maandag 12 april 2010

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.

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