zondag 14 januari 2018

FKUB: between bureaucracy and a creative spirituality of elections

FKUB or Forum Komunikasi Umat Beragama is created by Indonesian law in 2006 as a body of local religious leaders that must give advice for inter-religious harmony. In 1980 Minister of Religion Alamsyah Ratu Perwiramegara already created a National Body for Consultation of the Religious Communities (Wadah Musyawarah Antarumat Beragama), but after 1990 we did not hear much of its initiatives (after more than 500 pamphlets and books were published as reports of meetings in one decade, anyway!).
The FKUB must be created on the level of provinces, kabupaten and kecamatan: until the small towns and at sub-district level.
I am now writing on ecumenical circuits and networks, in preparation for an international conference in Hong Kong, 13-14 April this year, and so I take also in consideration the inter-religious circuits as the macro-ecumenism, against the internal Christian networks as micro-ecumenism. However, most reports support the idea of FKUB in a general and idealistic way, but not many of its concrete initiatives are shown: in many places it is not (yet) really functioning. The Ahmadiyyah problems of 2008 and later were not solved by FKUB because they are not seen as an inter-religious, but internal Muslim conflict.
Now there was a special news about an initiative of FKUB in Papua. From noon Thursday 11 January 2018 until sunset the following day, leaders of the major religions joined a new style of fasting as preparation for a peaceful election of local administrators (pilkada aman damai). President of the FKUB Papuya is the Roman Catholic priest Linyus Biniluk. Buddhists, Muslims, Protestants and Catholics joined this Assisi-style prayer and fasting. There are pictures of a meeting in a universal style of hotel, people sitting like common bureaucrats, but this Papua dancing is specific for the event. May peace be supported during the coming period! May God bless the people of Papua, especially while praying and performing new rituals in this way!

zaterdag 6 januari 2018

Religious elements in Eka Kurniawan, compared with Ayu Utami

Only now I have read a first novel by Eka Kurniawan. It was hit first Cantik itu luka, from 2002, and I used the Dutch translation by Maya Liem, published in 2016.
The book is written in de magic-realistic style, which we also know from Ayu Utami's Bilangan Fu and where the Japanese author Murakami is a well-known representant.
It is realistic: the main figure is a pretty Eurasian lady Dewi Ayu, born about 1925, who was forced to become a prostitute in the Japanese administration. She has four daughters: no 1 marries a Javanese soldier who already was fighting the Japanese in 1943-5, then as a guerilla warrior aginst the Dutch, but later he became a corrupt military officer of the Indonesian army. No 2 marries a  handsome and intelligent man who becomes a Communist, leads the poor fisherman aginst the military who receive money from the fleet of big ships fishing illegally. No 3 marries a thug who become a great criminal in a harbour place in Southern Java (Parangtritis? Cilacap? Pengandaran? Pelabuhan Ratu?) No 4 is the mythical one, very ugly and gifted with magical elements. She plays a minor role.
Many historical details are used here, not in the heroic style of the Suharto period but in the critical, even somewhat cynical style of the Reformation Period, after 1998. So, there is much emphasis on the conflict among the Indonesians in the period 1945-1949, Communists against Nationalists, people who sought a military career against  those who did not like fighting. The prisoners in Buru in the 1970s, the oppression of nationalism in East Timor by the army.
It is a cruel book full with drama, killings, forced sex: it is not a romantic and soft book.
Especially the ghosts of the 'Communists' are described as frightening and dominating the lives of many people. They are afraid that the ghosts will take revenge for the cruel killings. They are anxious that curses will effect their life.
There are several religious elements in the book, besides the myths and magical effects of the ghosts: official Islam only enters in two ways: the penghulu is necessary for an orderly bureaucracy of marriage and the imam takes care for prayers at burials. That is all for Islam: only these two rituals.
There are some references to Mary, mother of Jesus. First on page 15-6 where she is seen as a resting place for the divine son, compared with the two wives of Pandu andf their sons. Dewi Ayu is (p. 144) seen as born in a Catholic family and she joins the teacher training at the Franciscan Sisters (of Mendut?) Page 338: No woman can be pregnant without sexual intercourse, unless you believe that Mary gave birth to Jesus without a relation with a man!
On the whole, however, the description of religious ideas and practices is only in passing, without depth and often negative: not a positive value but only something to become afraid, especially the ghosts of killed Communists.
How different from Ayu Utami who in Bilangan Fu 2008) gives much attention to the ecological spirituality of Suhubudi and his padepokan, some kind of Neo-Javanism, where religious traditions of Java are open also for modern thinking and the global traditions of Islam and Christianity. The same can be found in her Saman and Larung (resp. of 1998 and 2001).
But on the whole the story of Cantik itu luka is fascinating reading agianst the background of modern Indonesia.

