zondag 18 januari 2015


F. Rahardi is mentioned earlier in this blog as the author of the wise and funny book Para Calon Presiden, where Jesus returns to this world to give some insights related to the election of a new President of Indonesia in 2009. My second book of Rahardi is not less wise and funny at the same time. It has the title Lembata, also pbulished by Bone Beding at Penerbit Lamalera, July 2008, 256 pages, in Wijirejo, Bantul DIJ.
The main figure here is a diocesan priest, Romo Pedro, who returns from a Bachelor Study in economy in Jakarta (Atma Jaya University) to Larantuka. He is sent to the extremely poor island of Lembata, to serve as an assistent priest in a parish. he is in company of a bright and good looking young lady of Menadonese offspring, Luciola. Her father is very rich, through the management of casinos in the big places of the world, Monte Carlo, Las Vegas. She only gives a nice amount of money for the CU, Credit Union in Lembata, but then disappears. (There is a warning of Pedro about the Crdit Union: money should not be used for consumption, to finance big feasts, but for investment). Her trips to Singapore, Europe (Monaco, Rome, Lourdes, Amsterdam) and Latin America are in sharp contrast to the sober life of dry Lembata.
On p. 24 the Dean of Lembata gives a summary of the history of Catholicism: it was brought by the Dominican Friars in the 17th century. The Jesuits of the 19th century reformed the liturgy, the SVD brought education and better health care. In the 21st century the diocesan priests must bring prosperity for the poor and halt poverty.
Romo Pedro begins his work in the Catholic parish. At one moment he discusses the expensive wine and hosts that is imported from Australia and the USA. Why should church law not allow the use of local alcoholic beverage, moke and local food, roasted corn chips or jagung titi? Once at Sunday Mass he preaches about the idea and practises it immediately. One third of the parish leaves the church, one third takes from the blessed moke and jagung titi. One third stays in the church but does not participate.
Rome Pedro is summoned to the bishop, comes to Larantuka, but has written already his letter of resignation.
Pedro returns to Lembata and starts a project to grow wheat and grapes. He had saved some money from high school on and is given some land high on the mountain where it is cool and wet during the nights. It is quite successful and this development project helps to give an income to poor people.
There is also a debate about plans to start a gold mine in Lembata: NGOs from outside the island protest, but local people (with a corrupt bupati leading) support the possibility for development.
Luciola tried to seduce Pedro to marry her, but he remains celibate and even is rehabilitated as a priest in the end of the book. Ola, as the lady is often called, discovered lesbian love in Latin America, but visits Lembata again in the final chapter of the book. Her wild life story makes the book more lively than just the pious novel of a modern priest.
The whole style of the book is less dramatic than Rahadi by Mangunwijaya or Saman by Ayu Utami. I enjoyed this book also very much as a third important novel about a modern Catholic priest.

