donderdag 4 september 2008

17 year DIAN/Interfidei , 8-10 August 2008, Some remarks about Jalaluddin Rakhmat, Daniel Dakhidae and Elga Sarapung. Part VII

The Conference "The Future of Pluralism in Indonesia" hald by Interfidei of Jogjakarta in August this year, was first a meeting of activists from all Indonesia, some 50 participants for the smaller seminar. But there were also public lectures that attracted some 150 people on the first day, as well as in the concluding evening. I, Karel Steenbrink, was invited to open the conference with a speech on the fat6e of pluralism during the last 17 years. I started with a perspective on the Dutch situation, mixed with modest remarks about Indonesia. After the end of pillarisation in the 1960 one's identity in the Netherlands was no longer connected to a religious denomination. But in the 1990s some new kind of pillarisation has started. Migrant workers and asylum seekers easily were simply labelled as Muslims. So people talk about a revival of differentiation in society on the basis of religion. But there is a great difference with Indonesia, where religion also is a strong identity marker in society: until now there is more respect for minorities. There is not yet a mentality of "the winner takes all", However, there has been e debate in Germany about the dominant and leading culture of a society, the so-called Leitkultur. That is not an honest dealing with minorities, but more and more politicians in the Netherlands call for Muslim to adjust to a secular-half-Christian society where they should behave a newcomers who have to adapt themselves. In this sense the issue of pluralism has similar characteristics in the Netherlands as well: how to deal with pluralism not as a majority-minority issue, but as true freedom of expression and identity also for minority sects and religions.

After my presentation (with a Powerpoint and quite a few funny photographs and cartoons from the Dutch media), Jalaluddin Rachmat was the second speaker for the morning session of 8 August. In earlier decades he has been considered as a fundamentalist, activist in Bandung and Bogor at secular universities for technology and agriculture.. He applauded the islamic revival of Khomeiny in the late 1970s. In the 1980s he was known as a supporter of Shi'a Islam, at least in some respects and founded a Muntahhari Society. I had mnet him several times in Indonesia and once during a conference in Holland. Together with his wife and Asghar Ali Engineer I took him to the flower exhibition Keukenhof. He still remembered that trip.
In the 1960s Jalaluddin Rachmat had blamed Soekarno for his sympathy for communism and nicknamed him a Haji Peking. He was summoned by the atet intelligence. But now he had some positive words for Soekarno, who had much interest for the common man, farmer and poor labourer, Marhaen and he linked this to Ali Shariati, Persian thinker who was also praised by Soekarno. In fact, on the bag that was distributed at the conference some quotes from Soekarno were printed: "Nobody can serve God without helping other people. We has his dwelling God in the cabin of the poor" Orang tidak dapat mengabdi kepada Toehan dengan tidak mengabdi kepada sesama manoesia. Toehan bersemayam digoeboeknja simiskin... Jalaluddin defended pluralism as a reality against the fatwa (of mid 2005) of the MUI, Majelis Ulama Indonesia of High Islamic Council of Indonesia. If God had so willed, He would surely have mnade you a single community, but (he made you different) in order to test you by what He granted to you. Strive then together as if competing in good works. (See Koran 5:48) A united and unified world without difference seems to be the ideal of some political and religious leaders. Rather dull and not realistic. God wanted it not that way!

Daniel Dakhidae was a major speaker in the afternoon of 10 August, a concluding session, where I also defended some statements in relation to pluralism and the proper ways to produce a society that respects pluralism and may avoid the dangers of desintegration, conflict and war, still fostering also national cohesion. Dakhidae again became very angry towards officials of government, the army and the courts. In the Ditubondo case of October 1996 the riots that destroyed scores of churches and Christian schools started with a judge who condemned a mentally disabled Muslim for insulting the prophet Muhammad in a way that was definitely provocative and caused one fo the first of a very long series of riots with inter-religious conflicts. He praised a Catholic priest in Bandung with a thorough knowledge of Islam and Arabic and who sometimes said Mass in Arabic to show that Christianity is a universal religion that also includes Arabic into its liturgy.

