dinsdag 21 december 2010

Big Words: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2011

This is our more or less traditional end-of-the-year letter with a short report of our present condition and best wishes for all our friends. As to the first theme: there are so many blogs written here that we feel it not necessary to give more information. Paule and Karel are happy to stay in good mental and physical health (the only major inconvenience this year was the broken arm of Paule due to the heavy snow early this year). We were very happy with the same condition for our children with one more serious exception: Irene Vink, wife of Stijn, had a very serious injury in her left knee in a bicycle incident in The Hague, where here bicycle entered the rail of the local tram. She fell in an unlucky way and had to stay at home for nearly three months, still working through electronic means and only few times visiting the office of her company. Our granddaughter Sophie is a happy and eager small girl, thoughtful and quiet. She gives us and her parents Irene and Stijn much joy.
Floris and Inge are doing very well too in Amsterdam. They finished the renovation of their house and cared for the spacious garden, stayed in good physical condition with running, cycling and skating.
Karel was quite busy with work in Kampen (until August, replacement for a colleague with a sabbatical) and for courses for adult people. The last candidate for a doctoral dissertation, Fredrik Doeka, stayed in our house for two months (September-October) and all this work prevented Karel from writing seriously for the 3d volume of Catholics in Indonesia. But two books will be published soon: the English translation of The Jesus verses in the Qur'an and a commentary on the 2d Sura of the Qur'an.

In our Dutch weblog I wrote a meditation on the discussion we had in our Church of St John, related to the inauguration speech of Jesus in Luke 4,14-21: where he announces a man who receives the Spirit of the Lord, anointment and will bring good news to the poor, prisoners and the blind. The people of Nazareth are not convinced and remain quite sceptical. The Prince of Peace he is called and also the angels, according to the story of Christmas, sing about peace on earth. But what has become reality after this declaration of a new programme? Not everything of these promise has been realized, even quite little. Therefore no traditional sweet image of Mary and Jesus, but an angry Mary who punished this little Lord Jesus!

This is a painting by Max Ernst from 1926. Maria has a red underdress(indicating the divine character of Jesus) and then a blue robe (for the full human nature of Jesus). Jesus´ crown has fallen and so he becomes a common child. There are three witnesses± friends of Max Ernst. Not all Big Words of Jesus and his biographers have been realized. We must be happy with the small things, the rays of light that we see in this world. We are more than satisfied with that and we wish all our readers a reasonable portion of this light and happiness.
With best wishes for 2011!! Karel and Pauline Steenbrink

maandag 13 december 2010

Syrian Backgrounds

This contribution to the weblog has been written as a report at the end of the year 2010 on personal and family matters. We are happy to communicate that we had a rather quiet year. There were some physical inconveniences: Paule broke her right arm during the heavy snow of January-February but it is now Ok again. Irene, wife of Stijn, fell in September in The Hague, while getting into a tram rail. This was a very serious injury because the knee was broken at several weak points. She was operated and bound to her house and her bed for nearly two months and is now recovering slowly. With the baby Sophie in the house this was quite difficult sometimes and we went more often than before The Hague. It brought us also closer to the first granddaughter.
Our activities were as before: Karel taught frequently for the Senior Academy of Eindhoven en Doetinchem, sometimes for his former faculty and for various occasions. Fredrik Doeka was in our house for two months between 24 August August and late October. We do hope that his thesis on Moses in Indonesian Muslim and Christian Discourse can be defended in 2011.
We made shorter and two longer trips. One longer trip was to the United States in June. From 26 November-5 December 2010 we travelled for ten days in Syria. Here we show you the two of us against a Syrian background. We first stayed two nights in Damascus and then drove a small Hyundai to Palmyra, Aleppo, Hama to return for three more days in Damascus, a twon of 7 million people )ten times as much as in 1970!'
Damascus and Aleppo have been cities for more than 3000 years. This is most visible in the great Ummayad Mosque of Damascus: once it was a temple for the Fenician deity Haddad, for the Roman Jupiter, the Greek Zeus, for Jesus and Mary as a Byzantine Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist and now a mosque that still has the grave of Yahya ibn Zakarya or John the Baptist in its major prayer hall. Above we see Pauline in this mosque, neatly dressed up with facilities for tourists, that also must be used for Syrian female visitors who wear trausors. Below we see her in the Straight Street (Shara' Mustaqim in a French-style restaurant.

On day 3 we wenht to Palmyra, entering the Syrian Desert. We took some rest at Baghdad Café. This is also the road between the Mediterranean and Irak.

Day 4 we continued the trip to the world of Crusaders and their mediaeval opponents. In the most beautiful hall in the Krak des Chevaliers Paule was illuminated by fina rays of light.

Day 5 was for Aleppo. We visited first a large number of Christian churches, all somewhat different: Marronites from libanon, Greek-Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Armenian, Evangelical, Chaldaean. We will not elaborate about these differences, but found it quite spectacular to find so many large communities in the major cities of Syria, as well as in some small towns in the Anti-Libanon mountains where the monasteries are built high in the mountains.

On day 6 we visited the site of the pillar of the Saint Simeon who managed to live there for some 40 years. It was surrounded by 4 cathedrals, now nice ruins. The second part of the day was for Maraat Nu'man where we enjoyed a kebab and the street scenery before we visited the wonderful museum of Roman and Christian mosaics. Paule loved the company of the high school youth of Idlib, a town nearby.