Sayyid Uthman

Among the 19th century Muslims of Indonesia, Sayyid Uthman (1822-1914) is definitely an important figure. He wrote and published many popular pamphlets and books with his lithographical press in Batavia. He was born in Batavia, studied and travelled in the Middle East (Mecca, Hadramaut, also in Egypt (Damietta), Istanbul, Jerusalem, between 1841-1862. From the 1860s on he was as an author and publisher of religious pamphlets and more serious books. He worked close with three Dutch scholars: Karel Frederik Holle, L.W.C. van den Berg and finally Snouck Hurgronje. After Snouck left the Indies, he remained close to the Kantor Agama, the Malay name for the Office of the Advisor of Native Affairs. On 13 March 1913 he held a uite positive speech at a meeting of Sarekat Islam, the nationalist organization. Before he had been very critical of all Reformists: Muhammad 'Abduh and Rashid Rida in Egypte and also the Indonesian Muhammadiyah.
Nico Kaptein has been working for many years on this prominent Muslim leader of Indonesia and published late last year a biography of the man.The book starts with two Malay biographies of Sayid Uthman between his death and 1924, one in poetry (a Malay syair) and one in prose. In a second part of the book Kaptein gives a biography from Dutch sources and from hiw own writings. The analysis of the writings is a very important part of this book (Islam, Colonialism and the New Age in the Netherlands East Indies. A Biography of Sayyid 'Uthman, 1822-1923, Leiden: Brill, 2014).
Last week I visited the exhibition that was prepared on this important figure, with explanations by Nico Kaptein himself.
One of the most astonishing objects of the exhibition is the stone used for lithography: a quite big stone is covered with fat, then the text or the drawings are put in the fat in mirror writing. Ink is put in the empty places and so page after page can be printed. It is a quite time consuming, but also difficult job, because of the very fine lines. If we see the personal character of the writing, the fine lines in the decorations we are astonished to see how this simple technology can create such refined results. Our generation, writing on computers, has much easier technology for the texts!
The exhibition showed some more special objects. One was a photograph of the office of the Dutch consul in Jeddah where Agus Salim was the secretary. On the picture below he is on the extreme left behind the table, still a young man. The Indonesian pilgrims had to show their passport in order to receive a stamp from the consul (and of course to pay for this service!)
Sayid Uthman was not a reformist. He was a staunch defender of what he considered as orthodoxy, but in a realistic way. He did not support any idea of a Holy War against colonialism, as long as freedom of religion was guarenteed, mosques could be built, prayers said, Ramadan observed and the Hajj could be performed in a proper way. Some modernizations were supported by him. He would be astonished to see in Indonesia now so many Friday services in so many places. He defended to right of one mosque in one place and became involved in several conflicts over new mosques who also wanted to offer Friday prayers, including the regular sermon. As to some modern devices he was lenient. He did not forbid to listen to a phonographic recording of the Qur'an, although it did not give the same reward as listening to a live recital. He also allowed prayers for the Dutch Queen and even composed  a prayer at the occasion of the coronation of Queen Wilhelmina in 1898.
There is some kind of a dynasty of ther learned Sayid. The exhibition has a decorated and coloured poem at the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the rule of the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina in 1923.
His grave is still honoured by members of his family in Jatinegara. But now there is also the academic book, published by the Leiden scholar Kaptein with many new details of the long and eventful life of this traditional scholar.

vrijdag 9 januari 2015

The Rainbow Army of Andrea Hirata

During our trip to Japan I heard for the first time about Andrea Hirata from a Japanese lecturer in Indonesian. He liked the books (a series of four) Laskar Pelangi by Andrea Hirata very much. I borrowed the book from KITLV/Leiden University Library. I had some problems with the Indonesian words: daily talk and this brought me to realise that I lived in Indonesia only until 1988, more than 25 years ago. Much modern slang is not familiar to me. So, I decided to switch to the English translation. This worked very well. I read only the first of the four books.
The novel is about a very small and poor school, set up nearly a century ago by Muhammadiyah people for the poor Malay in Belitung, the island already known  at that time for its government tin mining as it was until recently. Bangka is the island for private enterprise in the field.
The tin mining authority has a prestigious school, there is also a good private Chinese school, but the children of poor people, mostly Malay, some Chinese, are the pupils of the Muhammadiyah school. The school is run by a very young girl/teacher, only 15 years old at the beginning of the six years of the book, together with an older man who become sick and dies in the course of the book.
The book is a vivid impression of the world of this school that is not respected by to officials of the Ministry of Education. They want to close the establishment. The building is very poor and it is a problem to have the required minimum of students: 10 for a class, at least for one class. This is a good number and the ten pupils of the class of Ikal (central person of the story who tells from his experiences) are all very different. There is one Chinese boy who also has to learn about Islam and the special character of Muhammadiyah. In the end of the book also a girl from the prestigious school of the Tin Mining Company. One Mahar is very good in music, wins a prize. Ikal falls in love with a Chinese girl, daughter of a shopkeeper, who later moves to Jakarta for her school (and to look after an aunt). Some students are not very intelligent, one is even mentally handicapped. One is brilliant in mathematics: it is a group of different people, but nothing really sensational. The people living on boats, the sawang are described like the Chinese festivals and the coolies and shops of the Chinese. The book sold five million copies since it was published the first time in September 2005.
Although it is about a Muhammadiyah school, there is not much official Islam in the book. The brightest boy is fond of magic, all kind of foretelling and magical power. Nothing exceptional about a love affair between a Malay and a Chinese. Lovely book.

