zondag 20 september 2015

Gereja Diaspora revisited: the status of Muslims

During my last trip to Manado I took the time to read again the longer version of Mangunwijaya's Gereja Diaspora. It is the 1999 Kanisius book of 230 ;pages.
The book is written like an essay, switching from theme to theme. One first theme is the criticism on Dutch missionaries who came from a uniform Catholic region and were used to dominate their flock. School, political party, economics, education and church, it was all regulated. The Jakarta priests, the first audience for this proposal, have a congregation that lives spread, in a diaspora, among people of very different traditions. Muslim are seldom mentioned in a more outspoken way. One of 4 examples is page 59 where he writes about a Catholic engineer in the oil industry 'who works often in Singapore or New York and has more intense contact with Muslim or irreligious colleagues than with the priest of his parish.' On page 69 he discusses the lack of ordained and formal priesthood with Protestants and Muslims: the family is the nucleus of the faith community and they are not less devoted and faithful than Catholics. On page 80 the idea of the Kingdom of God as the ultimate goal of the Christian faith is mentioned, but immediately defined as broader than the Catholic Church, or even the Christian community. Also dedicated Muslims can be seen as 'fighters for the Kingdom of God' (pejung demi Kerajaan Allah).
Religious leaders should be ' comunicators, coordinators, facilitators and dynamisators' (although there is some lip-service about ordained priests for sacramental functions) and also Protestant ministers or Muslim kiai/ustaz can have these functions.
The real basis of the religious community should not be the special sacramental position of the clergy, but the family, local groups. This aspect is not really present in the various places of the book on Catholics in Independent Indonesia, 1945-2010, where the idea of Catholics as a open minority is more stressed.

vrijdag 11 september 2015

AICIS: the closing ceremony

The closing ceremony was quite similar to the opening event. It was more modest, but there were again local dances, choirs. There was no minister, but Dr Kamaruddin Amin, head of the directorate for Islamic Higher education delivered the formal speech, besides some other. One vice-rector of the Jakarta UIN had a sublime comic performance switching easily between Indonesian, Arabic and English.

Above a very lively and joyful dance of men and women around a spectacular attractive leading lady. Below a more sober (so also more 'Islamic') dance. New clothes, good harmony between the members of the group.

Only a restricted number of visitors received reimbursement of travel cost and hotel lodging from the ministry. Quite a few received support from their local institutions. The fifteen best presentations in the panels received 15 million (about € 1000), a nice sum for these young scholars.
The tallest man in the row below , on the right side of me, is Madjid Fauzi Abu Gazali from Jordan, where he is the representative, leader of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT). He spoke only few English, but he had the habit of speaking very clear and slow Arabic with the participants. At various moments there was a debate about the proper method to renew Islamic thinking. The IIIT method was considered by many as contra-productive. It states that in the Qur'an already psychology., medicine, natural science is found. This is not creative, but rather apologetic. Two names were mentioned as the authors of another way: Tariq Ramadan and his Radical Reform of Islam and the Egyptian Jasser Auda (now in USA). They want a serious study of social and other sciences and their application on the reality of Muslim life. Fiqh should no longer be a matter of individual life, but must be made applicable to social life through these sciences. IAIN has developed into a UIN, a full university. But how Islamic will it be? This is the duty for the next decade. IIIT has proved to be not really productive and Islamic science needs a more radical reform, in dialogue with the development of science in Western countries.

