zondag 2 oktober 2016

Cornelis de Bruin 1652-1727

Cornelis de Bruijn was a Dutch artist, painter, and traveller. I came across him in the preparation for CMR, the great project on the biblographical history of Muslim Christian Relations. He made two long trips to the East. The first trip took more than twenty years: 1672-1693 when he went through Italy  to Turkey, then to Syria and Egypt, coming back through Venice for perfection of his drawing and painting. He had not much money, so earned his living by making portraits, selling antiquities.

In my memory the sphynx of Cairo looks much different and the pyramids are broader, but it is a nice drawing.
The second trip began in 1701 when Cornelis de Bruijn first went to Russia, especially the city of Moscow, then to Persia where he concentrated on the runes of Persepolis. From 24/2 until 25/8 1706 he stayed in Batavia, from where he returned to Persia and Russia and aarived in the Hague on 10 October 1708.
He was not well versed in linguages and spoke Latin, Italian, but no Eastern language. His sojourn in Syria, Egypt and Persia did not give much as to Muslim-Christian relations. From Batavia he made a trip of some two weeks to Bantam where he had to nice meetings with the Sultan. They are in pages 361-400 of his second book: Cornelis de Bruins reizen over Moskovië, door Persie en Indië.. (Amsterdam 1711, reprint 1714 is on the Internet).
During his visit in Bantam he describes mostly the town, flowers, fruits, all kind of people and the many ladies at the court: not only there were four official, quite a few unofficial wives, a female army and many female assistant, some 850 in servioce of the sultan zodat het er grimmelt van de vrouw (such that is is squirming with ladies in the palace).
The kings tells much about the present condition and the past of his sultanate, which was pagan until 300 years ago. Some names of rulers are mentioned. The king asked to foreign guest also some religious questions: especially about the age of the world. How long ago was the creation according to the Christians? And how long will it last until the Day of Judgment? According to the drawing it was not a talk in a quiet atmosphere: an translator between them and also quite a few ladies serving with food and ladies dancing for entertainment. Pages 375-385 are about his visit to Bantam, most of it in two long talks with the sultan. The ruler showed him also the palace, small rooms for many of the ladies, also a place where they had to take of their shoes, 'because of the sacredness of the place'.  But no special and profound interreligious contact. And this is the reasom why the Bruijn will not make it to the volumes of the CMR Project, but it was some fun to read about this non-political, non-economic visit.

Judas, Jesus and stories of a dog

Simon Rae has sent me from Dunedin in New Zealand a book in return for something I sent him. It is the book by C.K. Stead My Name was Judas. It is nice reading because it is written by a poet, a professor of literature. It depicts the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth through the eyes of Judas, a friend in his youth. Single son fo rich parents while Jesus grew up in a poor family with many children in the crowded and small house. In a nice setting it has much bibliocal archaeology and history. On p. 30 he writes about the Romans in Palestine: The soldiers who had served a long time in our region were very unpleasant, as if they'd learned to dislike the local population whom they regarded as ungrateful, unwashed and potentially rebellious. The more recent arrivals, especially if they were young, were friendlier. I wondered whether this is true. In the other colony, the Dutch East Indies, the totok or full-blood white new arrival is often cosidered as someone who is still embedded in the European culture. The indo or Eurasian could be closer to the 'native' population but  in fact was a  distinct category.

Sent walking by their teachers the two young boys Judas and Jesus meet a  pack of wild dogs. Judas was afraid, Jesus not, or at least, he was calm. Jusad took his staff and chased them away, hitting one dog so serious that he lay wounded. He finished him with a blow to the head.
This reminded me one of the Muslim stories of Jesus as retold by Tarif Khalidi in his beautiful book, The Muslim Jesus. Jesus and the pupils came along a dead dog. The disciples said 'How foul is his stench!' Jesus said 'How white are his teeth!' He said this in order to teach them a lesson- namely tot forbid slander. (no 127 out of 303, page 122).

donderdag 29 september 2016

CMR in Woodbrooke, Birmingham

CMR is the project Christian-Muslim Relations, a Bibliographical History. It is an encyclopedic work, in two parts. CMR 1500 were the five volumes published on the period 600-1500. CMR 1900 is the extension for the period until 1914. I entered the programme in 2014, writing two entries (Erasmus, Michael Servet) for the 16th century. For the 17th century I wrote 14 entries.
There is an annual meeting of some 25 coordinators in Woodbrooke, Selly Oak, Birmingham. I was present since 2014 as section leader for the Netherlands.

