maandag 12 april 2010

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.

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