donderdag 10 september 2015

AICIS: small news

At the great AICIS Conference in Manada (3-6 September 2015, Annual International Conference of Islamic Studies) the plenary lectures, the papers in the panels, the poster presentations are the kernel. But the lobbying, meetings, chat in the diseways are also attractive.
Sahiron Syamsuddin presented me a first copy of the translation of The Jesus verses of the Qur'an, now with the title Nabi Isa dalam al-Qur'an. Sebuah Interpretasi Outsider atas al-Qur'an. The subtitle was given by Sahiron to attract readers for this subject. Apparently an outsider will give a fresh, unorthodox or challenging presentation of the images of Jesus in the basic text of Islam.
Sahiron had also added the Arab text of the verses (not yet in the Dutch and English editions) and wrote a very nice preface. He hopes to sell the books through his NU network and asked me to give suggestions for selling the book in Christian circles. Especially in these months preceding the celebration of Christmas this could be effective. Indeed, much of the Qur'anic texts about Jesus are about his birth. I will do the best for the spread of this book.
A great surprise for me in this conference was the meeting with Haidar Bagir and his wife (right of them is Wiwin Siti Aminah Rohmawati, from Dian/Interfidei). Haidar Bagir (Solo 1957) studied at ITB, then in Harvard: Islamic philosophy with Annemarie Schimmel and Sayyid Husein Nasr. Dissertation on Mulla Sadr. He pleaded for more philosophy (against the tendency to study social science as a method to renew Islam and increase its relevance for modern society). Besides, he is a great businessman and has build Mizan as a prominent publishing house.
Looking for a toilet in the conference hotel, Simtesa Peninsula, I saw the painting showing the difference between the ladies' and men's toilet. Manado is a quite relaxed town.
The panels took place in two hotels, Peninsula and Aston: sometimes they had to start with just a few people and after 30 minutes audience was between 30-50. There were serious debates. Some presentation very bad. They uise powerpoint, but seldom with illustrations. Quite a few just read their text from powerpoint.
Like at all major international conference the bottom of the hierarchy was presentation of a poster. Many had much text, seldom the author was present to attract attention of people walking around. But the topics showed a great variety in moderate, concrete modern Islam and its relevance for contemporary society.

AICIS in Manado: Opening session, plenary and panel presentations, posters,

In 2001 the first meeting of AICIS, the Annual International Conference of Islamic Studies was held in Indonesia by the Ministry of Religion, in fact its Directorate for Islamic Higher Education. It had from the beginning the format of the big international academic meetings, with opening and closing ceremony (including the political leaders, ministers), keynote speeches, plenary sessions, panel session and poster presentation.
From 3-6 Septemver 2015 AICIS 15 was held in Manado and I was invited to give a plenary speech on 'Catholics in Majority Muslim Indonesia, 1945=2010: Between a closed and exclusive community and concern for the common good in an open society'. I had attended this format only at EUROSEAS in Lisboa, 2013, but know that AAR has the same system.
After arrival I immediately had to give an interview. This is posted also on youtube,see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sRhyfoodck.
The opening session was a great event. Minister of Religion Lukman Hakim Saifuddin gave a major speech about religious harmony and a Manado Declaration was signed by the minister and nine other officials, all of them Muslims (it was anyway a Conference of Muslims, although there were plenary speakers who were Protestant or Catholic).  But there was a choir of 80 members: forty Muslims and forty Christians. The conductor of the choir was a Christian from Manado, a region with a strong tradition of church music. There were also traditional dances.

Above the announcement of the AICIS with Minister Lukman Hakim and governor of Minahasa. Below this announcement an advertisement for an Evangelical service in the hotel Aston (as if there are not enough churches in Manadao!). Belowe the choir. Notice the Muslim girls with the veil.

