maandag 26 januari 2009

Muhammad as Lawgiver, in Obama's surrounding

It was a great experience last week, the ceremonies for the inauguration of Barack Obama in Washington in various places of that Haram section, the sacred territory of the Mall. While looking at the ceremonies, where Obama himself also mentioned with honour the other religions like Hindu, Jews, Muslims, as well as the non-believers, I was reminded of the nearly 200 year old series of lawgiver in the Supreme Court, where Muhammad stays in the series of two friezes between the 18 great lawgivers of mankind, like Confucius, Moses, Napole, Hugo Grotius. Several Muslim groups have protested against Muhammad as depicted above, in full image and with Koran and sword.

Below we see Muhammad between Charlemagne and Justinianus.

Obama who was the first president to go to an inter-religious service in the National Cathedral of Washington, mentioned Jews, Muslims and Hindus as well as unbelievers with respect in his speech, has had predecessors in the 19th century.

zaterdag 24 januari 2009

How the Sultan of Bima lost Manggarai

At the Conference in The Hague my own presentation was about Manggarai: until 1908 firmly under the Sultan of Bima who took slaves and horses from all 38 dalu-regions. But after the Blitz-krieg, the Perang pasifikasi things changed. West Flores or Manggarai was until the beginning of the 20th century recognised as territory of the Muslim Sultan of Bima by the Dutch. In 1907 the Dutch effectively took possession of the region and after 1910 they promoted Catholic missionary enterprise to convert the population through their schools. The coastal region, with some Muslim settlements was neglected in favour of the mountain region, where finally one local chief, mission-educated Alexander Baroek became the most important native counterpart of the colonial rule. The ties with Bima were formally broken in the 1920s. Herewith Catholicism gained political and social influence to the detriment of the expansion of Islam and Manggarai joined the rest of Flores to become a majority Catholic society. There was no overall strategy to destroy Muslim influence and promote Catholic Christianity, it was simply the result of a longer chain of not always related decisions. For the colonial officials this choice was in line with their overall strategy of creating a safe, well-developed and prosperous Flores. For a full text you may write to and I can send you the text and a slide presentation.
Here I include two pictures: the finest hours for the Catholic mission.

In November 1930 there were big festivities in Ruteng, celebrating the inauguration of Alexander Baroek as the new zelfbestuurder or Radja van Manggarai. The big ceremony was on Saturday 14 November, but guests had arrived before. One of these, the SVD priest and film-maker Simon Buis had brought his two great movies. On the eve of the great day Buis had shown the two-hour movie Ria Rago to officials and local people, some 4000 watching the melodramatic story of the girl who is pushed to become the second wife of a Muslim and therefore had to leave the mission school of the sisters in Lela. After the inauguration on the following day, four people gave a formal speech, Resident Karthaus from Kupang, the Military Commander Kooymans (gezaghebber) of Ruteng, Baroek himself and SVD priest Koning, dean of Maumere. In the evening there was dance, music and the show of another movie, Floresfilm, the story of a missionary who leaves from Rotterdam for the Dutch Indies and travels through this colony towards Flores. The movie is announced as ‘a living piece of mission history, travelling through the most famous waters of the world, a trip through tropical Holland, a surprising view on the life of a heathen people.’ Above you find a photograph of Raja Baroek with his wife and below father Simon Buis with the new native ruler.

Toba against Karo Batak: 0-1

The conference in The Hague resulted in many comparison, between Indonesia and the Carribean colonies of Holland, foreigners like army, police and missionaries. A quite interesting presentation was given by Deasy Simandjuntak, Ph.D. student in political science at UVA, University of Amsterdam. She brought pictures and a nice story about the bupati election campaigns of 2005. The bupati or district head was for the first time elected through direct campaigns (no longer nominated by the central mgovernment in Jakarta). in Toba area it was mostly a campaign of families, invoking the grand old man of the Batak church (see statue above), but also the tombs of the ancestors. In Karo areas it was more a revival festival with religious and traditional songs, many young people debating, directly in contact with the audience. Simandjuntak (herself from the Toba region) made a relation with the top-down rather elitist Lutheran mission in the Toba region where a very dominating figure was the great inspirator for the turn towards Christianity. In the Toba region it was the Minahasa teachers rather than the not so successful Dutch missionaries who brought Christianity and it took also much longer before people really embraced Reformed/Calivinist Christianity where the minister are chosen by the congregation. Feudal Luther against the democratic Calvinist style.

woensdag 21 januari 2009

Southeast Asian Christians in Comparison

Gerrit Knaap of the ING, National Institute of Historical Research has convened a conference on Muticulturalism, Religion and Legal Status in the Dutch Colonial World, 1600-1960 in the Hague 21-23 January.
21 January was the start of the conference with a keynote lecture by Barbara Watson Andaya BEING CHRISTIAN IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, a comparative introduction to the great varieties but also similarities of Christians in majority (Filippino) but most often minority situation. The whole pattern was given: colonial starts and influences, but also Christianity deeply rooted in local traditions, from Burma to Larantuka, East Flores that received special attention with a lovely description of the celebration of Good Friday and Easter with the processions, singing in Portuguese.