Woodbrooke was the home of the richest Quaker family of Britain, the Cadbury, famous for their chocolate. The 19th century mansion has been extended and is used for many meetings. Together with the annual CMR meeting (25 members) there was a venue of some 80 people who came for the Nontheist Friends Meeting. Quakers in the UK are quite liberal and Buddhism and natural religion as well as ecological concern is important for many of them (notice the labyrinth in the grass field). John Chesworth, long working for PROCMURA (Programme of Muslim-Christian Relation in Africa) remarked that East African Quakers are 'much more firmly Christian'.
A rivulet runs down in the valley and a man-made lake has been part of the landscape for the large mansion.

David Thomas (above left) is the intellectual leader of the programme while Chesworth (right) coordinates much of the many writings (per volume about 100 entries and some 4-5 essays, summaries of development). The 17th century will be discussed in volumes 8-11. We are now moving towards the end: 18th and 19th century. A problem is that there are so many items, that it is difficult to contain the material. It can be done in two methods: cluster articles where more authors are discussed under one title. The second is the retriction to more strict 'religious debates' and to leave the more social and cultural differences out of the books and concentrate on the more theological or at least spiritual issues.
There were also reactions against this limited focus. If we compare the two major works of the 'ancestor' of studies on Christian-Muslim Relations, Norman Daniel, its is clear that for the period 1000-1400 he concentrated on theology (Trinity, Jesus as God), while in his book Empire and Islam it is often about the image of women, the idea of 'modernity', colonial system, democracy rather than the traditional theological issues of the mediaeval period.
Merle Ricklefs wrote also about cultural differences in the Javanese perceptions of Western people: 'All their arms branch out and they constantly urinate, those Christians. They wear a pair of servants' trousers and are always dressed: day and night they wear their jackets..'  (The Seen and Unseen Worlds in Java, 1726-49, quote from the Kitab Usulbiyah, p. 302) Not the 'religious distinctions' are seen as the most important, but rather the cultural and social.
This is already seen in the imbalance of the title of Norman Daniel's first work: Islam and the West, as well as in the qualifications of the seven civilisations of Huntington.

dinsdag 13 september 2016

The Pluralist Vision of Fethullah Gülen, between Europe and Indonesia?

