woensdag 23 september 2009

12. Father Kees Böhm, chronicler of the civil war, but most of all, stimulator of Catholic lay leadership in the Moluccas

This is the one of 18 short impressions of the trip of Karel and Pauline Steenbrink to East Indonesia in preparation for the 3d volume of the book "Catholics in Indonesia"


MSC priest Kees Böhm (born 1935, Santvoort), is in the Moluccans active since the early 1960s. He is still full in job, even characterized as a 'workaholic' by some of his colleagues. He has served at several places in the Southeastern archipelagos, but had become quite famous, internationally by his long series of vivid daily reports about the Moluccan Wars, 1999-2005, that started on 22 June 2000 and ran to 2006 (my printed edition has report no 476, 1 May 2005). He told us that he had tried to have it published with KITLV in Leiden. It was not accepted as a book for their series of Publications. The Chronicle misses the first 18 month, it has many repetitions, because of the daily observations. It has for many events only the perspective of the Christian section of Ambon, because communications between the two sides of Ambon were often not possible. But as a source it is a marvelous piece of work.

Böhm did not only write about the Moluccan War, he has written 1. A history of Catholics in Great Kei, Seratus Tahun Gereja Katolik di Kei Besar (64 pages); 2. A similar history for Tanimbar; 3. A similar history for the North Moluccas; 4. A life of Bishop Aerts (died/martured 1942); 5. An Indonesian translation of a manuscript by Bishop Andreas Sol, Sejarah Gereja Katolik di Kepulauan Aru. Böhm was so kind to put all his major manuscripts on mu USB Stick (called flash disk in Indonesia) and so I could easily print them last week in Utrecht.

The main duty of Böhm was not this writing of history or 'peace journalism' that tried to give an objective image of the dramatic situation of people living in Ambon in that period, his first duty was at that time with the central office of the pastoral institute of Ambon, where he was the general manager but also the specialist for catechism and liturgical guidance for catechists who had to perform services without priests.

Our talk with Father Böhm on the afternoon of Thursday 27 August was somewhat awkward. We had first visited the major mosques of Ambon (in fact the old mosque and the new Fatah mosque, built by Soekarno, although finished in the New Order period of Soeharto, with Prof. Saleh Putuhena. Be also brought is to Father Böhm and stayed there during the visit (therefore we all abstained from drinking, because it was between 16.00-18.00). The talk in part was about the course of events during the period 1999-2005, when Putuhena was working for Ambonese Muslim refugees in Makassar and Böhm stayed in a Christian district in Ambon. There were also more general observations about Ambon: there are no ntaural resources in this region. Moluccans are not true fishers. They will never remain longer than 12 hours on sea. Therefore the Japanese industrial boats are taking the real profit from the rich seas of the Moluccans. In 1956 there was a gift from the Russians: a faculty for construction of ship building. This faculty became the start of the Pattimure University. During the Moluccan Wars it proved that these building were so solidly built, that they did not burn down like all later buildings. But the real development in ship building came only later with Habibie in Surabaya and it was not a great success either. Rendra used to complain that Indonesia is now moving by airplane only and they have lost their maritime background. This is especially pity for the development of a province like the Moluccas where 93% of the surface is sea! The Moluccas are, like NTT, a province that will never make true profit, at least not under the present conditions.

My major interest duiring this talk was in the initiatives taken by Böhm and some of his colleagues for a Sunday service in congregations without priests. Sometime in the 1980s (or was it the 1970s, Umat Allah Beribadah or UAB was published in 1978) it was a topic at the annual meeting of the Indonesian bishops. The bishops of Java and Western Indonesia bluntly rejected the idea, because they did not recognize it as a problem. In the islands of Sumatra and Java, like in Bangka, Belitung, there is a high number of priests, relatively good transport. It is a problem for Kalimantan, the Moluccas, Flores, Papua. The first proposal, a booklet of 1985 was considered as too much a copy of a Holy Mass with a lay person performing more or less like a priest. In the newer version of 1989 (see HidupNo 38 17 September 1989; a criticism on a new edition by Yos van der Linden from Langgur) the quasi-eucharistic elements were removed. The initiative had started with three priests: Jan van der Made, Jos van der Lind and Kees Böhm, also called Malibo. Micael Coomans MSF, later bishop in Samarinda, Kalimantan, also published a Kumpulan Upacara Ibadat. In the 1970 this service was called a Kumpulan Doa, a service once a week, more or less as a surrogate for Mass.
There were, however, not only problems of church law and theology, many lay people found the texts for this priestless service too complicated. One had to look in the booklet to many different pages and finding the right reference os for simple people already very difficult.
Then there was the problem of a sermon. The three priests, MALIBO, wrote three volumes sermons for priestless services, published as Mewartai Sabda. This is a collection of sermons for all Sundays of the year. But even when a sermon was already written, it is not good to read it without good expression. Böhm trained his catechists or teachers also like theatre players, to read a sermon in a vivid and lively way.

One can here make a comparison with the Protestant church where during several centuries most congregations were served by lowly educated guru jemaat who also read sermons, written by the ministers of the capital of Ambon. Nowadays, however, all congregations like to have a fully trained and ordained minister for their own.

Father B|ohm gave me some copies Doa Bersama a schedule for priestless services. I bought during this trip also a booklet by Pater Johanes Lewar SVD, Ibadat Peringatan Arwah as lay services at funerals an later memorials.

Böhm is now nominated a the parish priest in Poka, while at the same time leading an institute for the training of catechists. In the coming years this will be extended as part of the training for priests as well (now only in Pineleng). It is difficult to give a permanent position or format to lower educated religious leaders.

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