Elga Sarapung is a quiet but very concerned and modestly leading manager of Interfidei. She is not the person who will give long speeches and sensational programmes. She saw the role of Interfidei more as facilitator, bringing people together and urge them to speak freely, honstly and openly. She does not define the great dreams, but rather the small steps and concrete small actions. She had a wonderfull team of ten students who prepared the conference, always present in the house (rather than office) of Interfidei. One of these was Peter Faber of the Free University of Amsterdam. She designed this conference as a celebration of free pluralism, trule a Pesta Pluralisme.

woensdag 3 september 2008

17 year DIAN/Interfidei , 8-10 August 2008, Small religious groups: Ahmadiyah, Samin people and the strong plea by the Raden Ayu, the Wife of Sultan

A quite peculiar gueast at this conference on the future of (religious and etnnic) pluralism in Indonesia was the chief of the police of Jogjakarta (KAPOLDA). He always had wanted to become an imam or Muslim preacher and part of his speech also had the style of a sermon. But he spoke partly from the background of a committed police officer who has to appease conflicting sides: Muslim militias, Ahmadiyah groups who are attacked by them. These Muslim activists can bring large groups to demonstrations and small groups then want violence. Nowadays it is more an internal violence amongst Muslims than a conflict between Muslims and Christians. Farid Wajdi, a critical young activist, representative of LKiS,asked the police official aboutr a special case, when they had asked to halt the acitivists of Forum Pembala Islam. There was no reaction from the police and therefore these more 'liberal' Muslim activists asked the Banser the quite violent youth of Nahdlatul Ulama to protect Christian Churches at Christmas. Why wasn't the police active at that moment? There was not good asnwer to this peculiar question.

Another quite exceptional presentation was in the evening of 9th August, by activists from Northern Central Java, the region of Blora and Pati. Some Suparwadi from Blora introduced an activist from the Samin movement. Samin wqas a movement that was established about 1890 as a local group, opposing further expansion of Islam as a rejection and suppression of Javanese local cultures. They called themselves followers of Adam and vehemently rejected adherence to any global religion. They also rejected some other steps toward 'modern life'. They prefer their local Javanese dialect and try to abstain from speaking modern standard Indonesian, are hesitating to send their children to public schools and in general somewhat resemble the Amish of Pennsylvania. The activist told his story in very elegant Javanese, while Suparwadi translated it in Indonesian (although finally the activist himself also proved to speak quite fluent Indonesian himself). With help from other activists, including the Dipenegoro University of Semarang, two films were made about the movement. The first movie was a quite comic story about efforts by several members of the movement to have an Identity Card (KTP, Kartu Tanda Penduduk) without naming any religious identity on it. In fact, in Indonesia all Identity Cards have the option to register as one out of five religions, no les no more. Only Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholic and Protestant are the options. An identity card is needed for electricity in a house, to enter school, to marry, also to have a license plate on a motorbike, or to buy a handphone. The film was a tragi-comic report of unwilling, sometimes even quite relaxed and willing government officials, who could not produce a card from the common computerized system without mentioning on of these five religions. They consider the system as a way to make Islam or another religions obligatory. The other movie was about plans of the great cement factory of Gresik that wants to establish another factory in their region and to buy 2000 ha for the production of cement, including the loss of agricultural land, waste and polution that accompanies the production of cement.

The evening of the 10th August, the concluding evening of the conference, a large audience was invited for the more joyful celebration of 17 years Interfidei with traditional and modern dances and music: from street youth to more or less classical Papua dancing and Javanese women from Bantul. There were, of course, also speeches. The living founding fathers of Interfidei were present, with good memories of the two who had died: Th. Sumartana and Eka Darmaputera. The most exceptional speaker was the wife of Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, who held a very strong plea for the rights of small and local religious movements, for sects and spiritual groups who oppose to becomepart of a global religion. She stated that there is freedom of religion and belief in Indonesia and that the stupid regulation that only five (or six, with Confucianism) can be selected is an insult to the Constitution and also against freedom of religion as proposed by Islam itself with the Qur'anic verse of sura 2:256 that there is no compulsion in religion.

