maandag 20 oktober 2008

A History of Christianity in Indonesia, Book Launching and Conclusions, Part II

At the presentation of the book A History of Christianity in Indonesia on 14 October 2008 in Utrecht Karel Steenbrink summarised some conclusions as well. Below you will find a short resumee of his talk:

When we finished the book and gave it to the editorial committee, they were very happy with the general outline and the style of the book, but one of the comments by Prof. Marc Spindler was that he missed a conclusion.

Well: what about a conclusion? How to conclude a book about the past? To exaggerate the results and make it an astonishing result, 9% Christians in a majority Muslim country and quite a good number (2-3% of these) former Muslims? Or a criticism: how bad was the cooperation between the colonial government and Christian mission? Or: how bad was the cooperation between expanding Christianity and the anti-communist killings and crude politics between 1965-1998?
Finally Tom van den End formulated also 20 statements as conclusion (to be found on the Dutch-language weblog

Steenbrink formulated six statements more or less as conclusions under the title How the Global Religions Divided Indonesia amongst themselves...?

1. Among the largest players of Globalization are the World's Religions. In Indonesia they are extremely successful and have reached a monopoly. This is the end of a process of the last five centuries. Now one has to chose between the big finve alone: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholics and Protestants. The HCI book pays much attention to this process by including an article by Azyumardi Azra on the race between Islam and Christianity in the 16th and 17th century.

2. We decided to write an ecumenical book, including Protestant and Catholic stories. This is contrary to the weak position of the ecumenical relations and institutions in the country. But this is more a hope for the future that a past reality.

3. We decided to write in a geographic schedule, starting with the Southeastern Island (NTT), then moving anti-clockwise through Papua, Maluku, Sulawesi and Kalimantan to end up in Sumatra and finally Jawa: to contrast the usual Javanese domination, to emphasize regional differences.

4. There is no special chapter on education and health care in the book (but there are special chapters to the ecumenical movement, Christian media, Christian art, the Pentecostal and Evangelical movement). Why not so much education/ It was extremely important in the past but not in the present for the survival of Christian communities. They concentrate on rituals, counseling, mutual help in the cities, some developments aid, sociale care, but less and less on education. It was important in the past, probably but so much in the future. This is also some conclusion.

5. The book in not organised through the various churches. There are too many churches, more than 300! So, how to mention and describe all of them?

6. Finally: writing of history should be somewhat low key as to emotion and expression of values. Nevertheless, there are strong statements about Indonesian society and corruption. Christian churches are part of Indonesian society and therefore they also are subject to corruption. And for the Catholic church the bishops have already suggested the Vatican to abolish the general rule of celibacy for the priesthood. SVD priest John Prior not only has pastoral but also psychological reason to oppose the celabicy rule.

These are just some general aspects of a book of more than 1000 pages about 500 years of Christianity in Indonesia. For more information look at the website of!

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