zaterdag 3 januari 2015

The Journey of Lies Marcoes looking for women narrating their fight against poverty

Lies Marcoes was one of my first students in Jakarta, 1981-1983. She was at that time a close friend of Yvonne Sutaredjo, a Chinese-Javanese student from Surinam. The two were quite exceptional. They were the only female students who went swimming in Sawangan, Not only for sport, but also as a protest against rules for the female students in the boarding house at the Islamic Academy, IAIN in Ciputat.
Lies was very keen on field research and she took for her final thesis the practices of a Libyan brotherhood in West Java. She became the first assistant to Martin van Bruinessen in the project on the 'culture of poverty' in the Sukapakir district of Bandung, one square km with about 100,000 citizens living or rather surviving. Lies and Martin wrote a special issue for the weekly Tempo  that was no a report of poverty in statistics, but in lifestyle and personal portraits.
That was in 1984. Nearly thirty years later, and in a kind of sabbatical (although officially as 'early retirement' from het work at various NGO), she has given us another fight against poverty or at least how to survive in extreme poverty in a book written with the Australian Anne Lockley and beautiful pictures by Armin Hari.
I received a copy of the book from Lies during our 'tribute conference' of  18-19 November 2014. In fact, it was not really a gift for me, but rather for my wife. We read it together, watched the photographs and told again stories about the many places she visited for this journey. Most places are known to us: Ende and Maumere in Flores, Makassar and Ambon, Pontianak and of course places in West Java. Lies has made many friends in Aceh and my wife Paule never joined me to a trip there.
This is not a book with statistics (although in the last of the five sections it is underlined that hard figures can be useful in the fight for justice.Its major goal is to give concrete examples that picture in a representative way how women and their children manage to survive, grow up, give help to children and older people. There are abundatly stories of women who ar KK, Kepala Keluarga of 'Head of a Family' because they earn also the living for their husband, whether he is simply a loser, a too pious preacher earning nothing, of simply sick and disabled.
There are also quite a few pages about borrowing money (chapter 5, 112-122). It will be a good and critical appendix to the (too) positive words I wrote in Catholics in Indonesia vol 3 about credit union as the most important welfare activity of the Catholic Church, and other religious institutions, in Indonesia.
Above: this author with Lies Marcoes in our hotel during the Tribute conference of 18-19 November last year.
The book reminded me in several respects of the funny, sometimes also sad book by Elisabeth Pisani, Indonesia etc. Both women have a good connection with people really below the poverty line. They are not too easy with remedies and know that external help can be very good, but does not help quickly and often not at all. Pisani is very critical about formal religion. Lies did professional study of Islam, but is also very critical about traditiona;l (adat) and religious institutions. She has, like Pisani, a special chapter 10 on religion. I read that of course with more than usual interest. The chapter begins with some nice words about religion: 'Religious organisations are often among the many institutions that try to overcome poverty...' (187). But following this beginning there is criticism because religious activities like collecting funds for Dompet Dhuafa often lacks an analysis of the roots of poverty. Religions often only want to remove female from the dangers of globalisation, but do not stimulate them to become active. Six concrete examples are given of this negative influence of religion: 1. a young woman, Sum, who lost her job because she was dressing in a 'fundamentalist way'.  Birth control was impossible for her. 2. Fira was a qualified pharmacist who had good jobs, but then married a pious preacher who did not earn the money himself, but still wanted her to leave her job. 3. Many criticism about the application of shari'a law in Aceh; very young children, pre-school, are not allowed to dance. 4. Prof. Alyasa Abubakar, one of the architects of the introduction of Shar'a in Aceh has consented that children of women who experienced the punishment of caning also feel stigmatised; 5. in not-recognised sects like Sunda Wiwitan and Ahmadiyah children do not have a biurth certificate and they can not inherit legally from their parents; 6. one Anne in Palu (probably a Christian) had a mixef marriage with a Muslim and the difference of religion was a disaster and caused a break in this marriage. Lies also give some positive examples of prominent Muslims, approaching women. Page 198 is a funny recording of female Muslim leaders who visited prostitutes in Yogyakarta and were shocked to see how these women gave everything for the life and education of the children.
Thank you very much, Lies, for this honest, sincere and vivid book. I will read now in a different way the monthly sold by Utrecht homeless people, also full with their personal stories. Our son Florsi did no marry in a formal way and he had to go the the municipal administration before the birth of his two children, in order to have them formally registered also as his children and to give them a birth certificate, but for him this was an easy thing.

