vrijdag 17 juli 2015

A Blessed and Happy Idul Fitr

This morning some streets were crowded with people in traditional dress: men in long white jalaba some smoking with pleasure, because the month of Ramadan, the yearly spiritual and bodily exercise had been accomplished. Congratulations to all who joined this ritual.
For us in Utrecht it was the first time the Ulu Mosque at the West end of Kanaalstraat, close to the largest railway station of the country and one of the major business districts, could be used for the Salat Id. Allahu Akbar sounded over the streets and the many Muslim of the Lombok district of Utrecht (indeed East of the Central Station and the city, just the island of Lombok in Indonesia, East of Bali and Java), could celebrate in a proper mosque. The old mosque (a bath house, in use in the first half of the 20th century) still has the sign that it is for sale. Now we can compare the two buildings: one used since the mid 1970s, the other one since 2015:n what a difference!

For me, personally, this month of Ramadan also has become a mark in a change of life. After many years partly working on the history of Christianity and especially Catholicism in Indonesia, now the third volume has been published: Catholics in Independent Indonesia 1945-2010 (Leiden: Brill and KITLV). Now I have turned towards Islam in Turkey for some time. The book Gülen-inspired Hizmet in Europe. The Western Journey of a Turkish Muslim Movement is now finished and will be published in August by Peter Lang, Brussels. I was one of the editors, together with Dr. Gürkan Celik (Rotterdam INHolland University of Applies Sciences, Intercultural Business) and Prof. Johan Leman, antrhopology of the Catholic University in Louvain. We wanted to put a picture on the front page of the book: Fethullah Gülen sending his sympathizers to Europe (symbolized in a Dutch windmill, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben of London and the Brandenburger Gapura/Tor of Berlin), with ideas of integration, solidarity, modernity and good education. That is the image of Islam that is important for modern Europe and even the whole world. Amen, so-be-it.

woensdag 1 juli 2015

Inculturation or parallel systems: the choice of Marie-Antoinette Willemsen

Marie-Antoinette Willemsen studies anthropology and is since the mid-1990s busy with research on the SVD missionaries who have worked in Flores. In 2005 she published letters sent by Bishop Willem van Bekkum (Rutang) to his family in the Netherlands. In 2006 her doctoral dissertation on anthropologist and linguist/biologist Jilis Verheijen appeared. She has also published smaller work, but now a major work has been printed: De lange weg naar Nusa Tenggara. Spanningsvelden in een missiegebied (Hilversum, Verloren, 2015, 220 pages).
The book has four double portrait for a total of eight SVD missionaries in Flores and Timor. The first chapter is on Frans Cornelissen (1896-1983), founder of the minor seminary of Sika/Todabelu and of the Major Seminary of Ledalero. He is joined by Kees Maas, born 1938 who came to Flores in 1967. He was the first to teach ethics or moral theology in Indonesian and with liberal post-Vatican II views. He wrote in the late 1970s a doctoral dissertation in Rome on celibate life and affections. He caused protests (as if he was defending homosexuality, attacking the celibate status of priests) and he could not return to Flores. Only in the later 1990s he could become a visiting professor in Ledalero.
The second chapter is on two priests who were active in agricultural and social development, Jan Doormaal (1911-1996) and Johan Loeters (1913-1987). In Ende the learned Doormaal was the motor for the many programmes of the Flores-Timor Plan between 1965-1975, financed by German and Dutch governments. Loeters had many problems in Rutang with Willem van Bekkum. Here Willemsen is much more outspoken on this gifted but very chaotic administrator of a diocese, than she was in her 2005 publication of the letters. The chapter is a long chain of nice projects that very often met with problems, were not finished or not continued. Idealism not able to find solutions for the many problems of the poor region.
The third chapter is about two capable administrators: Bishop Anton Thijsen (head of dioceses of Ende, Larantuka, Denpasar) and Antoon Bakker, superior of the SVD missionaries. Bakker (1910-2005) disappears more or less half the chapter, in the late 1960s, but Thijsen (1906-1982) is followed until the end. There are in this chapter, as in many sections of the book, nice informations that I could have used in my book on Catholic in Independent Indonesia, 1945-2010. Among other things there is a quite harsh description of the character and ideas of  Bishop Sani Kleden and a conflict between higher and lower class Balinese Catholics.I like conflicts, because they give good informations about important developments.
The last chapter is about two lay brothers. First is Petrus Laan, best known for his 7000 pages of historical documents and summaries, written in a very nice style. Already the first quotes from his personal letters show that he is an amazing, productive writer of high quality. The other lay brother is Matrianus Klein Koerkamp, the able technician and organizer who served the mission boats between 1947 and 1991.
In his book on methodology of Mission Studies, recently published too, Frans Wijsen bluntly says that inculturation is a combination of international Catholic doctrine and local culture, planned from above. Syncretism is a combination of the two, but grown 'from below'. Willemsen likes to follow Susanne Schröter, talking about 'religious parallel systems'. See also my Catholics in Independent Indonesia, 259-267 where I consider the two perspectives as 'mutually enriching interpretations'. In fact it is often not only two systems, there may be even three competing systems, like the one found by Phiipus Tule or four systems, as met by Susanne Rodemeier on Pantar.
Thank you, Marie-Antoinette for this rich book. Will it be published in Engelis and/or Indonesian too?