Paderi: contradictory Dutch positions.

For the CMR project on the bibliographical history of Christian-Muslim Relations, I now write an entry on Dutch accounts of the Paderi. There is a great difference between seemingly positive and harsh negative opinions, between doves and hawks. Ridder de Stuers was Resident of Padang between late 1824 and 1829. He had no troops, because they were all needed for the Java War against Dipanegara. He left the Paderi in the highlands and signed on 25 October 1825 a treaty with them, leaving them their own business and belief. He complained about the behaviour of Malay people in Minangkabau: 'While discussing with common Malay people nobody listens to other people, but they talk in an undisciplined way, while the Padri give the word to their oldest and senior priests' (From his two-volume book on the Minangkabau,Vol I:104) He also wrote that you could easily see who were Paderi and who not: the common Malay had black teeth from sirih chewing and tobacco smoking, while the Paderi usually had healthy teeth. 'They did not consider themselves as Lords of the land, but only as religious preachers.'
Lieutenant Boelhouwer, who stayed in the West Coast of Sumatra between 1831-4 also wrote quite positive about the Paderi: Schoon was het te zien, die sterk gespierde Padries.. de ingetogen Padrie welke zijne driften volgens zijne godsdienstleer nimmer botviert, schijnt een reus tegen den Maleijer, welke door zijn opiumrooken een beklagenswaardig voorwerp oplevert. [It was nice to see these healthy and strongly muscled Padri. They show discipline and control their passions because of their religious conviction. They appear like giants compared to Malay people who smoke opium and have a destitute figure.' Quote from his personal observations in Westr Sumatra, page 100, see also page 40 about the 'lazy Malay' who is addicted to cockfighting and smoking opium] . 

A very curious text is found in a lengthy proposal of the Batavia administration seeking peace in Minangkabau. It has in its openng the following text: Reeds sedert twee eeuwen is de Edele Compagnie met u in handelsbetrekkingen op deze kust geweest, en omdat de Mohammedanen en Christenen geene vijanden zijn, zooals sommigen onder u, om u te misleiden, geleerd hebben, daar wij en gijlieden belijden dat er maar één God is, dien wij moeten dienen en aanbidden, en die ons, zoo wel als ulieden, heeft geboden om de menschen lief te hebben en geen kwaad over anderen te brengen. Die hiertegen zondigt, die zal God straffen, hetzij hij Christen of Mohammedaan is, zoo als God zal zegenen die zijne geboden onderhouden…  [Since two centuries the Honorable Company or VOC has been trading with you in this region. The  Muslims and the Christians are not enemies, like some among you notwithstanding are teaching in a misleading way, and we and you confess that there is only One God whom we must serve and honour and who has taught us, including you, to love all people and not to do harm to other people. All people who sin aginst this doctrines will be punished by God, Muslims as well as Christian, like God also will bless all those who obey his commands..]  This is a quite theological start of a proposal for a political peace treaty! [De Stuers Vol II:9]
 In fact the Paderi consented in the presence of the Dutch on the coast, in Padang and others towns, but if they were not willing to spread the Paderi style of religion, the 'Company' should not interfere and not open fortifications in their region. De Stuers comments with some understanding on this wish: ‘Hoe kan er een gouvernement bestaan dat zich niet met het belangrijkste, het geloof, bezig houdt?’Or; Any government should also take account of the most important aspect of life: which is faith!

