I spent the next few days soaking up as much of Dili as I could. Most memorably, I visited the resistance museum. It took me well over an hour to finish reading through the exhibition and even longer for its significance to sink in. The museum has done an excellent job of presenting a large amount of sensitive information and provides a detailed timeline that pulls things together effectively.
The people of TL have had a tough time. First at the hands of Portugal, their colonial rulers since the 16th century. Next at the hands of the Japanese who occupied them along with mush of SE Asia during the second world war. Finally, at the hands of Indonesia who were responsible for a violent occupation spanning 24 years and causing over 100,000 deaths. The majority of these deaths have been attributed to hunger and disease. Both were rampant due to the turmoil created by the ongoing violence. It was during this turmoil that the international community seemingly washed its hands of TL. There was barely any reaction when 5 Australian based journalists were killed in 1975 and this set the precedent: nobody was interested in the events taking place here. With no real way to contact the outside world, the support of the Catholic church was invaluable to the TL people during this period. Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo used his position to openly denounce the violence taking place and call for international intervention. He was later awarded a Nobel peace prize for his efforts.
I can imagine this solidarity only served to strengthen the belief of an already deeply Catholic nation. Today there is evidence of this everywhere you go in Dili. Religious slogans are common place on the outside of buses and crosses, shrines and statues scatter hilltops. In fact, Dili is host to the second largest Jesus statue in the world (After Rio De Janeiro). The 88ft Cristo Rei of Dili was actually installed by the Indonesian government in 1996 and is one of the most visited attractions in the city today. I stayed for sun set when it is popular amongst exercising locals who jog up the 597 steps required to reach the base of the statue!