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IRONY: NGO Funded by Canadian Bishops’ D&P Battles East Timor Bishops over Abortion

John Jalsevac,

East Timor, April 7, 2009 ( – (LSN) has learned that a pro-abortion NGO that is going head-to-head with East Timor’s Catholic bishops in an effort to legalize abortion in the strongly Catholic country, is funded by the Canadian Catholic bishop’s official development arm, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P).

Early last month the second International Women for Peace conference took place in East Timor, a country where upwards of 95% of residents are Catholic. At the conclusion of the conference, participants produced a list of recommendations, including one that said that abortion should be legalized in cases of incest and sexual abuse (See the recommendations:…).

The UN’s news information service, IRIN, reported in mid-March that one participant NGO in particular was central in the push to loosen East Timor’s strongly pro-life abortion laws. The NGO is called Fokupers, or the "Communication Forum for Women from the East," which is listed as one of Development and Peace’s partners in its 2006-2011 Asia Program.

According to IRIN, "A working group convened by Fokupers … a local NGO supported by others such as the Alola Foundation, has been pushing for a softening of abortion laws." (See IRIN’s coverage:

Maria Barreto, program manager for advocacy at Fokupers, told IRIN that, "Abortion is one of the options that is appropriate when the mothers are victims of sexual violence. We are working to protect women. We should understand that we should give options to mothers based on their circumstances."

IRIN also reported that the push to legalize abortion by Fokupers was creating a firestorm of controversy in the Catholic country. The Catholic bishops from the Dili and Baucau dioceses reportedly wrote in early March to the Timor-Leste Council of Ministers, the council responsible for making the country’s laws, urging them to keep abortion illegal in all circumstances.

While researching this story, LifeSiteNews also learned that Fokupers had at one time been a "partner" of the U.S. bishops’ official development arm, Catholic Relief Services (CRS). A representative at CRS confirmed that CRS had ended its relationship with the NGO five years ago, before it began its pro-abortion activities, and that their partnership with Fokupers had only been a year long. The CRS representative also communicated with CRS’s contacts on the ground in East Timor, who confirmed that Fokupers is indeed currently helping spearhead the lobbying effort to legalize abortion in the country, and that the East Timorese bishops have strongly spoken out against the pro-abortion efforts.

The CRS representative told LSN that if Fokupers had been found to be supporting abortion in any way while they were a CRS partner, CRS would have severed the relationship. "We would not fund any [abortion] advocacy organization," said CRS media spokesman Tom Price, who explained that official CRS policy "with organizations that carry out activities counter to Church teaching is that we would not partner or fund them," even if they are involved in other commendable projects.

"We do not just follow Church teachings, we embrace them," he said.

However, Fokupers, as well as numerous other pro-abortion organizations, continue to receive funding from D&P, which, according to a D&P spokesman, has no official policy against supporting organizations that are involved in abortion advocacy. LSN left multiple phone and e-mail messages with Development and Peace seeking comment on this story. There was no response by press time.

Over the last month LSN has provided evidence that D&P is funding numerous pro-abortion and pro-contraception groups in Mexico, Brazil, Haiti, Nigeria, Benin, Guinea, Togo and Bolivia, and will be reporting on even more D&P partners in the coming days.

These D&P partners are all involved to varying degrees in activities that run directly contrary to Church teaching on some of the gravest moral issues. One group in Nigeria last year teamed up with the radical pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) to lobby the Nigerian government to loosen the abortion laws in the country and to provide more access to contraception. Another, located in Togo, specializes in distributing condoms to prostitutes. Another D&P partner in Benin has also teamed up with CRR to lobby for more access to contraception and liberalized attitudes towards abortion.

In addition, representatives of two of the six pro-abortion groups in Mexico that LSN has reported on have confirmed in interviews that they support abortion availability in Mexico as a human right, while the others have all issued and/or signed on to pro-abortion documents. LSN has also reported on other groups in Latin America.

However, despite the increasing mountain of evidence that D&P is routinely funding leftist pro-abortion and pro-contraception organizations around the world, and that it has no official policy against doing so, the development organization has continued to deny the allegations. D&P has also issued no public response to date to the allegations about its partners in countries other than Mexico.