But there are also hawks who only have an open eye for the cruelties of the Paderi. It begins with the Muslim dress code: white robes, a turban and (when possible) a beard for men; white or blue long dress for women and heads covered with giant hats, veil attached to this. In the Muslim-against-Muslim jihad, violence was used when the Paderi saw evil things like the use of tobacco, opium, sirih, cockfighting. The festival places for cock-fighting were burnt down and even whole villages of people who did not obey the Paderi rulings.  The hardline Dutch who wanted to take control of the mountainous inland region found a good excuse in the request for support against the Paderi by Malay/Minangkabau people. In my description the major leader of this 'war party' on the Dutch side is General A.V. Michiels,  who became the resident in 1837 and concluded the fighting and was the designer of the economic and political policy since the 1840s. He wrote pamplets against De Stuers, like the latter wrote later also a two-volume book against Michiels (who died in action in Bali in 1849).

vrijdag 22 december 2017

Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2018!

At Christmas 1970 (now already 47 years ago!) Karel was in Gontor for his PhD research. Living in the the pesantren, the boarding school with 1200 students. Life went on as usual. Students even did not realize that it was Christmas, because Ramadan had just finished three weeks before and they lived in the Muslim calendar. Nowadays things have changed: public life, also in Indonesia if full with Santa Claus, Christmas carols and more shopping. However, I saw in the university library here in Utrecht that the 'special opening schedule' for 25 and 26 December is from 10:00 until 18:00. Also the big supermarkets have open doors on these days. In the Netherlands intellectual and economic life goes on also during Christmas! There is no longer a dominating Gesamtkunstwerk or an all-encompassing cultural and religious idea. Christmas is celebrated, but it is not the only idea. Is this what the Indonesian want with Islam Nusantara, a fragmented, inculturated, and not a totalitarian idea.
I remembered the special ceremonies we had in Yogyakarta with the Wayang Natalan, written in 1985: in a mixed setting of the old story, the traditional style of the wayang and the mixed audience, from the expat community and the staff of the Islamic University.  Below is the craddle of the baby Jesus, in leather, made at suggestions of Abdurrahman 'Wiyakusuma'.

But at this moment Paule and Karel, we enjoy our good health, of ourselves and the children and grandchildren. The latter grow fast and turn into individual personalities. Only Mette, now 3 years old, is still coming once a week. The others are Sophie already 8 years old, Diemer and Maud 5 years. Mette accompanied us today to the Christmas market, a gardening centre, now dominated by all kind of snow, Santa Claus, this year even a chapel-like structure, including a place for confessions.
Karel wrote many daily impressions and thoughts on his two blogs: one in Dutch http://karelsteenbrink.blogspot.nl and http://relindonesia.blogspot.nl, the English language one. So we leave it with this: a merry Christmas and a blessed 2018 for you!

maandag 18 december 2017

Indonesian Ahmadiyah defended by Catholic Priest

This morning there was the defence of a doctoral dissertation at Tilburg University. The dissertation  by Maksimus Regus, a priest of the diocese of Ruteng, was on Understanding Human Rights Culture in Indonesia. A Case study of the Ahmadiyya Minority Group. Someone remarked that it was not only 'understanding' but also 'defending' the Ahmadiyyah. The idea of Human Rights Culture should make this defence better.
Regus did not concentrate on theology or doctrine. This is understandable, because it has been studied often enough how the dfifference between Sunni and Ahmadi Islam concentrates on the two issues of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed as prophet/nabi and as the Messiah.