A second talk was about comparison between the two Dutch colonies. In the West Indies or Suriname the plantation society was Dutch oriented and with Christianity as the dominant religion. At the abolition of slavery in 1873 all black slaves had to receive baptism before they could be registered as free citizens. Until 1940 the marriages of Hindus and Muslims were considered as illegal relations and no legitimate children were born from them (and no right for inheritance). Very slowly Suriname developed between 1910-1940 into a plural society as was already since long the case with Indonesia where Dutch language never was truly imposed and Christianity always had been a minority religion. Governor Kielstra (1933-1944 in Suriname) had been a Resident in Java and brought his idea of a plural society to Suriname.

The third talk was by Gerrit Knaap, again a comparison. Gerrit discussed the theory of pillarization, verzuiling, in the Netherlands and Indonesia. He put together schedules like the following
Netherlands -- Indonesia
Liberals -- Nasionalis
Protestants -- Muhammadiyah/Masyumi
Catholics -- Nahdlatul Ulama
Socialists -- Communists

Every pillar had its political party, schools, newspapers, trade unions. According to Knaap there are similarities, also differences between the systems, but they developed not in relation to each other.

dinsdag 20 januari 2009

Buddhists in Muslim Indonesia

McGill University's Department of Religious Studies has instituted a chair of Buddhism (thanks to a Japanese grant for some 30 years!). This chair will convene a conference on Buddhism amidst or in relation with Islam, worldwide. The conference will be held 29-31 May 2009. I wrote already an abstract for a paper on Buddhists in Muslim Indonesia.

To start with: on top a picture of a ceremony in 2005 where monks and the chairperson of Walubi donate a hall at the Halim Airport to the military. The hall will be used for the transport to the outer islands of food and other supply, needed in case of disasters and at difficult periods.

Buddhism in Muslim Indonesia

Karel Steenbrink (University of Utrecht)

Abstract. This paper presents an overview of various ways how Buddhists and Muslims lived together, since the arrival of Islam about 1200. It tells how Buddhism slowly disappeared and became a religion for the Chinese (who very often converted to Islam until the 19th century). In the early 20th century we see more female Chinese arriving in Indonesia and a revival of Chinese self-confidence was mostly concentrated on Confucianism, but in the Malay journal Sin Po also aspects of Buddhism are shown. I have done some research on this journal and would like to continue this also for the topic of the conference. The Muslim revival of the late colonial period had some anti-Chinese tendencies (Sarekat Islam as a Muslim union against Chinese positions in the trade, shops in all towns), but were not directed against Buddhism as a religion.
Between 1945 and 2006 only five religions were recognised in Indonesia: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism. Only very recently also Confucianism is an official religion. All religions had to recognize the base of the Indonesian State in its Pancasila ideology that stipulated the ‘belief in the one and high divinity’. For Hindus this has been studied quite well, but I will analyse textbooks, especially books for Buddhist religious education in primary and secondary schools, to see how this national ideology has influenced Buddhism in modern Indonesia. For this period also the different Buddhist organizations and their position towards Muslims and Indonesian culture in general will be important.

The picture shows the marriage of the son of the Chairperson of the National Buddhist Organization (Walubi) Mrs Siti Hartati Murdaya. At the reception the Indonesian President and Vice-President were also invited. They are photographed for a replica of the Borobudur Temple. Mrs Murdaya is one of the richest people (no 13) in Indonesia.

woensdag 7 januari 2009

In Memory of Egypt and 2008

In this last week of 2008 we want to wish you all the best for next year, good health, good conditions of life, good spirit and a good environment.
2008 was for us the first year of a full retirement, 65 the two of us, Paule and Karel. Still, life was often dominated by some obligations. First of all it was the final touch and on 14 October the launching of the thick book: 1004 pages of A History of Christianity in Indonesia published by Brill in Leiden and edited by Jan Aritonang and Karel Steenbrink. An impression of that event is put on the weblog that is planned to continue the work on this theme. Still two more books are planned: a commentary in Dutch on the second sura of the Qur’an, under the title of Een kleine Koran and the third volume of Catholics in Indonesia (for the period 1945-2010).
We enjoyed quite a lot of travelling, trip of one week to Gran Canaria, Istanbul and in June to Sicily. Karel visited Indonesia in August for an interreligious conference at Interfidei in Jogjakarta. The longest trip was 15 days to Egypt in December. We were very impressed by the megalomania of the pharaonic statues (above you find us in front of the Ramses II statues at Abu Simbel)

After visiting all these graves, temples, statues of pharaohs in Upper Egypt (from Luxor to Aswan and finally Abu Simbel), we were also in Cairo where we were struck by the many similarities between pharaonic religion and Coptic Christianity. Common people in both cases were not allowed to enter into the most sacred part of the temple/church: they had to offer to images outside and only sometimes shown what was happening in the inner part. In Al Azhar and other mosques we found some more democratic religion, in these magnificent open spaces where all people stand in one line. Well, this was also for some time the debate during this trip: ‘Why Egyptians changed from Pharaonic Religion to Christianity but then again to Islam. The answer to this question is much more complicated, but we leave it by this for now.

Stijn married to Irene this summer. They moved also to a beautiful spacious house in The Hague. Also Floris and Inge have moved to a larger house, in Amsterdam. They work hard, but live in good harmony and all four are happy with the jobs they have.

So, we count our blessing and thank God for life that has been given to us.
We wish you ale the best for next year, 2009; hope to hear from you and to see you sometimes. = Karel and Paule Steenbrink