Part 1 | The long battle for justice: Timor-Leste’s trial against ex-priest for sexual abuse of children


February 20, 2021

By Tjitske Lingsma

After a turbulent struggle for justice, the trial against a former priest charged with sexual abuse of children in his shelter finally starts on February 22 in Timor-Leste. It is the biggest case in the history of the SVD congregation.

Ana was just 8 years old, when she went to live in Topu Honis Shelter Home. Life was perfect and she never imagined the betrayal and harm that would be inflicted upon her. “It was a dream come true,” Ana recalled about how she felt that first day when she arrived at the modest shelter, perched on the slopes of one of the spectacular mountains of Timor-Leste’s exclave Oecusse. Her family was poor and worked hard in the fields to have enough food. At Topu Honis she didn’t have to worry about her next meal. She had friends, her own space for clothes, time to play and the school was nearby. ‘But I did not know there also was this awful part’, Ana (not her real name as her identity needs to be protected) says in an interview published on the website of the Timorese women’s rights organization Fokupers. Soon after her arrival the shelter’s staff told her: “You are new, and you get to sleep with the priest.”

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