Fethullah Gülen has been compared to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi , the 'caliph' of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS. The debate about Gülen has now reached  the Netherlands as well. As far as I know, there is not much debate about him in Indonesia, although there are some 8 Gülen schools in the country and a Gülen chair, or 'Gülen corner' in the UIN of Jakarta.
In 2015 I published a chapter on Gülen ethics (together with Gürkan Celik, in the book: Gülen-Inspiered Hizmet in Europe). Our argument was that, besides Islamic ethics as shari'a with very detailed and precise prescripts, there is a more general ethics based on a formulation of virtues, psyuchological goals to be attained (like self-control, modestymagnanimity, amiability, obedience to God). In his four-volume book on Sufism, Gülen has in the style of al-Ghazzali, many descriptions of virtues.
Now a Dutch philosophy journal asked for an update of this review of the thinking of Gülen, concentrating on social philosophy and ethics. I cam,e across a quite interesting perspective of the role of Turkey in the modern world. Gülen compared his time to that of Alexandre the Great, the Greek who conquered Persia but also accepted much of Persian civilisation. This resulted in a hybrid civilisation that dominated not Mediterranean world, until Persia and Arabia from 300 BCE until the arrival of Christianity and Islam. Angelika Neuwirth  qualified the Qur'an as a 'Text from the Late Antiquities'.
The process of Turkey's membership of EU, strongly supported by Gülen, is seen by him as a new opportunity to mix European and Asian cultures: 'Turkey's membership in the EU may yield a new cilizational mix rather than leading to a clash of civilisation.' (Gülen-Inspired hizmet in Europe p. 134).
The picture above present a quite common image of the idea many Europeans have about the 'integration' of Muslim in Europe. They simply should adapt to all aspects of European society. Gülen promotes the idea of Turkish membership of the EU but ion a way, where somthing new has to be started.
He condemns ISIS and now also the Erdogan government for a policy that should create a monolytic, uniform society. Instead he defends the Ottoman rule, with its millet policy where so many etnic and religious communities should be allowed to live according to their own rules.
The colonial Dutch rule in Indonesia created a state of apartheid, where different rules were valid for white European, for Arabs, Chinese and native populations. There are many weak points in this undemocratic and uneven society. We never should hope for its return. But the Turkish Ottoman rule also had some degree of tolerance. Martin Luther, who separated from the Roman Catholic Church, even once stated that he would rather live under Turkish rule than under the Pope. Also French critical philosopher Voltaire stated in the mid-18th century that Turkish rule was much more tolerant than what he experienced in France and Italy of his times. Also under Kemal Atatürk there was a tendency to create a strongly unified country where local languages and cultures (especially of the Kurds, but also the Alevi tradition in Islam) were banned.
Lherefore it is the more a pity that the liberal and plural ideas of Gülen are now forbidden in favour of the monolythic culture as promoted by President Erdogan. One of the accusations against Gülen is that he did not obey the exclusive administration of Islam by Diyanet.
NKRI, Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia somtimes sounds to me as the opposite of Bhinneka tunggal ika, a support of pluralism together with an open unity.

donderdag 18 augustus 2016

The Jesus of Bambang Subandrijo

On 19 December 2007 Bambang Subadrijo, lecturer in New Testament Studies at the Theological Aschool of Jalan Proklamasi 27 defended his doctoral dissertation in Amsterdam. This week I received the Indonesian translation of this dissertation, published by STT Proklamasi in cooperation with BPK Gunung Mulia, the best known mainstream Protestant publishing house of Jakarta. Subandrijo had his masters´ thesis in the doctrines of Saint Paul, where he defended the position that the doctrine of Trinity cannot be found in Paul who remained close to Jewish monotheism, although he gives high titles to Jesus. He was since then a debated personality in Indonesian Protestant churches. For some time he was teaching mathemetics, because he had studies mathematics besides theology.
His English title of the dissertation was Eikon and Ayat: Points of Encounter between Indonesian Christian and Muslim Perspectives on Jesus. As you may see below he removed to Greek word and made it a title of encounter and debate. The drawing is quite funny: Jesus is a Mediterranean figure with a beard) while few Indonesian have a beard, in fact only people of Arab or Papua descent. The hat is purely Javanese, but not a traditional blankon. There are two krisses in front of his body: Javanese mystical and magical weapon, qlso two hands crossed. the krisses perhaps signify the double status of Jesus: human and divine. The two hands crossed may signify Muslims and Christians, both honouring Jesus. The clouds (mountains?) surrounding Jesus are in typical Javanese style.
At the occasion of the defence of the dissertation in 2007 I wrote the following short speech:

I have read your biography with much interest for your career in theology, but also for the things you have left out there. You also took a degree in mathematics and for many years was a teacher of that discipline, besides teaching religion. That is perhaps a golden line in your life, living between religion and mathematics, between Yogyakarta and Jakarta, between Islam and also a little bit of Christianity, minister of the word but also minister for financial affairs of theological schools. Or, perhaps I may express it here in Indonesian as well

Doktor Bambang ini sudah suka dua lambang
Agama dan ilmu pasti baiklah seimbang
Antara Yogya dan Jakarta sering dia terbang
Tetapi dalam bidang isteri hanya satuyang  terbilang!

Islam dan Kristen bagi dia gaya bayi kembar
Sumbernya sama, kemudian tersebar
Mau kelahi dan berbeda, sering kesasar.
Sebaiknya bersatu lagi, jangan yang satu terlalu besar.