vrijdag 26 juni 2015

In Memory of Prof. Dr. Simuh, 1933- 27 May 2015

Simuh (just one name, not a family name, just one personal name) was perhaps the most soft-spoken person I ever met. In Yogyakarta at the IAIN, State Academy for Islamic Studies, he was the specialist  in Javanese texts. In the early 1980s he wrote his PhD on Ronggowarsito's Serat Wirid Hidayat Jati (published in 1988).
I wondered often how he could give classes. We taught in the same building between 1984-1988. It had no Airconditiong, but open windows. The Usuluddin Building was located at a crossing of two roads with traffic lights. Buses and trucks started their engine and made much noise. I had much difficulties in reaching the 60-80 students in the classroom, but how could Simuh send his message with his soft voice?
In 1984 I met an official of the Toyota foundation who asked my opinion about the possibility for IAIN to receive subsidies for a research project. Then I suggested a project on Suluk, translation and publication. I brought microfilms from Leiden with texts. They were transcribed, translated. The results were spread in stencilled copies, but the poet Emha Ainun Najib made a 'repuitisasi' of then of these poems. The project should be concluded with a theatre play: the trial of Siti Jenar, the mystic who claimed to be one with God. The Yogyakarta police did not give the required permit for the play, afraid that hardline Muslims would protest.
Javenese Muslim texts were not interesting for the small department of Javanese studies at Gadjah Mada University, where most interest was on Old-Javanese texts from the Hindu-Buddhist period, or wayang stories and court chronicles of a later period. The IAIN found these texts often too syncretic, too Indonesian, too far away from the Arab roots of Islam. Simuh saw it as his special mission to save these Javanese interpretations and accomodations of Islam.

Between 1992 and 1996 Simuh was the chosen rector of the IAIN. It shows the sympathy he had from many of his colleagues (although as a representative of the Faculty of Usuluddin or philosophical view on Islam, he was not always respected by the members of the Faculty of Shari'a or Islamic Law). But I wondered how he could live as a manager, rather than a scholar and writer.
He wrote not much, but always in a consistent style and quality.
I met him for the last time with Abdurahman (Widyakusuma) in 2009. He suffered at that time already from Alzheimer, could no longer follow a true conversation. This fragile man neverthelees reach the age of 82 years. He will be remembered as a fighter for the respect for a distinct Indonesian/Javanese interpretation of Islam. He recognised the Arab and Persian roots of much of Indonesian  mysticism, wanted also honour its differences. Inna lillahi wa inna 'alaini raji'un.

donderdag 18 juni 2015

The War of the Wilder's Cartoons

The Dutch politican, member of parliament, Geert Wilders, wanted to show anti-Muslim cartoons in parliament, but was not allowed to do this. He has decided to use the short (4-5 minutes) Television programmes for his party in order to show anti-Muhammad cartoons.
The national Dutch Union of Moroccan Muslims has made a cartoon of Wilders himself.

