Promoting Change and Understanding Through Non-Violent Means

After the 1974 revolution in Portugal, the country withdrew from East Timor, which it had colonized in the 16th century. In December 1975, the Indonesian military invaded East Timor; the Indonesian occupation lasted 24 years and resulted in more than 200,000 deaths.

A Roman Catholic bishop, Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo played a vital and ongoing role in bringing peace to his country, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, during the Indonesian occupation that stretched from 1975 to 1999. Despite multiple attempts on his life, Belo never ceased his public objection to the ruthless and oppressive policies of the Indonesian government. He organized multiple nationwide protests, always peaceful in nature, which culminated in the eventual discharge of two Indonesian military generals.

In his Nobel lecture after winning the peace prize in 1996, Belo said, “People in East Timor are not uncompromising. They are not unwilling to forgive and overcome their bitterness. On the contrary, they yearn for peace, peace within their community and peace in their region. They wish to build bridges with their Indonesian brothers and sisters to find ways of creating harmony and tolerance.”

In this lesson plan, students read excerpts from Belo’s Nobel lecture and analyze the struggle of the people in East Timor. They’ll then evaluate the roots of a current local or societal conflict and propose an effective nonviolent solution. Students will support their plans by referring to psychological studies as well as the approaches of Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and other nonviolent activists around the world.

Because all the activities involve independent or group research that can be done online, this lesson plan fits into either virtual or in-person classrooms, with opportunities for discussion and collaboration on Zoom or with classmates.