor to collect children, especially from Quelicai district and his own village, Uaitame. He offered parents a free education for their children and took the children directly to his Al-Anshar institution in Sulawesi, without first sending them to Yakin. Al-Anshar was like a small business enterprise: its children had to work hard to support themselves and run the institution. Some of the children claimed they did not see many improvements after the Japanese government donation in anything other than the standard of living enjoyed by Johari.71

Students in Jakarta faced problems in finding fees to continue with university study and, in comparison with Bandung and Makassar, fewer younger students congregated there looking for help. In 1995 Abdul Malik Soares, a Muslim East Timorese, established Koordinator Mahasiswa Muslim Indonesia (Kormantim), to help with finding scholarships. The following year Amien Rais, at the time the head of Muhammadiyah, promised Kormantim a hundred scholarships, ten per year for ten years, for East Timorese to study at the Muhammadiyah University of Indonesia (UMI) in Jakarta. In 1997 a local Indonesian Islamic welfare foundation, Yayasan Amanah Ummat, provided the East Timorese students with a two-storey building near UMI to use as accommodation. The students also organised a common kitchen with funds provided by the foundation.72

Protestants and child transfers

Scores of East Timorese children were also sent to Indonesia by a Protestant organisation. Although the numbers were small, the organisation’s treatment of children in Indonesia and their motives for transferring them were similar to those of Muslim organisations. The Protestant organisation and the children affected reappear in Chapter 5, so it is helpful to understand these transfers (CAVR 2006: 7.8.4 No. 398).

The transfers were not an official program of any particular Protestant Church in Indonesia, nor of the Gereja Kristen di Timor Timur (GKTT), the Protestant Church in East Timor. They were organised by Rev Paulus da Costa, an East Timorese GKTT minister from Matata in Ermera district, and Cornelius Banoe, a businessman from Kupang who lived in Matata until the 1999 referendum. In the 1990s they established the Cinta Damai Foundation, which sent approximately 60 young children to West Timor. The children were cared for in the childcare institution associated with the Oeba Ebenhaezer Protestant Church, Gereja Masehi Injili di Timor (GMIT), in Kupang. Cornelius Banoe placed some of these children in foster homes in West Timor, where they often worked as household servants in exchange for their school fees. Some children worked as street sellers and as farm labourers and not all attended school.73

The Cinta Damai Foundation, like the Islamic foundations, wanted to help the children from the remote, impoverished district of Ermera to receive a superior, Indonesian education. Many ministers of the Protestant church in East Timor supported integration. Da Costa probably believed that raising children as Protestants was good for an East Timor integrated with Indonesia and also for his own prestige and position in relation to Indonesians and he was assisted in his efforts by Protestants from Kupang.

Parents from Ermera were attracted by the offer from Cinta Damai Foundation, but, as we have seen with the other institutions transferring children, the foundation did not keep the parents well-informed, even though West Timor’s proximity made it somewhat easier to maintain contact. The foundation did not request parental permission to place the children in foster care and parents thought that their children were living in the institution run by the church. Like other foundations, Cinta Damai considered that transferring children to Indonesia was an appropriate response to the poverty and backwardness of the children and their families and it was naïve about the wider implications of transferring children and the responsibilities involved.


The New Order’s policy of requiring all Indonesians to adopt one of the officially approved religions motivated religious groups to expand their conversion missions; simultaneously they accrued political favour and the possibility of influencing the course of integration. The Catholic Church benefited most from the New Order’s policy, with the majority of the population becoming adherents of Catholicism, whereas those engaged in Islamic mission struggled to establish a following in the territory.

Many Indonesian Muslims believed that the spread of Islam amongst the indigenous population would advance the acceptance of the Indonesian presence in East Timor and that indigenous East Timorese Muslims would help to diminish Catholicism as a marker of East Timorese identity and the sense that Islam represented the Indonesian oppressor. Further, increasing the number of indigenous Muslims would help justify the building of mosques and schools to meet the religious needs of all Muslims, including the thousands of Indonesian Muslims in East Timor to implement integration.

The unfavourable climate for the growth of Islam in East Timor provided an incentive for Islamic mission organisations to send young East Timorese children to Indonesia to be educated in Islamic religious schools. Away from their social and cultural environments, the East Timorese children were educated in a way that gave them a new identity and new allegiances. On completion of their education they were expected to return to East Timor and disseminate their faith.

The tension in the position of New Order policy makers towards non-Catholic mission in East Timor was reflected in the conduct of the transfers by Islamic organisations. Although the authorities restricted the construction of Islamic schools and places of worship in East Timor, the institution that conducted most of these transfers had a wide support base – individual soldiers, the military as an institution, public servants, senior officials from nationwide Islamic bodies, staff of the Department of Religious Affairs, and, most actively, the Arab Muslim East Timorese who organised the transfers at a local level. In order not to draw attention to its activities, the organisation conducted the transfers in a low-key, almost secretive manner, selecting orphans, the children of widows and the children of poor families from remote districts.

