This article was originally posted on the Student Peace Prize website and reposted with permission. Antero da Silva is one of the first alumni of the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute.
Timor-Leste is a country in Southeast Asia, and is one of the youngest countries in the world as it got it’s independence May 20th 2002, after a long and brutal fight against the Indonesian occupation. From the 16th century Timor-Leste was a Portuguese colony, until the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN) declared the territory’s independence in 1975. Only nine days after the independence from Portugal, Timor-Leste was occupied by Indonesia. The Indonesian occupation were characterized by struggle, violence, and conflict between the Indonesian military and independence fighters.
Antero Benedito da Silva
Antero da Silva grew up during this chaotic time, but was always dreaming of an independent and peaceful island. Da Silva founded East Timor Student Solidarity Council (ETSSC) in 1998, as a way for students to participate in the ongoing struggle for independence and democracy. He opened up student offices across the whole island, where people could learn about the benefits for an independent country. The Indonesian military and government did not approve of this, and were fighting against the opposition with all means. This led to deaths of several students, and just being part of a student organization made you a target for the Indonesian military. Antero da Silva, as the founder of ETSSC, were seen as one of the most important activists during the struggle for independence and democracy in Timor-Leste. And in 1999 he and ETSSC were awarded the Student Peace Prize for their non-violent against the Indonesian occupation. Da Silva’s work proved to be effective as the country became independent only a few years after he received the Student Peace Prize.