The opening session was indeed a great festive event, but the room was very great and the sound system definitely not perfect. I found personally the 90 papers presented in the panel session the most attractive part of this great academic exercise.
My own presentation for the plenary session on the second day is published in the site http://academia.edu. On the official AICIS site also many papers can be found.
A few remarks about highlights of the papers. Bob Hefner gave a plenary paper about Muslim Ethics in building Civil Society. He paid much attention to the basic structure of Indonesian Islam (and society) since the 1910s: the great organizations like Muhammadiyah, Nahdlatul Ulama, Sarekat Islam. They have put Indonesian citizens in a society that was nationally orientated. He stated that Indonesia is the most associationalized society in the world. This reminded me of the structure of Shi'a Islam where all true believers are supposed to show affection and obedience to a personal ayatollah and to follow his advice and rules. In Indonesia it is not a person but an organization that gives the learning based practical ethics. The Muslim Brothers only seek an Islamic Society. The Indonesian organizations are directed towards Nusantara, the Indonesian state and society. In Egypt the Muslim Brothers tried to take over the state, without success: in this way 'they wasted much of its social capital'.
The panel sessions had quite a few papers on Islamic Banking  (less than 5% of economic transactions in Indonesia, but coming from nearly 0% in the 1980s. In Saudi Arabia it is perhaps some 23%, but probably much less). MUI has issued more than 100 fatwas between 2000-2013, many about Islamic Finance. But Sahirom Syamsuddin severly criticised all these slogans about justice: according to him Peter Schmiedel has proven that Muslim and Westrn principles about economy are not much different!
Atho Mudzhar was very critical about Perda Syariat, rulings of local government about partial introduction of 'Muslim rules', mostly about gambling, clothing, alcohol: all of them by district leaders or bupati in their first period of rule. 'Only to seek votes for re-election, after this they forget the whole thing.' Only in Aceh there is a legal basis for a real introduction of Shari'a law. Dean Wahid used the word internal resistance against a abundance of new rules and preceipts. Not the concrete rules, but more general ethics, or the maqasid shari'a  should be studied and taught.
There was a paper about the doctrinal aspect of the teachign of Fethullah G├╝len.
There was an interesting paper about high schools in Padang where Christian students (sometimes only 20 out of  850) have to read the Arab text of the Qur'an, learn the 99 names of God by heart: against freedom of religion, as formulated in Indonesian laws. And many, many other topics.

The Chinese Buddhist temple, Klenteng Ban Hing Kong of Manado

During the inter-religious trip we made through Manado, preceding the formal session of AICIS 2015, we also visited the  major Klenteng of the town, next to a big Chinese school. This building has a long history since the early 19th century. It was burnt down several times, latest on 14 March 1970. After Chinese script and Confucianism has been allowed again since the early 21st century it has been extended with two floors, containing several interesting chapels.

This temple is definitely a tridharma temple, with a cohabitation of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, different from the pure Buddhist place of pilgrimae in my review of the book by Muhsinin Cholish below (Bejijong). Kwan Im (Quan Jing or other transcriptions). It is a place for rituals, statues with special functions. For me it is interesting, colourful, baroque, but not easy to understand. There is a Sunday school with instructions for young children (up to 12, 09.00-11.00) and teenagers. There is a gudang, room full of rice, oil to be given to the poor. The lowst picture above is of a quite older Kwam Im, an important figure in this temple. Below the three major sages or here calles prophets (nabi) sit side by side, Confucius, Gautama Buddha and Lao Tse. New statues arrive from mainland China nowadays. In Singapore also a studio for Hindu statues is built, but we saw no Hindu temple inManado.

There were also several large cubic forms, filled with small statues. Before each statue the name of a family was attached. They have to pay one million (about € 70) per year for this and so everybody knows which family supports this well kept and beautiful Chinese place of religious devotion.

AICIS: amidst Christian Churches in Manado

Between 2-6 September 2015 I was a plenary speaker at AICIS, the Annual International Conference of Islamic Studies in Manado. Before the actual conference I made an 'inter-religious tour' through Manado with Bob Hefner (Boston) and Amin Abdullah (Yogyakarta). The most spectacular moment in this trip was a visit to the 'flying Jesus', or more peecise the statue of some 25 metre high of 'Jesus blesses the town of Manado' built quite recently by order of the Protestant engineer and real estate developer Ciputra (born in Poso, Chinese origin as Tjjie Tjin Hoan, no 23 on Forbes list of rich Indonesians) who wants to build a Citra Town, a Town of Blessing, along the ring road of Manado.
Jesus is not so visible as the statues in Rio de Janeiro or Dili, but only from the road where quite a few trees and more hills make it somewhat difficult to see the statue. Near the entrance of the codominium also seven horses are built and a smaller copy of the Big Ben of London. Father Yong Ohoitimur told me that there are also 14 chapels as a way of the cross. The Protestant Ciputra had asked the Catholic bishop the bless the statue by way of opening ceremony. Apparently Catholics are closer to this kind of statues than Protestants!
From my hotel room I could see the enlargement of a Catholic Church (not the Cathedral), with the Dome on the choir, back of the church from street position. It is still under contrsuction. This first morning we also saw the enlargement of the Catholic Cathedral, with bright painted windows, a new tradition since about 20 years in Indonesia.
Above higher one of the windows of the Catholic cathedral. The the front of the Pentecostal church only some fifty further in the sa,me street with its big dome above the entrance and a bright painted glass window, very visible at night.
Back to the real estate and the blessing by Jesus: right is Prof. Amin Abdullah of Yogyakarta UIN and in the middle Bon Hefner of Boston University, together with me blessed by the Manado Jesus.