maandag 29 december 2014

More visitors in Leiden: Amelia Fauzia and Fuad Jabali

17 December 2014, just one day after the PhD ceremony for Wahju Satria Wibowo, I came to Leiden for a meeting with two senior scholars at UIN Jakarta. The first but also youngest was Amelia Fauzia of PPIM, the research institute. She has taken a PhD from ANU in Melbourne on Islamic philanthropy (published by Brill) and now wants to do a comparative study on Christian and Muslim philanthropy in the colonial period. She has already dealed with the subject during a conference at the Asia Research Institute on the Ethics of Giving. She has consuilted the Jakarta Jesuit Greg Soetomo for Catholic sources, used the archives at the Jakarta Cathedral and more deeply even the publication of sources on West Java by Tom van den End (in its Indonesian translation of 2006). She has some problems with the internal organization (and divisions!) of Christians in Catholics and Protestants, in formal Vatican and diocesan hierarchy versus the religious orders. But she has a keen eye for the complicated combination of aggressive proselytism and humanitarian charity. Much of our talk was also about the CB Sisters, Carolus Borromeus Sisters and the Schmutzer family, founders of the largest hospitals in Java (or were the Ursuline Sisters also strong in financing this charity?).
In Leiden I also saw again Fuad Jabali. I had forgotten that he had followed my courses while at McGill University (Montreal), in 1992-1993. He had finished his PhD at McGill and published in 2003 (also at Brill) a 550 pages book on the Companions of the Prophet. But now had had turned towards Indonesian Islam and did research in Leiden during one month on the issue of the Righteous King (Ratu Adil), an old Javanese idea that still is very popular among various circles in the country. The Jesuit priest, journalist for football and novel writer Sindhunata has written his German thesis on the subject and now Fuad was looking for older Javanese texts on the same theme. Good to see how these scholars find their way to serious and relevant research.

Jesus as Kurban

The second PhD ceremony this month was in A|msterdam, Free University. Waju Satria Wibowo, from the Gereja Pasundan, teaching at Duta Wacana in Yogyakarta, defended his thesis Jesus as Kurban. Christology in the Context of Islam in Indonesia. In this period of Christmas many names for Jesus have been repeated. Son of God, Lord of Peace, Prophet, Messiah. Many of these Big Words are used and their meaning is often very unclear. What Christ or Messiah means remains for many people uncertain.
Satria Wibowo has opted for Kurban, because it is an Islamic word, although in the Qur'an it is only used for Kain, the brother of Abel. In later Muslim terminology it is attached to the sacrifice of Abraham.
It was an intelligent thesis, summarizing much of the spiritual quest of Indonesian and other Asian theologians. However, I do not think that this new idea will become popular. My question at this occasion started with the first lines of the thesis and I quote these below:

On page 1 you mention that Jesus Christ has been proclaimed in Indonesia for 500 years. Counting backwards I remember the year 1511 as the conquest of the Sultanata of Malakka by the Portuguese. And further 1522 as the arrival of Portuguese traders in Ternate.
 But more than 400 years earlier there were the first Muslim communities, in Samudra Pasai, in Aceh. They proclaimed Jesus as Son of Mary, a Prophet, Word of God, Spirit of God. In your dissertation you do not elaborate these high titles for Jesus, although you want to write and discuss a Christology in the Context of Islam. You also do not open a debate with Muslims denial of Jesus as Son of God.
 Still before the arrival of the Portuguese and the Dutch, there was a Muslim mystical tradition in Java where Siti Jenar witnessed about himself that he was united with the divinity. And he was executed as a martyr for this witness. You consider this also as a nice contact between Christian and Muslim discourse. But you hesitate to develop this idea of shahīd because it stresses the violence and the own will of the actor.
Therefore you turn to the idea of  qurbān. But it is only used in the Qur’ān for the offering of Qabil or Kain, rejected by God; and in later Muslim terminology it is used for the offering by Abraham. As to Indonesia: there is the practice of sesajen for the ancestors, but no animal offerings. Applied to Jesus there is great problem in accepting here the free will Jesus.
At this occasion I also met a lecturer from Semarang, Muslich Shabir. He was for one month in Amsterdam, to do research on Muslims in the Netherlands, financed by the Ministry of Religion. The ministry has signed a contract or MOA with the Free University of Amsterdam to cooperate in research and this was a first result of this agreement. Talking with him and looking after material later at home, I realized that there is not so much material about Muslims in our country, written in English. I could send him some articles, but a comprehensive book and other writings is not available. Anyway, the history of these many groups is quite widely spread over many languages and cultures. Below a picture of Muslich at the VU building in Amsterdam.

