By Prakash Khadka
President Jose Ramos-Horta yesterday assured visiting human rights activists that he remains committed to freedom and respect for religious minorities.
He met more than 30 groups from 14 Asia-Pacific countries in a discussion organised by Diplomacy Training Program (DTP), an Australia based human rights body.
Ramos-Horta told them: “Church has played a very important role in nation-building through the nationwide education service. The Catholic Church is the first [that] has given [us] our national identity.”
He made it clear that the national constitution clearly separates church and state and there is no official religion in a secular state.
Ramos-Horta said the government allocates funding to religions according to their popularity and gave their heads diplomatic passports. Some 97 percent of the 1.2 million population are Catholics.
Rui Pereira dos Santos of the national human rights institution (Provedoria) said: “we have been trying to include Muslims and Protestants in government posts so they also feel [that] their rights are protected. I really hope that they will apply for the upcoming recruitment process in our institution.”