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.