zondag 28 december 2014

The Conversions of Maryse Kruithof

On 11 December 2014 I was a member of the examination committee for the dissertation of Maryse Kruithof at Erasmus University, Rotterdam. At the invitation of her main tutor or promotor,Dick Douwes, I was member of this panel 'by a unique exception' is was written by the president of Erasmus University. In Utrecht I am now longer entitled to be member of an examination committee, because of the age of over 70 years. This is one of the points where universities still may differ. Dick Douwes was himself born in Indonesian Papua in the early 1950s, when it was still Dutch territory. Below he is in the middle in the black toga with the bright blue shawl.
The public ceremony is not a real examination, it rather a ritual, rite de passage. One is not expected to put nasty questions. In Utrecht the dean of humanities, Wiljan van den Acker used to warn us before the ceremony: let the candidate shine, that is the important thing.
The dissertation of Kruithof is entitled 'Shouting in a desert', Dutch missionary encounters with Javanese Islam, 1850-1910. It is a fine detailed examination of the original archival sources about six missionaries: four Protestant in West and East Java and two Jesuits (Frans van Lith and Petrus Hoevenaars) in Central Java. It is a research in the social science tradition and much attention is given to motivations and processes for conversion, besides (nearly as a minor theme) the prejudices they had about Islam.
The only judgment I read was by Bob Hefner who deemed it to be 'comprehensively researched, well-written, and theoretically interesting work of scholarship, among the finest of theses that I have read in recent years.'  His only criticism was about the distinction between religion and culture, made by missionaries. There was already a distinction between adat and agama in local debates both in Sumatera (Ahmad Chatib on inheritance) and Java (see the Serat Cabolek on Javanese culture and true Islam).
In my own appraisal I liked her fine and detailed analysis of the contrast between Kristen Jowo and Kristen Londo, the former the result of preacher like Sadrach and Ibrahim Tunggul Wulung (much more contrast than in the analysis by Alle Hoekema). In her analysis of the tract-selling local preachers she put forward the cases of public debates, much loved by local audiences. Third, in the case of tyhe conversion of the Kalibawang people she gave a much bigger role to healing than I did in my double description of the event in Catholics in Indonesia, volume 1 and 2.
Kruithof is a fast worker. Born in 1988 she defended he master's thesis in missionary Poensen in 2010 and now at the age of 26 years her doctoral dissertation. Snouck Hurgronje was three years younger when he defended his thesis, but still, it is exceptionally! However, in details of Indonesian religious history she made a number of smaller mistakes. Nico Kaptein had a quite long list of mistakes she made in the biography and career of Snouck Hurgronje. Tom van den End was not pleased at various points in her description of West-Java Mission. There was no specialist on Indonesia in the team that was tutoring her work. And so the older people who read this work started to ask, what would come of the future of our own work? She did not have the big volumes with published sources on Protestant mission in Java besides her, but went directly to the archives. This had also its advantages. Van den End skipped the dismissal of missionary Simon van Eendenburg because of the accusation of sexual abuse with youngsters, but here it is mentioned in full, even several times. In the daily Trouw an interview with quite sensational stories about failure and disppointment of missionaries was published that made some friends of the older mission quite angry. I myself also missed a truly debate with the section of my two volumes of Catholic Mission history in her book. So be it. Let they start anew. Let us, the older generation be happy with the new perspectives they offer now.