We met for the first time in mid 2004, as far as I can remember, by writing and then later in person. I still remember how we were sitting together for the first time in the great open hall of the Guesthouse of the Council of Church, Jalan Teuku Umar in Jakarta, where we read this text from Sura 19 on Mary and Jesus. This was the first time your read this text truly in its own context. You were and are a devout Christian, but you have also a very open mind and was touched by the setting and wording of this other story of Jesus and wanted to go the way of the experience. How is it when not the differences between the Christian and Muslim stories and doctrines are pointed, but when we see the two as members of one hermeneutical family.

You have made good inventories of the creeds of the Indonesian churches, of past polemics between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia and you have reached conclusions that may cause quite a few problems in your church. You are a true teacher, but not a full minister of your church. In this sense you have some independence and this may make your suggestions for bridging the interpretations of Christians and Muslims very valuable.

Theology is not only the analysis of past doctrines and texts. It is also criticism of these doctrines. You have written in your mild style a very sharp verdict about the creeds of your church and even about the basic councils of Christianity like the doctrines of Nicea and Chalcedon. Well, you would not call it criticism, but just the need for another interpretation of trinity, statements about the divine character of Jesus. That is your Javanese style of saying things in a mild way! I do hope that your contributions to Christian and Muslim theology, or to religious thinking in general will be taken up in a positive way in you country.

Or to conclude in Indonesian:

Doktor Bambang mengakui Trinitas
Tetapi mohon juga kata lain atau alias
Mohon rumusan modern yang berkualitas
Sehingga orang yang beriman tidak lagi waswas. 

Doktor Bambang sudah doctor fi’din

Dia telah pergi ke negeri yang dingin

Berulangkali dari isteri dia dapat izin

Asal dia tetapi minal mu’minin. Amin!

maandag 15 augustus 2016

Phantoms of a colonial past

On a prominent place in The Hague a monument is placed to commemorate the victims of the Pacific War: Dutch colonial soldiers, officials, Eurasian, Indonesians. The yearly ceremony is today, 15 August. It is not a celebration of Indonesian Independence (17 August), not the end of colonialism. It is still a quite multifaceted memory: for quite a few older Dutch people it is still a commemoration of the end of the war, where 4-5 May is dedicated to the European/German enemy and 15 August to the Japanese enemy. Yasuko Kobayashi qwrote me that she in Japan now remembers the end of a 'crazy period' a period dominated by demons, zaman edan.
Many Dutch still think that the Indonesian were a divided and very diverse people, who followed just a few radical nationalist leaders, Sukarno, Hatta, Sjahrir and some Communists like Tan Malaka. Better informed people realize that the Dutch were wrong in keeping so long to colonial dreams (or was colonialism, even as international trade inevitably wrong?)
The actual celebration, including the speeches by the prime minister Mark Rutte, are all compromises. But Robert Cribb has been accepted by the Dutch government to do research about war crimes committed by the Dutch in the period 1945-1949. This will concentrate on the cruel killings of Westerling in South Sulawesi. But many people in the netherlands still have more interest in the bersiap-killings, Dutch people killed by nationalists in the period September 1945-early 1946. Still much past mistakes are not healed and the way the Dutch celebrate 15 August (with former colonial soldiers wearing their old fashioned costumes) is not really helpful for this.

zondag 14 augustus 2016

Abdurrahman Wahid and conversions

Elga Sarapung of Interfidei was here for a day and a night, in company of two members of other NGOs: discussion of a programme on freedom of religion. She told one story, which she had heared from Djohan Effendi. Abdurrahman Wahid once visited a kiai who complained about his youngest child. The man had six children. Five were married with a good Muslim partner. But the youngest child, a bright daughter who studied medicine at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta had fell in love with a Christian boy and now was planning to convert to Christianity in order to be able to marry this boy. The kiai was angry and sad, because people would blame him as a famuos Muslim leader who could not retain his daughter for the right belief.
Abdurrahman Wahid commented: "well, he should not mounr too much about this. Imagine what God, the Father had to experience. He had only one son and this one guy converted fromthe Jewish religion to Christianity!"