17 year DIAN/Interfidei , 8-10 August 2008, The real conference as a meeting of an Indonesian Peace Network. Part V

This conference on Pluralism, organised by Interfidei in Jogjakarta is a continuation of earlier conferences, starting in 2002 (Banjarmasin), 2004 and 2006. It wants to bring together representatives of small local NGOs and to coordinate local action. In the period 1995-2003 DIAN has carried out many small research projects related to the increasing number of inter-religious and ethnic conflicts in Indonesia. These research projects created contacts with many local individuals and organizations. In 2002 this netword came together for the first time to exchange experiences. In 2006 there were concrete plans for more effective coordination and regional meetings. But not much has been done since then. Indonesian often have problems with the Internet and e-mail, sms-messages are good for short information, while the distances are too big for frequent meetings. In the 8-10 August conference plans were made to nominate or elect regional coordinators and work together in various regions (but still with distances of 1000 up to 2,500 km). Most of the time in these three days is spent for exhange of experiences, information and strategies.

Examples: Khairul Fahmi is a medical student in Aceh. He plannes to marry in February 2005, but the tsunami of 26 December 2004 killed his fiancee and her whole family. Nobody was found back, so there was for a long time incertainty. Now he works as a vcolunteer with an NGO that opposes corruption and controls the spending of foreign aid in order to promote honest and transparent use of money in Aceh.

There was Pak Kyai, the respected older religious teacher Arifin Assegaf, of Hadramaut/Arab offspring and for a long time the chairperson of the Majelis Ulama in Ambon. Hardliners like Abdurrahman Difinubun (also in the conference, but now converted to moderate Islam) likes to reproach him that he was too soft in front of the Christians. Now they are together at this conference, together with other Christians and Muslims from Ambon and the Kai Islands. Continuing discussion is about the fight of orthodox Muslims and traditional Protestants nagainst the revival of traditional adat of customs, especially the so-called pela-practice. Panas Pela or revival of age-old bounds between a Christian and a Muslim village often was considered a superstition (because of the respect for the common ancestors, prayers to them, pouring strong drinks on the ground for them while heavily drinking sopi or local liquor). But this panas pela has been one of the strongest ways to harmony for Christians and Muslims in Ambon. They also told us that after the official dismissal of the Muslim militia Laskar jihad in Ambon (following the Bali bombings of 12 October 2002), many former Javanese members of these Muslim troops have remained in Ambon. They have established five 'pesantren' Islamic boarding schools, a style of Islamic education not found in the Moluccas before. They also established some Kindergarten, fine and modern buildings, built with foreign support, probably from kuwai and Saudi Arabia. Amidst the burnt and destroyed buildings, remnants of the Moluccan wars between Muslim and Christians, 1999-2002, we now find these new structures. Not the Christians, but most of all traditional Muslims experience the hatred of these left-vers of the bloody wars.

A Catholic priest from manado, Yong Ohoitimur (originally from Kai), reported how in 2000 and following years, Christian youth in Manada established militias following the example of Laskar Jihad in the Moluccas. The many Christian refugees from the Northern Moluccas (Halmahera), who had fled to Minahasa, were very eagre to join thedse Christian militias. Only a close cooperation between religious leaders and the local police could prevent this escalation of the conflict to Minahasa.

A very interesting young man is Nurhalis Majid, considered as the new Cak Nur or Nurcholis Madjid, the great scholar and liberal thinker who died 29 August 2005. Nurhalis is from Banjarmasin, where he works at the State Islamic Academy for Islamic Studies, IAIN, together with Mujiburrahman. Nurhalis is also active in a local NGO. I will not blame him that he also seeks some extra income besides his low salary from the IAIN. It is an honest work to be active in a NGO.
Nurhalis brough good news about South Kalimantan, where school is free from Kindergarten until the end of highschool. The government attorney takes action when there are reports that teachers seek extra income from students and their parents. The local govenment pays extra salaries to teachers, above their government salaries, because these are indeed to low to survive honestly. Local newspapers are very important for all activists because nowadays they are prepared to include kiritcal reports about local officials. Local banks are quite generous as sponsors for activities and so they are not depending upon foreign sponsors alone. In general, however, fundamentalist Muslim are sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, liberal Muslims and Christian turn to Cordaid (NL), Adenauer Stiftung, Volkswagen Stiftung, and other Western sponsors. The fight between conservative Islam and moderate Muslim/liberal Christians is also a financial one!