The mission organisations that sent children to Indonesia exploited the vulnerability of indigenous East Timorese parents and their children. In some cases parents were coerced and forced to accept the transfer of their children against their wishes. Arab East Timorese who ran the main institution gave the institution credibility as a local East Timorese foundation; the organisers were often, however, more concerned about ensuring that the children remained in Indonesia until the completion of their study than about the welfare of the children and responding to their needs.

Indigenous young East Timorese children were sent to Indonesia until the end of the occupation, at least 1,000 in total. During the last years of the New Order it became increasing difficult for Muslims, including the East Timorese converts to Islam, to carry out their mission activities and to build mosques and religious schools in East Timor. With independence for East Timor and the end of Indonesian colonial rule, the children’s usefulness in extending Indonesian influence in East Timor also came to an end. As we shall see in the following chapter, after independence for East Timor many Muslim East Timorese children were left abandoned in institutions throughout Indonesia.


1 The Dutch also considered the ‘Christian natives’ more loyal (Klinken 2003: 237–238). While this traditional view of mutual support has been challenged (Beck 2007), Copland (2006: 1052) argues that in education there has always been co-operation between missions and the state.

2 The regime signed a Concordat with the Vatican in 1940, which gave the church an important role in state affairs, particularly in education, until the fall of the Salazar/Caetano regime in April 1974.

3 Ignatius Ismartono SJ (interview, Jakarta, 12 May 2003).

4 I use the term ‘indigenous’ here to distinguish Arab East Timorese, who were all Muslims, from non-Arab East Timorese.

5 The most detailed description of religion in East Timor is Traube’s writing on the rituals of the Mambai in central East Timor (Traube 1986).

6 The other 10% were mostly Muslims and Protestants, and mainly Indonesians from outside East Timor.

7 Dominant symbols of support in Dili were the cathedral and the Christ the King statue on the beach front (Pikiran Rakyat 1996; Cohen 1995).

8 With the departure of most Portuguese clergy, more indigenous East Timorese became priests, most of whom rejected integration because of the suffering they witnessed; priests also came from Indonesia and many among them supported their government’s position on integration (CAVR 2006: 3.15 No. 397). For some reflections by Catholic clergy of the early years of the occupation, see Archer (1995: 122).

9 This report is available from Uniting International Mission, Uniting Church in Australia National Assembly, Sydney. I thank Rev John Barr for helping me with this information.

10 Mari Alkatiri belongs to one of the Arab East Timorese families in Dili. In 1975 he was a member of the Fretilin central committee and spent the occupation in exile in Mozambique. Since independence the Catholic Church has tried to re-assert its influence and, unhappy with his socialist/Marxist orientation, helped to depose him in 2006.

11 Some East Timorese Protestant leaders spoke out against the occupation, for example Rev Arlindo Marcal (1995), but the institutions of the church were controlled by Indonesian Protestants.

12 The numbers from the Bureau of Statistics are only of those registered in East Timor, with identity cards (KTP) from there. The actual numbers would have been greater, as many Indonesians working in East Timor, such as soldiers, public servants and traders were not registered there.

13 Much about these religious riots – who was involved, who instigated them and with what motive – is still unclear. There is little substantial information about them in the CAVR report (CAVR 2006: 3.18 No.490); see also Media Dakwah (1995b: 42–47).

14 Munawir Sjadzali, Minister of Religious Affairs from 1983 to 1993, had reportedly disallowed the building of a large mosque in Dili during his time as minister because he believed it was unethical to do so when there was no major cathedral for the Catholics (Seno Joko Suyono 2004).

15 Among Muslims who were outspoken in their criticism of the New Order policy in relation to Islamic mission in East Timor at the time was Muhammadiyah leader, Amien Rais (Media Dakwah 1995b: 42–47; 1995d: 6–7).

16 Haji Paita Halim, ketua pengurus (head organiser), Sulthan Alauddin Mosque (interview, Makassar, 26 March 2003).

17 For example, Haji Abdullah Sagran was in charge of food relief by the Indonesian Red Cross. The first distribution of food was to all those in the camp, but subsequent distributions were allegedly only to those who had registered as Muslims (Mario Carrascalão, interview, Dili, 13 April 2004).

18 Also EBD (interview, Jakarta, 12 August 2006) and Mario Carrascalão (interview, Dili, 13 April 2004); I am grateful to Martin van Bruinessen for drawing this to my attention (conversation, Leiden, October 2007).

19 I have no information that children were transferred to radical institutions that harboured anti-New Order sentiments, such as the demand for an Islamic state. For a history of the DDII, see Boland (1982: 113–115), Bruinessen (2002; 2004).

20 The DDII founders of Yakin in 1982 were Ustad Sumitro Mangkusasmito, an Indonesian preacher from East Java, and Andi Baso Pangoriseng, an Indonesian businessman from Makassar. They worked together with the Arab East Timorese, Haji Abdullah Sagran and his brother Haji Salim Sagran, from a well-established Arab family in Dili. Salim Sagran was active in Yakin throughout the Indonesia occupation. The Sagrans were the titular holders of the land on which the Yakin facilities were constructed. The complex was destroyed in 1999 and five years later the following inscription over the entrance was still legible: ‘Propinsi Timor Timur, Pendidikan dan Panti Asuhan SD Islam, SLTP Islam, SMK Islam Alma’un’.

21 The founders of Yakin were also foundational members of the MUI’s Dili branch, established in 1982.

22 On Hidayatullah, see Bruinessen (2004).

23 The appendix is a table with the heading, ‘Children attending madrasah in East Timor’. One column in the table is headed ‘sent to pesantren’. Since there were no pesantren in East Timor, this reference is almost certainly to children sent to pesantren in Indonesia. So according to Bazhir, in 1990 there were 74 children in pesantren in Indonesia.

24 In 1977 nine students (most at least 15 years of age) were sent to a pesantren in Pabelan, Muntilan, near Yogyakarta, while ten younger students were sent to two locations, Darussalam Pesantren in Biamis, West Java, and Cililin Pesantren in Bandung, West Java. Another group of ten students, most of them younger than 12, was sent later in the same year to At-Thahiriyah Pesantren, Kampung Melayu, South Jakarta, and the Asy-Syafi’iyah Pesantren, Jati Waringin, East Java. Most children belonged to the Arab families from Kampung Alor, although several were of Chinese descent and had converted to Islam.

25 Also Mohammad Iqbal Menezes (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004).

26 Haji Salim Sagran (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004) and Anwar da Costa (interview, Dili, 24 April 2004).

27 Alex Haryanto Freitas (interview, Bandung, 29 January 2004) and Mohammad Iqbal Menezes (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004).

28 Alex Haryanto Freitas (interview, Bandung, 29 January 2004) and DDII staff (interview, Bandung, 30 January 2004); Muhammadiyah, NU and Persis are national organisations established in the early 20th century. Each has its own schools and pesantren for teaching their understanding of Islam. Muhammadiyah has many schools, which have 70% regular curriculum and 30% religion, while the proportions at pesantren are reversed. NU is famous for its live-in ‘pondok’ pesantren, especially in rural East Java, where it has the strongest following. Persis has a smaller following than the others and a more fundamentalist interpretation of doctrine (Ensiklopedi Islam 1993:Vol. 3 pp. 275,345, Vol. 4 p. 95). East Timorese children who lived in Muhammadiyah panti asuhan, attended a Muhammadiyah school or, more usually, a pesantren as a day student, and sometimes even a government school if they received a scholarship.

29 Haji Ety Syuryati, Secretary for Tabligh Wilayah, Muhammadyiah, Bandung, West Java (interview, Bandung, 30 January 2004); most Muhammadiyah panti asuhan are regular houses where a caretaker lives with a group of ten to 30 children, segregated by sex and often age.

30 The Indonesian version of Aditjondro’s book is a significant update of the earlier English version with a similar title, In the shadow of Mount Ramelau: the impact of the occupation of East Timor (Leiden: Indonesian Documentation and Information Centre, 1994).

31 Yunus Arabah (interview, Dili, 3 May 2004) and Mohammad Iqbal Menezes (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004).

32 These two areas are traditional strongholds of Darul Islam (a movement which began soon after Indonesia’s independence with the aim of establishing Indonesia as an Islamic state) and the DDII has links with them; but it was the generosity of sponsors, as much as any particular orientation of Islam, that attracted East Timorese Muslims to these two locations.

33 In 2004 there was conflict between the indigenous and Arab East Timorese Muslims, particularly over ownership of property and assets, including the land on which the Yakin complex stood, which had been donated by international benefactors from all over the Arab world to Yakin on behalf of the East Timorese mualaf.

34 Haji Paita Halim, ketua pengurus (head organiser), Sulthan Alauddin Mosque (interview, Makassar, 26 March 2003).

35 Mohammad Johari, who lived in the Maccopa panti asuhan but attended a private Islamic junior high school in Maros (interview, Dili, 20 March 2004).

36 I thank Samsuri for help with this reference. Also Haji Paita Halim, ketua pengurus (head organiser), Sulthan Alauddin Mosque (interview, Makassar, 26 March 2003).

37 Orlando de Araujo (interview, Kuluhun, Dili, 4 March 2004).

38 Anonymous (interview, Dili, 13 April 2004); it also suggested lowering the East Timorese birthrate by encouraging the use of birth control.

39 Azis, as Assistant to the Regional Administrative Secretary for Economy and Development, controlled the development budget; he was eventually arrested and imprisoned for misusing development funds (Saldanha 1994: 122; CAVR 2006: 4.4 No. 157).

40 Anonymous interview (Dili, 13 April 2004).

41 Haji Paita Halim, ketua pengurus (head organiser), Sulthan Alauddin Mosque (interview, Makassar, 26 March 2003).

42 Imam Syahid, (interview, Dili, 7 April 2004) and Julia (conversation, Baucau, 27 March 2004).

43 Manuel Luis Guterres, Caiwati village head, Ossu, Viqueque, and Herman Fernandes (interviews, 26 March, 2004).

44 Haji Salim Sagran (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004).

45 Hermenegildo Fernandes and other villagers (interview, Caiwati, 26 March 2004).

46 Fernando Jose Freitas Soares (interview, Quelicai, 25 March 2004).

47 Hermenegildo Fernandes and other villagers (interview, Caiwati, 26 March 2004).

48 Syamsul Bahari, Al-Bana Concelcao and Alex Haryanto Freitas (interviews, Baucau, Jakarta and Bandung, 2004).

49 DDII staff (interviews, Bandung, 30 January 2004).

50 Sidiq Soares Lemorai (interview, Dili, 5 May 2004).

51 Paulino and Faustina Hornai (interview, Caiwati, 26 March 2004); the parents claim they found out about their son being sent to Indonesia when they received a letter from him in 1999.

52 UNICET staff (Mohammad Iqbal Menezes, Muslim Leo, Anwar da Costa) (interviews, Dili, April 2004).

53 Salim Sagran (interview, Dili, 1 April 2001) and Vicente Pereira (conversation, Dili, 9 May 2004).

54 Agustinho Moreira, village head, Uaitame, Quelicai (interview, Uaitame, 2 May 2004).

55 Raimiru da Conceicão (interview, Quelicai, 25 March 2004); anonymous interview (Sulawesi, 2003); see also Suara Hidayatullah (1995a: 28).

56 Agustinho Moreira, village head, Uaitame, Quelicai (interview, Uaitame, 2 May 2004).

57 Alex Haryanto Freitas (interview, Bandung, 29 January 2004).

58 Staff and students at the Sumur Bandung panti asuhan and Alex Haryanto Freitas (interviews, Bandung, 29 January 2004).

59 Anonymous interview (Makassar, March 2003).

60 Alex Haryanto Freitas (interview, Bandung, 29 January 2004) and Mohammad Iqbal Menezes (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004) and others.

61 Al-Bana Concelcao (interview, Jakarta, 17 January 2004).

62 This was also the observation of Julio Pinto, East Timor Secretary of State for Defence since 2008 (interview, Dili, 5 May 2004).

63 UNICET staff, Mohammad Iqbal Menezes, Muslim Leo, Anwar da Costa (interviews, Dili, April 2004) and Sidiq Soares Lemora (interview, Dili, 5 May 2004).

64 Syamsul Bahari (interview, Baucau, 23 April 2004); eventually through other avenues the parents were helped to make the trip to Surabaya.

65 Catholic priest (conversation, Makassar, March 2003).

66 Dahlan Ramli, Badan Taknur Mesjid Mujahidin (interview, Bandung, 30 January 2004) and Mohammad Iqbal Menezes (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004).

67 Haji Salim Sagran (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004); this level of education was probably deemed sufficient for them to become teachers in the lower levels of Islamic schools.

68 The institutions were located in places such as Sukabumi, Ciamis, Tasikmalaya, Cianjur, Purwokerto, Cirebon, Majalenka, Sumedang, Bogor and Banten, as well as in the city of Bandung itself.

69 Syamsul Bahari (interview, Baucau, 23 April 2004).

70 Teodoro Soares (interview, Dili, 26 April 2004).

71 Mohammad Johari (interview, Dili, 20 March 2004) and Sudirman (interview, Dili, 9 May 2004).

72 Al-Bana Concelcao (interview, Jakarta, 17 January 2004).

73 Cinta Damai sent 23 children to Kupang in 1991, including da Costa’s son. Fifteen were of primary school age and six not yet at school. Groups of about 20 were sent in 1995 and 1998 (Francisco da Conceicão Guterres (interview, Ermera, 17 Juni 2003), Mrs Sin Kapitan, Panti Asuhan GMIT, Oeba (9 February 2004) and Cornelius Banoe (interview, Kupang, 9 February 2004).

Cite this chapter as: van Klinken, Helene. 2011. Chapter 4: 'Transfers by religious institutions'. In Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor. Melbourne: Monash University Publishing. Pp. 109-138.

Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor

   by Helene van Klinken