That night we stayed in Hama, Bait al Mashriq or Orient House, a nice hotel in traditional style, full with ornaments. It was not as beautiful as the nbice hotel Bayt Zamaria of Aleppo, but both were in that nice yellow ´Jerusalem stone´. Day 7 was first for Seydnaya, at 1700 metre high a small town with 23 churches, one mosque and a great monastery devoted to saint Thecla. According to the legend she was a virgin in the year 250 or so, attacked by a Roman officer. But then the mountain above the place showed a rift where Thecla could hide and save her virginity and faith. Now it is a place of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims alike. We see here Paule amongst the pilgrims and Karel in the rift, imitating the old Roman officer.

Day 8 was again in Damascus, where we visited the National Museum but also the Qasr al Azemi, the palace of the Ottoman governor.

On day 9, extra time in Damascus we first made the pilgrimage to the tomb of Ibn al Arabi, the great mystic who lived at the same time as Meister Eckhart. It is a modest but lovely place, uphill Damascus.
Much more spectacular even was the tomb of Saida Zaynab, a huge Shi'ite sanctuary in the southern suburbs of Damascus, full with emotions, gold, blue tiles and crying people. Like in the Ummayad mosque (with the head of Hussayn) and at Ruqaya's tomb, and seeing Shi'ite people moving, walking, singing and hurting themselves in Damascus, here we realized how emotional and democratic Shi'ite devotion is.

Day 10 was devoted to a short visit to the great University (quite disappointing), the Sinan mosque (used to be the Army Museum, but quite nice) and the return back to Holland.

donderdag 9 september 2010

Burning the Qur'an? Indonesian experiences of more relaxed criticisms.

A minister of a small Protestant congregation in Florida wants to burn some 200 copies of the Qur'an later this week, Saturday 11 September. There are few supporters, many critics of this insane waste of paper. A symbolic act of protest against some people who live 14 centuries after the revelation of this sacred text?
This action reminded me of my farewell lecture at the Sunan Kalijaga Institute, now the State Islamic University of Yogyakarta, where I taught between 1984-8 after three years teaching at the sister institute in Jakarta. I discussed in this lecture the many writing of the Indian-Indonesian scholar Nuruddin ar-Raniri. He was Shaikhul Islam at the court of the Sultanate of Aceh between 1636-1643. I selected his discussion of Jesus in his many writings. He followed mainline Islamic thought, that sees Jesus as a major prophet, a servant of God, more specifically as Word of God and Messiah. But about Christians this scholar and politician (he was also minister of foreign affairs in the sultanate, thanks to his knowledge of languages) was sometimes very negative. In his book on the basic rules for Muslims, Siratul Mustaqim, still in use in some Acehnese Muslim schools, he puts the question how to do the ritual ablutions before prayer, when there is no water? Sand, textile can be used, but also paper. What about paper that has been used for writing? What to do when the stories of the Hindu Gods Rama and Indra have been put on that paper? What to do when the text of the Torah or the Gospel is on the paper? In these cases it is, according to Raniri, allowed to use the paper for ablutions, because the stories about Hindu Gods are of no use and Jews and Christians have falsified their scriptures. Only when the name Allah has been put on the paper, it cannot be used for ablutions.

The title of my farewell lecture was announced as Kitab Suci atau Kertas Toilet or "Word of God or Toilet Paper?" The publisher, IAIN Sunan Kalijaga Press printed 3000 copies and these were all sold. A nice image of toilet paper was in put on the cover. It was several times quoted in academic publications and discussed as an example of nuanced debates between Muslims and Christians: sometimes with humour, with satire, with arguments. I thank my old Islamic institute for giving me the opportunity to debate the relations in such a relaxed atmosphere and wish the Indonesian society a continuation of this free exchange of experiences and ideas. I always felt safe, inspired and stimulated while working and living with my family on the Jakarta and later the Yogyakarta campus.

zaterdag 4 september 2010

Ramadan Mubarak 1431/2010

Through this medium I want to congratulate all my readers with the start, observance and end of Ramadan 1431. May this practice help us to cleanse our bodies and mind, improve relations between people and between human beings and their creator.
We remember the compassionate love of Abraham, who was willing to give away anything he had, even to offer his beloved son, but finally was happy to slaughter a goat and to celebrate the festival with his family, friends and many other people, especially the poor. May this sacred period be a blessing for all of us.

While looking for cards for Ramadan on the internet and with friends, I found many images of nice mosques, most often the Haram of Mecca. But I decided to take an image of a mosque in Pakistan, region covered by a disastrous flood these days.

Besides this mosque in Pakistan you find here by contrast the work of the artist Kristof Kintera, designed for the building of the administration of the European Union in Brussels in 2009. He has an image of the Netherlands, also flooded and only mosques are still visible. As if the two enemies of our country: the old enemy of the water and the flood, besides the new one of 'islamization' are combined here.
We experience now the growing power of conservative politicians who use the fear for Islam as a means to attract attention. So, friends all over the world, join us in the fight against islamophobia! Mohon maaf lahir batin, forgive us out trespasses and enjoy Idul Fitr 4031!