Another activist is Esti Susanti, Chinese woman from Surabaya. She fights trade in young children, for prostitution or work oversess (Singapore, Malaysia, Arabia). She is very angry about the silence about HIV, already death cause no 4 in Indonesia. Religious leaders only complain about sexual freedom and never speak a word of compassion and love, but too easily think that it is all a matter of living a free life before getting the disease. Esti studies physics and has built a quite strong antipathy against religious leaders and religion in general. But she is welcome here and people listen to her as well.

17 year DIAN/Interfidei , 8-10 August 2008, About conference location. Part IV

The 2008 Conference of Interfidei took place in the compound of PUSKAT, Pusat Kateketik, the audio-visual studios and trainings centre in Sinduharjo, built since the mid-1990s by the Jesuit priest Rudi Hofmann. It is located at about one kilemtre from the office of Interfidei itself. This office is built in a residential area with quite spatious houses for middle class people. Interfidei has bought two lots and one is still empty. It is now used by the local community for sports, communication. There are plans for a second building with a library, guest rooms, conference places, but now it is still "Lapangan Interfidei" the free Interfidei square, the starting for the Sunday morning fitness walk and a central point for many other activities in the local community. There is very little common space in the suburban area, where local people like to fill up every inch with buildings. On the evening of the 10th August the neighbours of Interfidei received special award and thanks for their cooperation in the activities of the centre. For such a centre where many people come and go, it is important to have good contacts with the neighbours.

The actual location for the conference, the audio-visual centre also has a place for the local people, the Balai Budaya Sinduharjo, the cultural centre of Sinduharjo. It a large podium with a spatious roof, but low walls, like the traditional buildings in villages. Also the swimming pool of the centre is open for the public. As a specific feature it has a nice entry: people have to go to the swimming pool by entering the giant ear of Dewa Ruci, the small deity who is the teaching patron of the giant Bhima in the Hindu (and Javanese) stories of the Pandawa brothers. Not only the walls of the vultural centre and of the swimming: many walls in this centre are filled with pictures from the Hindu-Javanese mythology. On the whole there are no walls surrounding the centre and as such it is an inviting open place for people.
As a place of worship Rudi Hofmann (died 28 May 2008, while in Zwitserland for an exhibition, but at that time working for Catholic media in East Timor) designed an open space with a roof and four walls with texts of four religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. For Christianity nowhere in the compound the sign of the cross is used. "Too many wars and acts of violence were carried out under the sign of the cross" was a saying by Hofmann. On the 'Christian' wall we see a bird and the text: Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them." On the northern side of this place of woprship is a large buiulding in Minangkabau style. While sitting in its high middle floor, one feels as if sitting amidst the top of the trees. This is a place of meditation to observe Mount Merapi (when weather is clear and it is not so in the dry season). After a place for the four great religions there is also a quiet place to perform sometimes like religion of nature.

NB: I wanted to add photographs of the compound, but I am still learning how to manage this blogger. Karel Steenbrink

maandag 1 september 2008

17 year DIAN/Interfidei , 2-8 August 2008, CRCS and Sindhunata as a Chinese. Part III

There are quite a few activities in the field of inter-religious relations in Jogjakarta. I was also invited to CRCS, the Center for Religious and Crosscultural Studies, part of the Graduate School of the secular Gadjah Mada University. It was started in 1997 at the initiative of Alwi Shihab (a graduate of Temple University, then minister of foreign affairs, or soon after that!). There was strong support from people of Temple University. Now they have some 20 students for a Masters Degree, from various religions, most of them Indonesian, but a small number of foreigners. All classes are in English. Zainal Abidin Bagir is the Director. Dr. Simon Rae, good companion in the writing of the HCI, History of Christianity in Indonesia, had just arrived with his wife Marian to work until December 2008, financed by the government of New Zealand. I also saw Prof. Mark Woodward, scholar of things Javanese and teaching at Tempe, Arizona,working here with a Fullbright for six months. In the same building the Protestant Duta Wacana University has in cooperation with Gadjah Mada and the State Islamic University a doctoral programme in inter-religious studies, with Bernie Adeney as director. Some cynical people say that the Arab countries, especially the Saudi people support fundamentalist Islam, while western funding is generously given for liberal and interreligious studies. So be it, amin!

