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.

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