Koinonia Farm’s vision statement is “love through service to others, joy through generous hospitality, peace through reconciliation.” All of our guest rooms are named after people who have come before us and embodied these ideas. These peacemakers are from all over the world and from all different periods of history. This “great cloud of witnesses” and their stories encourage us to keep pursuing love, joy, and peace in our life and work.

Bishop Belo black and white portrait

Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo was born on February 3, 1948 in Wailakama on the north coast of East Timor. East Timor had been a Portuguese colony from the sixteenth century until 1975 when it achieved independence. Shortly after East Timor became independent, Indonesia invaded and annexed the country. Indonesia was a mostly Muslim country ruling over a mostly Catholic East Timor. Under Indonesia rule, thousands of people in East Timor were killed. Into this violent situation, Bishop Belo worked for peace and an end to the violence.

Belo was educated in Catholic schools in East Timor, Portugal, and Rome. He was ordained in 1980 and became a member of the Salesian Society. When he returned to his homeland, Belo served as the head of Dili diocese in East Timor. 6 years later, in 1989, he became the head of the whole church of East Timor. Belo was thought of as a quiet, submissive bishop who would not create any disturbances and would allow the violence and oppression to continue. This assumption proved drastically incorrect.

Let it be stated clearly that to make peace a reality, we must be flexible as well as wise. We must truly recognize our own faults and move to change ourselves in the interest in making peace… Let us banish anger and hostility, vengeance and other
dark emotions, and transform ourselves into humble instruments of peace.

In 1983, Indonesian forces killed 300 East Timor people in the village of Kraras. The Sunday following the massacre, Bishop Belo preached a sermon condemning the violence and calling for peace in the country. He continued to speak out against the fighting and killing even as threats of his assassination surfaced. Bishop Belo used his contact with the outside world to bring attention to his small homeland and shine light on the injustice there. In 1991, he hid refugees fleeing the violence and continued to bring attention to the oppression of East Timor. When he was criticized for using his church position to be “political,” Belo argued that his position as a Christian and his work to save the East Timor people from dying were not incompatible.

The world censures those who take up arms to defend their causes and calls on them to use nonviolent means in voicing their grievances. But when a people chooses the nonviolent path, it is all too often the case that hardly anyone pays attention. It is tragic that people have to suffer and die and the television cameras have to deliver the pictures to people’s homes every day before the world at large admits there is a problem.

Bishop Belo, along with Jose Ramos-Horta, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for working to bring peace to East Timor. His hard work and commitment to peace succeeded when East Timor became independent in May 2002. After a long struggle for justice, he resigned his post in East Timor and moved to Mozambique to be a missionary where he remains today.

Let us always think of many anonymous people throughout the world, struggling for the protection of human rights … press on, take courage, remain true to your ideals, you will not be forgotten.

Bishop Belo smiling black and white photo