A very special contact, again, was with the Jesuit priest Sindhunata, editor of the cultural magazine Basis and as a Catholic novel writer more or less the successor to the late Mangunwijaya. During the last decades Sindhunata has given much attention to elegant Javanese, to books in Javanese history and folklore. His own parish in Pakem received a well with not only Mary, but many old artefacts, statues, animals, so syncretic that the bishop did not like to accept an invitation for the official opening of this new place of pilgrimage. Sindhunata has a Javanese name, is one of the few authors to write novels not only in Indonesian, but also in Javanese, he is preparing a Javanese poetic translation of the four gospels. But actually he is of (mixed, partial) Chinese descent. After the anti-Chinese riots of 1998 he has thought a lot of his Chinese mackground, about the Chinese as scapegoats for Indonesia (with the theories of René Girard) and he has now written a full elaborate novel about "The Chinese Princess", a complicated book with several story-lines, the most important about a Chinese princess who is considered as the mother for many Javanese princes, but also about someone who was living in the 20th century in java, amidst riots and a low position of being a 2d class citizen. The novel is very successful and already more than 25,000 copies were sold. This is a first attempt to create something of a distinct Chinese Indonesia Christian identity.

17 year DIAN/Interfidei , 2-8 August 2008, From Dialogue towards Pluralism. Part II

Between 2 and 7 August I had time to see old friends. On Saturday 2 August I had lunch with Bambang Subandrijo. It was our first meeting after Bambang had defended his Ph.D. dissertation in Amsterdam on the Image of Jesus in 1 Colossians and Sura 19 of the Qur'an. The title of his dissertation was "Jesus as Eikon and Ayat.." Jesus is the visible image of the invisible Deity. Eikon is the Greek word used in Colossians, Ayat is used on the Qur'an. Bambang told about the heated debates in Indonesia about another doctor theologiae from the Netherlands, Ioannes Rakhmat (minister of the Chinese GKI church and lecturer at the Theological School STT Proklamasi in Jakarta). Rakhmnat was very emotional in Kampen in 1998 when he heard about increasing tension between religions and ethnic groups, especially when about 1000 Jakarta Chinese were killed in the riots that lead to Suharto's fall. After finishing his dissertation in New Testament studies (the trial of Jesus), he became fascinated by the discoveries in Talpiot, near Bethlehem, in 1980. An Israeli archeologist found a box with bones and an inscription that cab be read as ´grave of the family of Jesus´. Was Jesus married? With children? Was he put in a grave after his death and his bones still conserved? How could this be combined with the Christian faith in the resurrection? In 2007 Ioannes Rakhmat published a book with 14 speeches and articles about the topic and as a result he was withdrawn from the theological school by the leaders of his church. Bambang now has taken over his position, although he experienced similar debates about his Masters' thesis (too 'liberal', publicly stating that Paul did not yet formulate the doctrine of the Trinity but was a pure monotheist). Richard Borong, at that time rector of the STT, was reproached by evangelical church leaders: "How could such a student obtain a degree with deviant meaning!" Borong defended him and later one of these church leaders followed a service where Bambang held the sermon and congratulated him after the service with a sound and good content of the preaching! In the Jakarta theological school there is quite a debate about theological and intellectual freedom. Some maintain that in a majority Muslim country the Christians should unite and defend their doctrines against Muslims. Bambangwants to open a theological dialogue with Muslims, by giving his comment also on sections of the Qur'an about Jesus. He hopes that later this year his dissertation will be published by the Protestant publishing house BPK Gunung Mulia. I support him in this and will write a preface. But I also warned him that no sensational statements should be sought. After all, theological dialogue is just a small part of the whole range of dialogue and interreligious contacts. It can very easily be abused.

