Sorry for the delay in getting this post out. As those of you who have been following me know I am in the country of Timor Lest now and the internet here is a bit dodgy :-).
Today I met a superstar. He drove into the parking lot in his blue mini Moke (like a dune buggy). It had shiny chrome role bars that matched the color of his greying hair. His handshake was firm and his smile winning as he, in a warm baritone voice greeted me with a friendly, “Bom Dia”. And while he seemed like an ordinary citizen, short of stature and slight of build, José Ramos-Horta was something considerably more.
Timor Leste had been a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years. When it received its independence in 1975 young José had played an important role in the independence movement. One might have expected then that, when after a few months Indonesia invaded and annexed Timor Leste, young Ramos-Horta would be called to also play a role in the in the new independence movement. Instead he was sent away by the country’s leaders, called upon to serve as Ambassador for the Timorese to the world. It was a difficult time for the young man. His task was a lonely and seemingly hopeless one.
Only after nearly twenty-five years of exile he was able to return home to a free country. On his return he was amazed at all the people who recognized him and wanted to shake his hand as a hero. Believing that it should be the ones who had stayed behind and fought battles on the homeland who should be welcomed in such a way, now middle aged José asked why he had been greeted so. The answer came, “Because you gave us Hope! When we thought the world had forgotten us we would hear your voice on the radio pleading our cause and we knew that we could hold out a little bit longer. Thank you!”
For his efforts in the peace process that ended the war with Indonesia and gained Timor Leste its independence, José Ramos-Horta was awarded, together with the Catholic Bishop of Timor Leste, the Nobel Peace prize. He went on to serve his country as Prime Minister and President. And since his ”retirement” from public service in his homeland he has served as a UN Special Representative to Guinea Bissau and more recently on a committee to evaluate the UN Peacekeeping force.
From the parking lot I led him to the hall where he would be speaking. I don’t remember all that he said, but his main message was – When everything seems impossible. When you feel as though your courage and strength will fail. Remember, there is still is Hope. Never give up Hope!”