woensdag 9 september 2015

The nice guardians of the huge sleeping Buddha of Bejijong

Between 2 and 7 September 2015 I was in Manado for AICIS, the great Annual International Conference on Islamic Studies. I met again many former students and colleagues among the more than 1000  participants. One of them was Muhsinin Cholish, who with six colleagues from STITNU Al Hikmah (an NU related Theological Academy in Mojokerto) published his research about the majority Muslim village of Bejijong, close to Trowulan/Mojokerto. It is believed that close to the old centre of the Kingdom of Majapahit here the largest Buddhist temple must have been. A small Vihara was opened (the book mentions three monks), with a huge sleeping Buddha, 22 metre. Among the 3.874 citizens of this village there are 18 Protestants, one Hindu and 8 Buddhists. Musinin and friends published a very interesting book about the relations between the Buddhists and the Muslims.
The book with the title Interelasi Muslim-Buddhis di Maha Vihara Majapahit. Kajian Pendidikan Multikultural (314 pages, published by the LP3M of the STITNU) has a long theretical introduction.  Chapter three elaborates on the small conflicts of 1987-1990 when the compound was built and the monks bought ground from the farmers. (page 153 about some conflicts. The monks paid more for the ground than was usual in this region). Some Muslims were afraid that the project would turn into a process of weakening of Islam. But the monks were wise: they hired quite a few villagers for guards, cleaners, keepers of the compound. Especially from Surabaya, but also from other places visitors came for a pilgrimage and this gave money for parking, foodstalls, so the population was happy.
The monks also stimulated a dancing and a gamelan group that has already won prices and holds exercises in the monastery. Villagers are now proud of the new attraction. Especially a Waisak (here interpreted as one day for three events: birth, illumination and death of Siddharta Gautama) thousands will come.
The monks are keen in visiting sick in their neighbourhood. They also divide food, oil, sugar, basic elements in the kitchen to the poor, material they receive from their guests.
The book has a very detailed description of (very many!) Muslim activities in the village. It shows the Muslim orthodoxy: Majlis Taklim, Idul Fitr, Tamatan al-Qur'an (reading the Qur'an in full in one day), connected with Islamic lessons also arisan, mutual help. It sounds all very orthodox, but pages 162-163 mention slametan, a ritual sedekah bumi, when once a year gifts are presented to the ancestors who built the village, slametan on 1 Sura (New Year). At the slametan the kaum or fomal leaders of prayers in the mosquehave Javanese prayers that end with nggih, and Arab ones where the answer is amin.  Small presents of food (saji) are often given tot he ancestors. If Bob Hefner asks 'where are the abangan gone?' we must suggest that he comes to Bejijong, where among majority 'orthodox' Islam also Javanese traditions continue.
Also the Buddhist rituals and other activities are described in much detail.
The Buddhists of Bejijong are classified as Buddhayana, which means that they follow the three major branches of Buddhism together: we would say, ecumenical Buddhists with elements from Theravada, Mahayana and Tantrism. In fact the great celebrations concern the festivities of the Buddha Gautama and Kwan Im.
The villagers know when Buddhist festivals and prayers start and therefore will stop their loudspeakers (a mosque is very close to the Vihara) when the Buddhist start their prayers.
There is some pullition of noise (pollusi suara) but no open confrontation. The book is very well written, full with facts and in a nearly rosy positive way. Thank you Muhsinin for giving this tome. I turned happy while reading this during the long flight from Singapore to Amsterdam.