donderdag 26 augustus 2010


'Ja mag het brood van de kinderen niet aan de honden geven' was het antwoord van Jezus op een vreemde vrouw (Kanaänitische) die genezing zocht voor haar moeder. De vrouw was niet op haar mondje gevallen: 'De honden eten toch ook de kruimels die van de tafel vallen' zei ze. Jezus vond het antwoord wel slim en genas de dochter. (Zie Marcus 7,24-30 of bij Mt 15)
Nee, dit gaat even niet over Wilders, stevig taalgebruik en vreemdelingenhaat in combinatie met lange haren. De tekst wordt ook nog wel eens gebruikt voor het afhouden van 'ongelovigen' of 'zondaars' van deelname aan communie bij heilige mis, avondmaal, of hoe het verder mag heten.
Volgens sommige kenners was de eucharistie zoiets als een bijeenkomst van Rotary of Lions Club: eerst een lezing, discussie, daarna een borrel met hapje. Serieus, maar ook wel gezelschap en in beperkte mate ook wel gastvrij voor nieuwkomers. Andere leiden het wel meer terug op het wat meer gesloten joodse sabbatmaal, waar strikter regels voor golden en nog gelden. Hoe dan ook, Paulus ging al stevig te keer tegen diegenen die zoveel dronken bij de rituele maaltijd dat ze er dronken van werden en dat mocht dus ook niet.
Onze oudste zoon stuurde ons de foto hierboven op, stevige herhaling van het nieuwste standpunt van het Vaticaan, waarbij zelfs brave protestanten en orthodoxen worden uitgesloten.

Tijdens onze reis door de Verenigde Staten kwamen we bij een katholieke kerk met dit bord. Binnenin zat de organist een deel te spelen van dat razend moeilijke Kunst der Fuge. Niet zo energiek als Glen Gould maar toch in die richting. En dan deze uitnodiging. Toch wat gastvrijer dan wat we bij die Spaanse kerk te zien krijgen!

zondag 22 augustus 2010

Indonesian Celebrations in the Netherlands

17 Augustus was not a very exciting day in the Netherlands: some Television programmes, most documentaries on the Dutch war, trying to regain Indonesian in the period 1945-9 with emphasis on the babies generated by Dutch soldiers. One documentary showed the difficulties of the older Dutch men to recognize to themselves and their close families that they had sexual contacts in Indonesia during the war and that they had a child there.
Another moving documentary was about old Indonesian ladies who had been used by the Japanese army as sex slaves or softly spoking as 'comfort girls' (troostmeisjes). The movie is on the internet http://www.hollanddoc.nl/nieuws/2010/juli/documentaire-over-troostmeisjes.html.
The new museum of Rotterdam, Kunsthal, has an exhibition with photographs of 50 ladies who once worked or were compelled to serve as sex slaves.

Yasuko Kobayashi (born 1954), specialist on Islam in Indonesia, arrived that morning in Leiden and together with her I visited the ceremony in The Hague, where the end of the Pacific War was commemorated. It was a very Dutch event: probably Yasuko was the only Japanese present (and no too visible as Japanese, only very clear in the end).

Most of the ceremony concentrated on the Dutch and Eurasian citizens and soldiers who were kept in concentration camps, their misery, the many casualties and the cruelty they experienced, but most of all the spirit and energy of the survivors who wanbted to start a new life afterwards. Very Dutch, indeed, and not much attention for the Indonesians, the majority who suffered most cruelly under Japanese occupation. But, what should we like to see: this was a Dutch ceremony. The Queen Beatrix, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was present, because it is a major celebration, 65 years after the end of that terrible war.

woensdag 9 juni 2010

Pela as a tool for reconciliation in Ambon? About Jesus as a/the Moluccan Ancestor and 36 hours making a difference between Christians and Muslims

On 8 June there was, after a short seminar on the present state of Muslim-Christian relations in Indonesia, the public defence of the dissertation by Rachel Iwamony on The Reconciliatory Power of Pela in Ambon. Iwamony (here on the right with left Eta Hendriks of the theological faculty of UKIM in Ambon). Iwamony starts with the powerless ideal of pela during the Maluku Wars of 1999-2005. This pre-Islamic and pre-Christian tool for reconciliation did not function any longer for several reasons. Main reasons are the rejection of pela rituals and myth by orthodox Muslims and Christians (who do not like to accept the special authority of ancestors, rejects drinking of sopi and other practies that are considered as pagan. A second reason for the weak position of pela is the fact that it has not grown with Maluku society, especially in Ambon where so many migrants from other regions have arrived since the 1960s. They are not integrated in this system.
Iwamony proposes that Jesus bee considered as Tete Manis as the great ancestor of the Moluccans. I have some questions about the Jewish identity for Jesus and how to combine it with a Moluccan passport? What about John Kennedy who stated in Berlin Ich bin ein Berliner? In Islam Abraham is seen as a Muslim: theological adopted parents?
Besides this theology of the Tete Manis, she discusses the ritual of mixing blood that was done by the ancestors before they drank small quantities of each other's blood as a token of their peace treaty. This should be seen as the token of Jesus as the ancestor, the crucified “who sacrificed himself in order to stop estrangement and enmity in the life of Moluccans.” (p. 138) Iwamony has sometimes very hopeful formulations. p. 168 sounds very unrealistic to me: “The joy the Tete Manis, the Crucified Christ, gives to the Moluccans goes beyond religious boundaries. Therefore, the Christians and Muslims can share their joy at religious events and celebrations.”
In the two theological chapters no Muslims are quoted and there was nowhere a reference to the firm Muslim conviction that Jesus did not die on the cross but was rescued (eventually the body of someone else was replaced instead of Jesus, Judas, Simon of Cyrene and Pontius Pilate as candidates). The Qur'an talks of 'raised', a terminology that we also find in the Gospel of John 7:39 about the glorification and also in Ch 12-17 where the whole process of the final days of Jesus are described as 'The Hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.' For Muslims this has been realised directly from the cross acording to Qur'an 4:158 They did not slay him: nay, God exalted (rafa'ahu) him unto himself'. In the common Christian tradition this occurred 36 hours later: after the short stay in the grave.
It was quite disappointing to me to see that in this dissertation, written as a theological effort to bring harmony between Christians and Muslims, no attention was paid to the Muslim ideas about Jesus.
This short reflection is not meant to solve this problem: after 14 centuries the debate will certainly continue. I only hope that both partners take each other serious and I regret that this dissertation did not go into the Muslim ideas in this respect.

Under the righteous but severe image of Reformed Theologian Abraham Kuyper, Moluccan leader Simon Ririhena congratulates Rachel Iwamony with the degree of Dr. Theol.

The last decade: some notes from an outsider about Muslim-Christian Relations in Indonesia

Left Dr. Margeretha Hendriks of the theological faculty of UKIM, right Rachel Iwamony and in the centre Kemerlien Ondang who is starting her own Ph.D. Research about the role of woman in the interreligious discourse in Indonesia.

This is the text of an introduction presented on 8 June 2010, at the occasion of the public defense of the thesis on Pela as a Reconciliatory Power at the Free University of Amsterdam, by Rachel Iwamony.

This short presentation will cover first some national debates, Jakarta-centered. Then I move to Makassar and finally to Manado.

What are relations? Between whom should we discuss inter-religious relations? In the real daily debate about religious pluralism in society, the internal relations within the great global religions are as important as the external relations. The two discourses are very much related and I will start with some recent debates among Muslims in Indonesia about religious plurality.


In 2005 the young Indonesian Muslim Noorhaidi defended a doctoral dissertation in Utrecht on Laskar Jihad with a quite surprising conclusion: one of the main reasons for Jafar Umat Thalib to start the jihad as a training in Java and as an active force in the Moluccas was not the hatred towards Christians or fear for Christianization but the rivalry among various orthodox or salafi movements. Jafar Umar Thalib was a rather unimportant figure within the broad Wahhabi movement. He could gain prominence through the organization of the jihad. This is not the full explanation of the Moluccan wars: local troubles between villages and between religious denominations, national politics and also the international movement towards the strengthening of orthodoxy and the role of religion were important too. But this aspect of internal rivalry within Islam cannot be neglected. Gilles Kepel has interpreted the recent worldwide clash of religions as Fitnah, Guerre au Coeur de l’Islam or in the English translation of his book of 2004: The War for Muslim Minds. Not a clash between Islam and the (Christian) West, but basically an internal struggle within Islam with some very unpleasant effects for non-Muslims.

This is also the important trend in the 11 Fatwa issued by the MUI, Majelis Ulama Indonesia on 29 July 2005. There is a somewhat liberal trend in some decisions in this series of ethical decisions. International copyright is recognised and so property rights for computer programmes and international movies of the Western world. Social welfare is defined as a Muslim value too. But pluralism is rejected, as well as inter-religious prayers and inter-religious marriage. The MUI wants some kind of apartheid, separation of the religious communities, perhaps comparable to communalism in modern India.

In 2009 the last book by Abdurrahman Wahid and Syafii Ma’arif was published: Ilusi Negara Islam. This book depicts the idea of an Islamic State as a dangerous illusion, threatening the centuries-old tolerant Islam of Indonesia. The book, partly inspired and financed by a rich American adventurer C. Holland Taylor and his LibForAll Foundation, talks about the aggressive infiltration of agents of intolerant Wahhabi-style Islam in Indonesian mosques and religious schools, financed by foreign funds from the Middle East. However, it describes only a symptom of the internal struggle in the Muslim world itself, where the western and Christian ‘other’ is always present in the definition of the modern Muslim self, whether it is a open or closed personality.

We can see the same development in the modern legal debate in Indonesia. In the last decade there were at least three national cultural debates. In 2003 a new law on national education was introduced that virtually prevented dialogue: all children have to be educated along their own religious tradition. This means separation of children on a religious basis. In 2008 there was the debate about pornography, that had very vague definitions about the subject but threatens the pluriformity and variety of art, culture and local variations. Balinese dances and Papua traditional dress of the koteka or penis sheath are under discussion. In 2010 and so very recently, we have seen the approval of the blasphemy law by the Constitutional Court. The Muslim establishment uses the prohibitions against blasphemy, heresy, and deviance to persecute religious minorities and unorthodox sects. It is another step in the internal debate of the Muslim community to restrict pluralism and promote strict orthodoxy.

And on the Christian side? We see similar developments, but with some distinctive characteristics. Also on the Christian side religion receives much more attention. But here the tendency is towards many different organizations. The vast metropolis of Jakarta alone counts more than 300 different denominations. Some evangelical and charismatic movements are happy with hiring place in hotels or public meeting halls. Others want a church building of their own as an expression of their identity. Mujiburrahman, a lecturer at the Banjarmasin Institute of Islamic Studies wrote a doctoral dissertation under the title Feeling Threatened. Muslims are afraid that they will lose members to Kristenisasi, Christian mission. But Christians are afraid that they will lose individual freedom of religion. Christians and Muslims play a game in the same field, but with different goals and rules.


In the period 1945-50 the Grote Oost or the Great East State was one of the four states of what the Dutch planned as the United States of Indonesia with Makassar as the eastern capital. Besides Sumatra, Java and Borneo, the Great East State should be quite independent. This was strongly promoted by the Christians who dreamed of much influence in this region. The Great East was a failure like the idea of a federal state in general. On 17th August 1950 the United Republic of Indonesia was promulgated.
After the long regimes of Soekarno and Soeharto, the new decentralization of Indonesia started with the independence of East Timor in 1999. Many Muslims saw this separatism of the Catholic Eastern province as a Christian attack on the unitary Indonesian state. Papua separatism, then Ambon or more general Maluku wars followed (also seen as a strategy to clean the Moluccas from Muslims). The disintegration of East Indonesia was seen as a Christian complot against Islam. In the West Aceh was allowed to proclaim implementation of shari’a, while the Christians of Manokwari proclaimed their capital as kota Injil, the city of the gospel.
Makassar in fact was always a majority Muslim city. Former vice-president Jusuf Kalla returned to Makassar in 2009. He is blamed or praised for making Makassar and many small towns in the Toraja region more Islamic. Some hope that he will restore the dream of the Great East as a more or less independent part of Indonesia, but now more Islamic.

Prof. Martien Brinkman, Corrie van der Ven, Auke Hoekema and Simon Ririhena.


Religion is an important identifier in Indonesia. Besides sex, ethnicity, religion is probably the most important and certainly an inevitable marker of one’s identity. The same is true for Minahasa. A GMIM identity, or being a member of the Reformed Minahasa Church, is to be a member of the majority denomination. Muslims, Catholics, Adventists and Pentecostals are a minority, but all of them growing. Some people are fearing for Menado: it has now only a 60% Christian identity, with increasing Muslim presence. When in 1999 the Ambonese civil war started, many refugees came to Minahasa (also from Ternate and other sections of Halmahera). There were Protestant and also some Catholic militias who wanted to fight back. This did not happen.
In 2002, as an act of gratitude because the inter-religious wars had not disturbed Minahasa, a former governor started the building of an exceptional place of pilgrimage, Gunung Kasih or the Mountain of Love. Amidst a stunning nature reserve, a steep hill with many volcanic outbursts, a way of the cross with fourteen stations was build. On top a plateau was decorated with a common room and a row of five place of worship: from left to right a Catholic Church, a Buddhist and a Hindu shrine, a mosque and a Protestant church. Standing next to each other as a monumental act of grace to God that interreligious harmony was kept in this region and not disturbed through militant groups as elsewhere in the region.
This is the lovely and friendly face of ancient and modern Indonesia: a free place for all religions. The Minahasan people are sometimes criticised for being addicted to ceremonies, festivals, spending so much to celebrate community and harmony. They are blamed for being playful, loving splendid shows and games. From what I experienced of Indonesia during the last decade, this was the most creative and inspiring celebration of religious pluralism. Thank you, Kemerlien Ondang for showing me this, last year! Thank you Minahasa for this grand scenario for our interreligious match. Let it be and remain so! Amin, Alhamdulillah!
Ilusi Negera Islam: See http://www.indonesiamatters.com/5453/ilusi-negara-islam/
Feeling Threatened by Mujiburrahman http://igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/dissertations/2006-0915-201013/index.htm
Noorhaidi's dissertation is available at https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/1887/13369/1/Dissertation+Noorhaidi.pdf.

zaterdag 22 mei 2010

Blasphemy, humour vs cynism, cartoons

The debate about religion was rather calm in the first decades of Soeharto's Orde Baru, but became hotter in the 1990s and has continued since then. The expectation that the second presidency of Yudhoyono would be a calmer period has not been fulfilled. In April the Constitutional Court has accepted the wordings of the anti-blasphemny law (Undang-undang penodaan agama. This law not only wants to regulate blasphemy of God and recognised religions, but also gives the state the authority to ban heresies. So, some kind of state inquisition? Some fear that freedom of religion will be restricted further. This law has been the legal ground for the ban on Ahmadiyyah in Indonesia.

Azyumardi Azra was not happy with the verdict but said to Jakarta Post on 21 April, “Now that the court has decided to uphold the law, what we can do is to ensure fair trials for them.” Judges, he added, had to be given guidance on what constitutes a blasphemous or heretical act. “This is even more important considering many of our judges are conservative [in their ways of thinking],” he added. Azra said he believed there were legislators at the House who share concerns for religious tolerance and maintaining the country’s pluralism. “We should start with them,” he said, adding the Religious Affairs Ministry could not be relied on to initiate the expected revision.

A new case is now the fatwa against the South African cartoon, portraying the prophet Muhammad on a sofa at a psychiater, complaining that he has a congregation that has 'no sense of humour'. Azyumardi again gave a comment to the Jakarta Post: Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra dismissed the notion that the recurrent collision of values between the liberals and the Muslim world underlined the failure of the many interfaith dialogues held by the two sides to ease conflict. “This only shows that we need more dialogue.”

Is there indeed a lack of sense of humour with Muslims? In the Netherlands the convert Abdulwahid van Bommel has written a book on this subject: Valt er nog wat te lachen met die moslims? (Amsterdam: Bulaaq 2007: "Can we still laugh together with Muslims?") Van Bommel shows cartoons and tells stories about Hoja Nasruddin, the famous Turkish joker with his aphorisms and practical jokes full of wisdom.

Just one story: Nobody paid attention to Hoja Nasruddin at the feast where he was invited and he attended in his casual clothings. So Hoja ran home and put on his fur and came back to the house where the feast took place. They invited him to the seat of honour and treated him with much respect. When the table was set, they offered the best place to Nasruddin. The Hoja, by plunging the collar of his fur into the soup bowl, started saying: 'Here, Eat, my fur, eat!'' Upon the questioning of surprised people, he answered: 'The hospitality is to the fur, so it deserves the meal.'

Van Bommel is now busy, translating the Masnawi by Jalaluddin Rumi into Dutch. Also here many lighthearted verses are mixed with wise and more serious admonitions.

Quite recently we visited the Kröller-Muller Museum for Modern in the nature reserve, Hoge Veluwe. There I took a picture of my sister in law, standing for a piece of art. Isn't she pretty? Now she looks like a saint, or even the host in a monstrans, as was used during the evening adoration in our Catholic churches. Is this humour or cynism? Truly believing people always know that religious symbolism is just the material, earthly style of religion and we should not exaggerate our veneration for these earthly expressions. The Wahhabi rulers, after conquering the city of Medina in 1925 or somewhat later. They started even to demolish the grave of the Prophet Muhammad, for fear that people should venerate him too much. The action took the life of one of the workers when a big stone fell of the building in a first attempt to destroy this great mosque. And now? Even a clumsy cartoon causes much trouble!

maandag 17 mei 2010

Franciscan Spirituality in Indonesia

Recently four books were published about Franciscan Friars in Indonesia.
The first published was Eddy Kristiyanto, Khresna mencari raga. Mengenang Kehadiran Fransiskan (di) Indonesia (Yogyakarta: Lamalera, 2009. The 756 pages of the book present 70 documents in Indonesian, but also Latin, Dutch or English (part 3). A first part discusses the older history intil 1929. The central second part is about Franciscan Friars between 1929-2009 (but not the Capuchin Friars, nor the many sisters with a Franciscan spirituality. Because the Saint Michael Custody does not include the great Papua section, only short references to that history are made (some stories about Leo Laba Ladjar, now bishop of Jayapura). This quite loosely written book with nice anecdotes, much institutional history, concentrates on the internal history of the Franciscans. The title can be read as: the divine Krishna seeks a concrete body. In Sndanese (and Javanese) popular stories the great text of Mahabharata is retold and here Krishna is a vir dei, a 'man of God' like Sant Francis (introduction:liv-lvi).

While reading in this book a see Romo Eddy as a joyful, selfconfident, and well educated successor to Saint Francis, able to speak to the academic world and to common people as well.
In this period I received through the kind help of Bishop Jan de Kok, the Dutch text of the history of the Javanese Franciscans by Anton Baan. It was written in Dutch as Nederlandse Minderbroeders in Indonesië, 1929-1983 in 1998 and was translated into Indonesian in 2004. Kristiyanto quotes Baan only 13 times (against Steenbrink's Orang-orasng Katolik di indonesia 10 times, while the last book only presents the history until 1942. He has the much looser style. A nice word is on page 165: kaplingisasi as a criticism of dividing the Indonesian territory into districts for different religious orders.

The third book is by Jan Sloot, Hoe God verscheen in Papoea. Nederlandse franciscanen in Papoea, 1937-1987 (Nijmegen:Valkhof Pers, 2010, 416). It was presented in a festive meeting in Alverna, close to Nijmegen, on 29 April 2010. Jan Sloot was three decades (1954 tot 1985) a member of the Franciscan order, worked between 1961-7 in Japan. He was asked to write this book. After thorough research in the very rich archives and a trip to the region with its great contrasts (coast, Paniai Lakes, Balim Valley, southern region of Agats). It has to be regretted that the book (like all publications discussed here) do not present the last decades: it halts in the 1980s.

The last book is by Frans Lieshout, born in 1935 and since 1964 a missionary in Indonesian Papua. His book about the small but quite densely populated Balim Valley is written for the local population: with many small details of villages, families, extended versions of local myths, quite a few words in Balim language like honai for a recemonial place, kain for a chief. There is a long story about teacher Agustinus Kabes (from Fak-Fak), killed by someone from Balim and now seen as the first martyr of the mission (131-150).
While reading this local history I wonder how much I still have to read before I will start writing a much more distant and shorter history of this part of Catholics in Indonesia, 1945-2010?

dinsdag 13 april 2010

Utrecht Archives Seminar 1: Celebrating the Transition of Missionary Documents to State Archives

Some people state that writing history is more or less equivalent to a ceremonial closing of an epoch. That was somewhat my feeling at the lovely seminar on 8th and 9th Aprilm2010 in Utrecht where the vast collection of archives from the oldest Protestant missionary societies in the Netherlands (with the exception of the Moravians), were formally handed over to the State Archives in Utrecht. This feeling of an epoch that is over and has become past, is very strong with me and Paule when we work in Sint Agatha, the heritage center of the Catholic religious orders of the Netherlands in Cuyk. Out of the 150 existing religious orders some 90 have already put their archives in Sint Agatha. Their members are now mostly over 70 years old and young candidates are absent. Sint Agatha therefore has the atmosphere of a storage of past pride, beautiful but gone.
The conference in Utrecht was somewhat different, probably through the presence of so many participants from Indonesia and some other regions where Dutch missionaries had been active: South Africa, Ghana, Egypt. They discussed how they could use these archives for the study of their churches and their identity. With quite a few young scholars present it was not only a celebration of the past but also a search for a future of the meaning of this work.

Mission administrator Huub Lems (himself also for a long period active as a missionary in Sulawesi) was the efficient promotor of this event where some 15 papers were presented. On the one side there was a three volume inventory of the archive, an introduction to the history of the corporations that finally produced this immense amount of paper (350 meters of shelves!), but there was also a lively discussion about the function and future of this work.

It was all work in progress and even the cedremony of taking a picture of the whole group was not so formal as usual. But this impression will last!

Utrecht Archives Seminar 2: Starters and Established Authorities

The conference began on Thursday 8 April 2010 with young scholars. Mrs Sylvana Ranti-Apitulei of the Theological School of Jakarta could not come (illness) and instead we had a first paper by Steve Gaspersz of Ambon who writes a dissertation on the burger the middle class of Ambon society, descendants of slaves, but now most working as teachers, journalists, government officials.

Mrs. Sientje Loupatty-Latuputty presented her plans to write a dissertation about the Christian Churches in Indonesian Papua, concentrating on the last decades when the churches were not only active in the traditional fields of education and health care, but also took responsibilities in the field of agriculture, transport, and more development plans (in cooperation with international NGOs) and also entered politics as defenders of human rights (without supporting the radical movements for independence of Papua). She presented an impressive list of publications on the history of Papua Christian in the 20th century. Mrs Loupatty wants to see the study of history as a stimulus for the social relevance of the Christian churches in her region.

Not all participants presented their paper. Rev. Yuda Deferset Hawu Haba only gave his paper in a written form. He wrote a Master's Thesis in the island of Sawu, searching not for the results of the Christian mission, but for the continuation of traditional religion. So to say, looking for aspects of life where Christianity was not successful and where old traditions had continued. Most of these are related to the important moments of life: rituals at child birth, marriage, death, but also at planting and harvest. He is still thinking about further research for a doctoral dissertation.

Mrs. Dalia Alfred Riad Hanna was one of the handful of foreign participants who had no relation with Indonesia. She teaches at the American University of Cairo and is member of an evangelical church that started with the Dutch mission in Cairo in the beginning of the 19th century. That activity started in a Reformed even Calvinistic mood, but has now turned into more evangelical spirit. The first thing Mrs. Hanna told me was the strong rumour that more than five million Egyptians and other North Africans had embraced Christianity and considered Christ as their Saviour, but they remain hidden because of fear for the effects of their conversion in the Muslim society.

There were wonderful presentations about internet presentations of this history. Mrs Barbara Frey Näf gave amazing examples of the very rich collection of photographs that are now put on the internet and can be found through http://bmpix.org/bmpix/controller/index.htm. The example shown above is a picture of a mosque in West Africa, with the muezzin visible halfway the roof of this simple mosque.
Also for documents the Baseler Mission (now under the name Mission 21) is very friendly for researchers. They will put any document on the internet within two weeks after a request: see www.mission-21.org/archiv for more information. Tom van den End revealed that the Dutch Mission Archied of the Raad voor de Zending cover 350 linear meters, more or less the same size as the London Missionary Society. Basel stands out with 1,500 shelf meters.
Another programme that is very active on the internet is a documentation cen tre on the Papua Cultural Heritage PACE or Stichting Papua Cultureel Erfgoed. See for this www.papuaerfgoed.org.

The historian who has done most for the Archives of the Mission Council of the Dutch Reformed Church is definitely Thomas van den End. After working in Indonesia during the 1970s, he started in the 1980s a programme for the publication of missionary documents, (seconded by Chris de Jong and some others) and he wrote many of the entries for the present inventory of the archive as it is found in Utrecht. Therefore he is mentioned here as the first of the established authorities present (Aritonang will be mentioned in another entry here).

maandag 12 april 2010

Utrecht Archives Seminar 3: Dr. Mufti Ali a Muslim with interest in Christian Mission

Mufti Ali is a lecturer in Arabic, especially for text reading of philosophy and mysticism (Al Ghazali) at the Islamic Academy of Banten. He joined a postgraduate programme in the Netherlands and wrote a doctoral dissertation on Christian Mission in West Java, based on a combination of Dutch archival sources and interviews and oral tradition in West Java. He has also a position at the Bantenologi the Institute for the Study of the Culture of Banten.

Banten was one of the regions of colonial Indonesia where Christian mission was not allowed (besides Aceh, Minangkabau and Bali). Nevertheless there were some conversions: in the early 18th century a princess was executed because she had embraced Christianity (1704). In the 19th century (about 1892) the Anthing missionaries made some converts and later women of Banten married policemen from Ambon and Minahasa. The book by Mufti Ali will be discussed by the MUI, Majelis Ulama Indonesia, the Indonesian High Council of Muslim Scholars, usually a body that strongly opposes efforts for conversion. However, Mufti Ali, looks at the modest number of conversions with an academic and quite sober perception: if people live together and communicate changes of religion must be accepted as quite normal events.

Utrecht Archives Seminar 4: History as a Celebration of the Highlights of the Past

Quite a few people complain or are positive about Indonesian and their relaxed attitude towards the past. When I came in March 1970 for the first time to Indonesia as a Ph.D. field researcher, I wondered why so few Indonesian did not bother about the colonial past and welcomed me, although I was a child of the colonizing nation. Also after the cruel 1965-6 massacres there seemed to be no long feelings of hatred. People keep silent about the past.
Yusak Soleiman, the brilliant young scholar, with a good command of Dutch sources and ability to read even the obscure VOC sources, said quite bluntly that for modern Indonesian the only reason to start the study of History is to find a reason to celebrate. Indonesian want to know the exact birth date of something or someone. They write books to honour someone at his or her 65th, 70th or 80th birthday. The like the HUT celebration, Hari Ulang Tahun or anniversary. When is the start of a new church? In the year of the first baptism of a local Christian? The first meeting of a church council? In Indonesia Christians are crazy about history with regards of who, how, and what was the first one. Our parishioners used to think that history is good occasionally. With more churches equipped with LCD projectors and big screen, they love to see some pictures and they celebrate the past..

Preceding the conference, Yusak Soleiman was invited for dinner in the Steenbrink house. Here with Mrs. Paule Steenbrink

However, with three church historians (Aritonang, Soleiman and Sylvana Apituley) the Jakarta Theological School STT Jalan Proklamasi as quite well equiped to do more. They started a Documentation Centre for the Study of Indonesian Church History, to store, but most of all to study the history of Indonesian Christians as part of the formation of their own distinct identity. For Soleiman this history (already since 1522) is a long pilgrimage with many episodes that ought to be retained in the collective memory of Indonesian Christians.
Yusak made 19 points for 19 issues or periods as an agenda for the future work of Indonesian and other historians.

Utrecht Archives Seminar 5: Jan Aritonang and Klippies Kritzinger between theology and strategy of missions

My fifth impression concerning the seminar of 10-11 April 2010 is about Jan Aritonang and Klippies Kritzinger. Jan is the éminence grise, the Godfather of Church Historians in Indonesia. Johannes 'Klippies' Kritzinger is a senior theologian of UNISA, the University of South Africa.

I remember Klippies from several meetings of IAMS, the International Association of Mission Studies as a concerned theologian of South Africa. He read a nice paper Using Archives Missiologically, stating that truly mission is about God´s mission not the expansion of a religious multinational. True mission is about Reconciliation, Evangelism, Healing, Justice, Earthkeeping. It is Praxis of the Gospel, interpreting the tradition, contextual understanding en ecclesial scrutiny. He had a nice case study from another source (Klippies never worked in the archives himself) about a Khoikhoi leader, Jan Paerl (1761-1851), who started as a millenarian prophet, was brought to prison, and became a rather tame but convinced Moravian and ended his life as a contemplative recluse at Genadendal. Klippies concentrated on spirituality, without forgetting social and political change. Religious history should not be a footnote to secular history. The best examples are so far-reaching!

Jan Aritonang, ING researcher Gerrit de Graaf and Johannes ´Klippies´ Kritzinger

Jan Aritonang had a difficult agenda for the next generation of church historians. The basic points:
1. Limitedness of written resources: Not many of the churches have and maintain or preserve their primary resources. If we visit central or synod office of the churches, even the big ones like HKBP and GPdI, we hardly find archive or documentation unit that that keeps the archive properly. It seems that many of the churches or Christians in Indonesia do not have historical consciousness and appreciation to the high value of archive. Consequently, a lot of historical writings are not supported by sufficient primary resources; they are more based on secondary resources or memory and interpretation of the writers and the correspondents.
2. Reluctance to release: Related to this, there are many persons or families (or maybe local congregations, too) keep documents or materials from the past for themselves, but they do not maintain or preserve this precious treasure. When we offer a facility to keep it in a documentation or archive center, not many of them are willing to hand over.
3. Lack of skill and expertise: In certain churches we can find - although quite limited -collection of primary resources from the old period, like in some parishes or local congregations in Moluccas, Minahasa and Timor. But very few churches – even in synod or national level – have skilled staffs – let alone experts – to work on the resources. They also don’t have ability to identify which documents have historical and theological values.
4. Connected to this is a rather technical problem, i.e. language competency. Many of the resources form Indonesian are in foreign languages, esp. Dutch and German, and even the old version. Less and less of Indonesian students and scholars can read and understand these languages. On the other side there are some scholars that have capability in these languages, but they don’t have enough knowledge in mission and church history.
5. A lot of writings are filled with stories of the ‘power-holders’ (bishops, pastors, teachers and other officers); quite seldom we see or read the role and struggle of the members or the lay persons, including women (moreover in the churches among the paternalistic society) as if the history of the church is merely the history of the popes or the clerus. Consequently, many of the writings become a sort of hagiography.
6. Quite a few writings are also equipped with social-political-economic-cultural analysis of the context, as if each church has its own world, separated from the so-called ‘secular’ world. Consequently, many observers find the churches as aliens or exclusive communities.

maandag 4 januari 2010

M@M in Conflict in Culemborg. Moluccans and Moroccans

In the small town Culemborg in the rural central region of the Netherlands, commonly called 'between the rivers', a small community of Moluccan people live in Diepenbrochstraat. There is a much larger group of people of Moroccan offspring, some sources even mention 20% out of a population of 27,000. Since 1993 there have been some clashes between small groups of Moroccan and Moluccan youth gangs.
In early September 2009 there were conflicts, about a damaged car. Earlier about two Moroccan children who were removed from a playing ground. Stones were thrown in houses. New Year's night 2009-2010 a group of five Moroccan attacked a Moluccan house, driving backward while some people were standing in front of the house. The fence before the house was damaged. Two Morrocan youth were taken out of the car and seriously hit by the Moluccan men, before police arrived.
Also on 2 January 2010 there were riots between the two groups. Stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown to houses, but no serious damages other than broken windows occurred. Special police forces now are in the region.
One comparison with the Moluccan wars 1999-2004 van be made in this respect: the weak position of religious leaders. Police had asked mosque leadership to convince the youth to refrain form these actions, but they had no influence at all.
Major goal of violence was the restoration of prestige. Expression of a culture of shame or at least a culture where people do like be proud of their influence and power albeit in a very small circle.

Above the very modest Moluccan Patasiwa Patalima Centre of Culemborg. The Geredja Maluku is somewhat better but also needs restoration. There are plan to build a new church and attach apartments for older people. The Moluccan group has many older people who want to stay in the own environment.