The yellow 'egg' is the well-known whitewashed hair of the politician who likes strong words. Minder-minder means 'less-less': he said in a political speech that he wanted less Moroccans in the Netherlands. Below him we see Dutch people of Moroccan descent calmly walking with the Dutch flag in the car of the baby. Moskeeën brengen cartoon over Wilders uit

Selfies in Italian Style

Inevitable, to make selfies now while on a tourist trip, like we were in the second half of May 2015.
Driving to Italy we passed Swiss and the great mountain throug the Gotthard tunnel. This is Paule and Karel Steenbrink against the background of the southern Alpes mountains of southern Switserland.
 This is in Milano in the great shopping gallery, close to the Piazza del Duomo.

 This is not a selfie at all. But I found it a nice photograph. At lunch time in Florence we were sitting outside under a good cover and it started raining very heavily. Some tourists found shelter against the rain with their bag.

In Pisa so many people tried to make picture about the same subject: pushing the curbing tower. These were quite successful, not for the contrsuction but for the suggestion

Muslims and Muslim dress in Renaissance Italy

In the second half of May 2015 we were in Italy. Especially in Tuscany we saw many richly dressed people with turbans: the most clear sign of Muslim dress. Here is show some of the most conspicuous examples.
This is a great ceremony for the pope. When I remember well, this was for the special room in the Duomo of Siena where the library of the later Pope Pius II was kept. Beautiful paintings on the wall here (see also below) and right below a turban (I suppose) and therefore a Muslim?

This was still the time when the Muslims were respected as source of learning, as the keepers of a refined style of life. An amazing place this library in Siena (used in the style of a museum with an honest ticket to be bought before you could enter).

Besides Catherine of Siena there is one Bernardinus of Siena, a famous preacher in Central Italy, about 1380-1444, a Franciscan Friar. Quite interesting to see how women and men are separated during his sermons by a curtain, more or less as now also happens at Muslim meetings.
The last in this short series is a great statue for the most influential of all Medici in Firenze, Cosimo di Medici. He also has a Muslim (at least a turban) in his entourage. This is on the Piazza Lorenzo, next to the church where the graves of the Medici are to be found (but Paule find these marble statues by Michelangelo too grotesk, too macho and did not want to enter to see them again).

Cosimo de Medici is sitting below far right. In front of him a Muslim showing his respect to the great ruler of Florence.

Saint Catherine of Siena

We had parked our car near the great football stadium of Siena and the first church we saw was the giant Dome on top of a hill, but the first we entered was Santo Dominguo, on the other side of the deep valley. In this church most attention was for nearby born Catharina of Siena (1347-1380). She must be distinguished from the martyr of Alexandria in Egypt, St Catherine who had to marry a pagan officer and rejected the proposal and therefore was killed.

Above the Duomo from the San Domingo. Below here the founder of the Dominican order and Saint Catherine.
Catharina of Siena must have been a very keen young girl. She was one of the 25 children in her house, but had as a young child already religious visions. In the Church of Saint Dominicus her head has been preserved, but we were not allowed to make pictures inside. Loads of buses entered, probably on their first stop to Siena. But also quite a few people looking like more or serious pilgrims. Close to the great church is a compound with the 'original house' of Catherine and some six chapels, where people could have conferences, private meditations. I saw a lady talking to a nun in one of the chapels in a very serious manner.

Above Santo Domingo from a distance. Below one of the visions of the young girl Catherine.
In a side room of the great Duomo of Siena the library of the learned  Enea Silvia Piccolomini, the learned citizen of Siena who became Pope Pius II and declared Catherine a saint.
Some 375 letters of Catherine and at least one major mystical is preserved. She has been declared Doctor Ecclesiae (quite recently). She is known for her action to suggests the popes to return to Rome from Avignon. She was less a warrior than Jeanne d'Arc, but must have been a remarkable woman.
Below the scene from the library in the Duomo of Siena where Pius II declared her a saint.