Later this week several people told me about the writings by the East-Javanese Christian (Reformed) convert to Syrian Christianity, Bambang Noorsena. This man has acquired a sound knowledge of Arabic and even Syriac. He explains Christianity from the Nestorian fathers in a tradition where Jesus was not simply identical to the Father, where the Spirit originates from the Father, not from Father and Son,. Djohan Effendi gave me two of his books and urged me to read them and also from Christians I heard many positive remarks about him. Noorsena has established man Institute for Syriac Christian Studies in Malang and gives lectures all over Indonesia. It seems to be a quite promising style of theologicalo dialogue.

17 year DIAN/Interfidei , 2-8 August 2008, From Dialogue towards Pluralism. Part I

DIAN stands for Dialog anter Iman: Interreligious dialogue. The centre DIAN-Interfidei was established in 1991 in Jogjakarta by a group of people with Th. Sumartana as the binding personality. It were mostly intellectuals from Jakarta: Zulkifli Lubis (Muslim, senior journalist with the weekly TEMPO), Daniel Dakhidae (journalist working with the daily KOMPAS, Catholic), Djohan Effendi, official in the Department of Religion for interreligious relations, close to Andurrahman Wahid whom he later served a Secretary of the Cabinet when Wahid was President) and Protestant Theologian, Eka Darmaputra, of Chinese descent. In the early 1990s there were already growing tensions between religions, due to the increasing self-confidence of Muslims in ICMI, the government sponsored organizatipon of Muslim intellectuals, but also due to the growth of Evangelical Churches. DIAN-Interfidei was founded as a point of encounter, a source of creative religious thinking, crossing the boundaries of the relgiions. Initially Sumartana hoped that a great movement qwould start, with a university of its own, a largte campus for research, study and discussion.
Maybe Sumartana had broader dreams. His family had lived as part of the Sadrach religious community. Sumartana described in his dissertation Sadrach and Kartini as the two major movemebnt of spiritual encounter between Muslim Indonesians and Western Christianity. Both had realized a synthesis between the two worlds, but also failed to continue their movemets. Sadrach was excommunicated by the staunch Reformed missionaries and Kartini died at an early age. Was it the dream of Sumartana to continue their mission, did he want to become a new Sadrach who could unite the old traditional world of Javanese and Islamic mysticism and the modern Western Christian ethics? After my arrival on 1 August, I followed a discussion at Interfidei where Jaspert Slob defended this thesis in the Dian Centre on Jalan Banteng Utama in North Jogjakarta.

The debate of that morning was a good warming up for the whole next week. At that same meeting a very eloquent young Muslim woman, Mega Hidayati, gave an excellent speech about prejudices in the writings of Hans Georg Gadamer, German philosopher who died in 2002 at the blessed age of 102 years. Whether we like it or not, we all have prejudices. Also in the practice of dialogue we never are able to nullify prejudices. We have to deal with prejudices, use them, manupulate them, defend ourselves and our fellow human beings against the bad effects of prejudices. Hidayati holds a BA from the UIN, the State Islamic University of Jogjakarta, then pursued a Master´s Degree at the secular Gadjah Mada University in the CRCS programme (Center for Religious and Crosscultural Studies) and is now writing her Ph.D. dissertation at the Protestant Duta Wacana University. That is the wonderful experience with Interfidei: many students and young graduates between 20-30 years who want to discuss questions of society and religion in an open situation with people from various background, besides some older people who also join the meetings. Elga Sarapung, successor to Th. Sumartana who died in 2002, is not the strong and outspoken leader, but rather an efficient facilitator for debates and open exchange of ideas, when necessary also in good and heated debate with continuing difference of opinion. But definitely DIAN-Interfidei is a home for people who feel at home in a plural society.
After a dynamic period of criticism on the corruption of the last period of Suharto's rule, in favour of openness, freedom in the press and democracy, Interfidei was very active in the period of five years of continuing interreligious struglle and fighting, 1998-2003. In the last five years relations between religions and ethnic groups remained often constrained, but there was less national concern about the smaller local conflicts. Interfidei has been in the leading position during the last 17 years promoting a free but responsible press, democracy, meetings between people of various religions. The theme of this conference (8-10 August) was about the future of pluralism. It seems that no longer dialogue is the keyword but acceptation of a legitimate and rich pluralism.

Photographs of this trip can be found through: