January 30, 2021
By Ian Lloyd Neubauer
After meeting American Catholic priest Richard Daschbach in East Timor, a writer helped him procure funding for his orphanage, before discovering the man was a sexual predator
From the moment I first laid eyes on him, in 2009, I knew he was unlike the few other Westerners on the ship. Slowly, steadily, he made his way through the crowd, stopping as local people took his hand and touched it against their foreheads – a traditional sign of veneration for men of the cloth. Yet this old man seemed anything but missionary-like, dressed down in a polo shirt and an old baseball hat, with small stumpy teeth stained red from chewing betel nut.
Later in the evening, I saw him again, resting on the upper deck among the hundreds of passengers making the slow overnight journey from East Timor’s sleepy capital, Dili, to Oecusse, a small coastal territory of East Timor, walled in by Indonesian-controlled West Timor.
His name was Father Richard Daschbach, an American priest who had built the Topu Honis orphanage and women’s shelter near Oecusse. We talked for more than an hour and at the end of our discussion, he invited me to stay at Topu Honis as his guest. In Meto, Oecusse’s little-known tongue, topu means “to lead by the hand’” and honis means “life”.
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