 Prof. Tom Zwart of the Utrecht Institute of Human Rights said that Regus had much criticism on the Indonesian government, especially since the MUI in 2005 had repeated that Ahmadi are no Muslims followed in 2008 when the President SBY and the Minister of Religion had taken over this idea and suggested that Ahmadi member should 'return' to true Islam. But on the other side Regus had great hopes on political solutions and the power of KOMHAMNAS, the National Committee for Human Rights. He hopes that religions should be more active. But Zwart stated: 'Law is not the real solution and should not be the first concern. Other vehicles should be implemented.' Especially in Africa,where governments are authorian and/or weak, religions are the backbone for NGOs in the field of human rights. But, of course, the problem with religions in Indonesia is, that the larger part of Muslims under the banner of MUI have given a very severe condemnation of the Ahmadi.
Right here Prof. Tom Zwart, followed by someone who read the questions of Prof. Kees van Dijk (Leiden, recovering from a heart surgery), and Dr. Jans, lecturer ethics in Tilburg.
I had formulated myself a question on the narrow versus broad definition of religions and faith/belief in Indonesia. Also Van Dijk had a question in this direction. The amendments of 1977 on article 28 of the Indonesian Constitution give less protection to kepercayaan (faith/belief) than to agama (religion, often restricted to the big five or six only). Already in the marriage law of 1974 it is only allowed to marry 'according to religion' while the broader concept of faith/belief (aliran kepercayaan) is not included. The recent verdict of the Constitutional Court Mahkamah Konstitusi) wants here a repair. This would perhaps be helpful in the legal sense.
I further wondered why the Ahmadi people are here only seen as victims. In fact there are some very creative and stimulating Ahmadi people, with Bahrum Rangkuti and Djohan Effendi (perhaps also Dawam Rahardjo) as the leading people. But much of Ahmadi ideas and publications is just a repetition of the doctrines that were already formulated more than one century ago. I have to confess myself that I do not really feel stimulated by their rather dull and very strict way of following the Muslim tradition.
Why was Din Syamsuddin nominated by Jokowi to be his advisor in religious harmony? Was it to put him in a position where must be mild and even 'tame', no longer using strong and exaggerated opinions?
I heard more details of the plan for '5000 Ph.D in five years' of the Ministry of Religion. Each year 1.000 new students should enter a Ph.D. programme, and 30 of these should study in the Netherlands. I heard the idea earlier also in Nijmegen: they are not able to give tutoring to so many students. Also in Tilburg they only can accept a restricted number of Ph.D. students. One will be ready next April 2018: Budi Rahman Hakim (utmost right here), who is now finishing his dissertation on the pesantren of Suryalaya.

donderdag 14 december 2017

CMR 10: Christians in the 17th century Ottoman and Safavid Empire

Yesterday I received volume 10 of CMR, the great project on Christian Muslim Relations. A bibliographical history, published by Brill in Leiden, but in fact a programme under David Thomas, John Chesworth and their team in Birmingham.
Again many pages: 715 pages in print with much new and often fascinating information for so many outsiders. It proves here agin that the format for the series is very strong: concentration on biographies of one person and discussion of concrete texts. Christians were old minorities in these regions: Armenians, Syrians, georgians, Greeks and also traders and missionaries, ambassadors, adventurers. The nice format of this great work is that it has a focus on individual persons and their biographies. The great development are shortly sketched in introductory essays, not more than 50 pages.
 I give here summaries of only two examples. Pages 319-328 are about an Ottoman scholar, Nuh ibn Mustafa who died in Cairo in 1660. He was a mufti in Konya but then joined a man from his Amasya region to Egypt, where he was teaching, writing and advising until the end of his life. He wrote an fatwa on an ahl al-dhimma or non-Muslim, living in the Ottoman empire who converts to Islam. Is it enough if this persons just recites the confession about the One God and Muhammad as Prophet or should he/she also renounce the Christian faith? He states that Egyptian Christian call Muhammad a Prophet, but add 'he is your prophet, not ours'. So they should renounce also Christianity. But the Zoroastrians (Majusi) of Iraq can recite the shahada and this is enough. He mentions also earlier scholars who  in general accept that recitation of the shahada is sufficient.
He has also a statement about praying: 'If an infidel prays salat in a Muslim congregation, the agreement is that he be considered a Muslim, for this kind of worship is exclusive to the umma of Islam.' This was my practice in the pesantren of Gonto in 1970-1 with a permit of Kiai Imam Zarkasji and so we debated whether I was legally a Muslim or not?  Fortunately later Nurcholis Madjid came with a distinction of Muslim as 'someone who surrenders to God' and muslim (no capital!) as member of a spcific community/congregation. Wa'llahu a'lam bissawab!
From the Persion Empire of Safavids there is an entry about Baha' al-Din al-'Amili (1547-1621). He was from an Arab family of South Lebanon. His father became a scholar in Herat, while he himself became the most important religious scholar in Isfahan. he discusses  the question whether Muslims may eat the meat slaughtered by Christians. Although Qur'an 6:118 allows this, the answer is negative, because 'Christians utter the name of God with reference to Christ or to the 'father of Christ' while Jews will refer to the father of 'Uzayr/Ezra'.  (511). Like in the Indonesian interpretation of a Muslim man marrying a Christian wife, also here the fear of the 'other' is stronger than an explicit text of the Qur'an: human fear stronger than the Word of God.

