Sister Lourdes (Mana Lou)
Sister Lourdes, popularly known as ‘Mana Lou’, developed a solidarity network across Timor-Leste, focusing on support for the most vulnerable communities. While the struggle for independence is over, Mana Lou sees her people still struggling against poverty. She has led the organization ISMAIK since 1989, which serves the community, both with urgent humanitarian assistance and with longer term projects to fight poverty and revive and preserve East Timorese culture.
Mana Lou has previously invoked criticism from many for reaching out to those who were hostile during the struggle for independence – she reached out to all sides and attempted to orchestrate reconciliation by engaging the Indonesian troops camped in Dare. She risked her life countless times travelling across the country to visit refugee camps, often in remote and dangerous areas. She visited the militia camps in West Timor to assist the refugees and to try and convince them to return to their villages. As leaders fl ed after massacres, she would continue through road blocks to work with and for those left behind. She is gifted with a unique ability to communicate and has been able to win over hostile parties, including the militia. On International Human Rights Day 2009, Mana Lou was recognized by the office of the President for her dedication in promoting and defending Human Rights in Timor-Leste. Mana Lou is often described as a “Living Saint”.