By Jheri St. James (and edited by Karen)

After decades of being under Indonesian Occupation Timor Leste received independence onMay 20, 2002 the first new sovereign state of the 21st Century. Six years later on June 29, 2009, Karen began working in the country. She collected soil from the ground around Christo Rei, a huge statue of Jesus on the outskirts of Dili. (See pictures.) “I began working in Timor Leste in late 2008 as a maternal health intern with a local non-governmental organization . In September 2009, I commenced work with an international NGO, which is when I learned about your soil collection project. My colleague, Sara , and I collected the soil sample on top of a well-known site in Dili called Christo Rei. The site has a large statue of Jesus overlooking the ocean which was erected during the Indonesian occupation. The majority of Timorese are Catholics, and the Stations of the Cross are found alongside the stairs leading up to the statue. Christo Rei]has cultural, religious and historical significance for Timorese. It is also a beautiful site, surrounded by the sea, mountains and fresh air.” I completed my contract in Timor at the end of 2011 and have since worked in various countries.

Cristo Rei of Dili or Christ the King of Dili

This remarkable Cristo Rei of Dili (Christ the King of Dili) is an 88.6-foot-high (27.0 m) statue of Jesus located atop a globe. Designed by Mochamad Syailillah, better known as Bolil, the statue was officially unveiled by President Suharto in1996 as a gift from the Indonesian government to the people of then East Timor, which was at the time an Indonesian province. The statue is one of the main tourist attractions in Timor Leste, situated at the end of the Fatucama peninsula, facing out to the ocean and reached by climbing some 500 steps.

It took almost a year of work to create the body of the statue, fabricated by 30 workers. Made of 27 separate copper sections, loaded onto three trailers and shipped to Dili, reconstruction of the statue, including the globe and a 10-meter-high cross, took three months. While being unveiled on October 15, 1996, Roman Catholic bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, President Suharto and then East Timor Governor José Abilio Osorio Soares, watched from a circling helicopter.

Thank you, Karen and Sara, for your efforts on behalf of Common Ground 191. DHL, has been the shipping company for most of Common Ground 191’s box and soil shipments.

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Following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory and Timor Leste became an independent nation and member of the United Nations and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. (Portugal was ruler at one time in the 16th century.) It is one of only two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, the other being the Philippines. This came on the heels of the preceding decades-long struggle for independence against Indonesian occupation which killed at least 100,000 people. Timor Leste continues to suffer the aftereffects, with a lower-middle-income economy--37.4% of the population lives below the international poverty line, which means living on less than U.S. $1.25 per day; and only about 50% of the population is literate.

Timor LesteLocated in Southeast Asia, Timor Leste comprises: 1) the eastern half of the island of Timor, and 2) the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor. It is the largest and easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. The Timor Sea separates the island from Australia to the south, and the Indonesian Province of East Nusa Tenggara to the west.


landscape of timor lesteMother Nature is beautifully expressed here in a mountainous landscape, surrounded by ocean. The easternmost area of Timor Leste contains the country’s first conservation area, the Nino Konis Santana National Park, home of the last remaining tropical dry forested area within the country. This preserve hosts a number of unique plant and animal species and is sparsely populated. The northern coast boasts a number of coral reef systems that have been determined to be at risk.













Saint Mary Dili

Statue of Saint Mary Outside Balide Church, Dili