dinsdag 12 december 2017

Vroklage and his kitab jenggot

A kitab jenggot is a book written in Arabic with Malay of Javanese translations under each single word. In this way the text may look like many bearded faces. It was used in pesantren or rather in circles where older people wanted to use Arab books. Now it has become popular with copies of the Qur'an: Arab script, Latin transliteration and Indonesian translation in one package for those who want to read or recite the texts.

Something similar has beendone by the missionary scholar, Bernard Vroklage in the period January-July 1937 when he did his fieldwork in the Belu region of West Timor.

 Vroklage spoke Dutch but had three Timorese men who asisted him. The first was A.A. Bere Tallo, who had followed the three years of primary education, and attended five years seminary in Todabelu (West Flores). This man later would become raja (nowadays camat) in Kewar. He had a Belu mother, while his father came from the Marae region. As a youth he grew up in the Belu area and so he could speak this language in the right way. The second was D.K. Faru who had a teachers' training of two years after the primary school and later became fettor of Lssiolat. The third informant/assistant was Petrus Bau. All three could speak Dutch with Vroklage. They listened to ritual texts in Tetum, in the 'priestly' language of special ceremonies. They typed the texts on paper and provided Dutch translations. For interpretations Vroklage also made use of the older missionaries who knew the region since decades. In this way he gathered texts and interpretations of pre-Christian social and religious life in this region, all written down and interpreted by 'outsiders': full outsiders like the Dutch and relative outsiders as the direct interpreters already had become Catholic and educated in the Catholic tradition.
The text first was printed as it was spoken, with translations word by word. Then Vroklage wrote a more understandable text interpreting the meaning of what the ritual leader or traditional priest had said. Besides two volumes with nearly 900 pages of these stories and texts, Vroklage also published nearly 450 pictures in a photographic album of 104 pages. Neatly printed and published by Brill in Leiden. And he became professor of anthropology in Nijmegen. In October 1951 he wrote in this quiet town in the Netherlands on his bicycle and was hit by a car and died, 54 years old (born in 1897). He has saved some aspect of Tetum language and Belu culture. Nowadays we of course question his way of research, working not himself in the culture and language of the people he researched. The data were neatly put into a western anthropological framework. But Vroklage stayed close to facts, gave no strange theories like Margaret Mead in Samoa or Bali. Vroklage had no negative idea about traditional religion, although he wanted it 'supplemented' by the modern Catholic doctrines and practice.
The picture above has been taken from volume II:78-79 and is part of a burial ceremony for a raja:
The  honoured and allmighty God
called and summoned
the Raja, our Ruler.
Thou who created and made him
closed his eyes and silenced his mouth.
We now want to show the way 
his soul must go,
our Lord and Ruler 
the soul of the Raja,
she may go the way that runs along
Kuda Hali and Ai Knoru
and further along
Lakirin and Au Feto,
that leads
to Nokar Inan and Taha Dekor .. (etc.) 
According to Vroklage  the purpose of this and followign songs is to speed the soul to leave the region, because it is a danger for the living people.