donderdag 30 augustus 2012

Hilman Latief on Islamic Charities

Today, 29 August 2012, we celebrated the doctoral examination of Hilman Latief in Utrecht. The cover of his dissertation shows PKO Muhammadiyah (Penolong Kesengsaraan Oemoem)  or charity organization of Muhammadiyah at a rice distribution, probably in the 1920s or 1930s.
This is a very rich dissertation: many facts, especially from the last 15 years, suggestions for various interpretations, personal observations. The book has a large number of organizations: Muhammadiyah, Nahdlatul Ulama, Persis, DDII as the older ones, but many recent developments. After the introductory and more general chapters, chapter 4 concentrates on health centres for poor people, many institutions while Muhammadiyah Hospitals and clinics still are the leading ones. Chapter 5 is on activists  defending women's rights. Chapter 6 is the result of fieldwork in Nias, where some muballigh or da'i from outside the island have settled and concentrate on activities in mosques and small prayer houses, instructing children how to pray. Chapter 7 is on the attention given by Indonesian Muslims to international affairs, like war in Afghanistan, occupation of Palestine. Chapter 8 has some general conclusions.

 One conclusion was challenged by Birgitte Meyer at the oral examination. On p. 312-3 it is stated that traditionally zakat is given from person to person. Nowadays even rich people donate some 5-10.000 Rupiah to poor people who line up by hundreds. When charity is given through organizations and not through individual benefactors directly it is neutral: not an imbalance between giver and receiver. 'It is within this context that charitable associations, in the form of collective action, can diminish this psychological dimension.'  This sentence is not absolutely clear, but it wants to explain that people will feel easier and free to apply here. This is what happened in the Dutch system when in the 1960s poor people received the right for government allowances. The same is, however, not the case with Muslim organizations. Latief even gave a nice example of Muslim charities that distributed rice to people, but women had to use the veil at the process of application. Some of these women immediately after receiving their share, took of the veil! Also here there is not true reciprocity between giver and receiver!

I concentrated on chapter 6 in my questions. The majority of people in Nias are Protestant, some 25% are Catholic and few are Muslim. This was the reason for sending Muslim missionaries to the island. It was not a competition between various organizations, but I had the idea that here the 'giver' took the decisions, not the Muslims of Nias themselves. A first preacher was some Qaimuddin , probably born about 1970 in Flores. In the 1980s he was in Bangil for the pesantren or Muslim school of PERSIS. He had a career as preacher in many places: 1. in Ampah (Central Kalimantan); 2. Raha (Sulawesi Tenggara), with a local foundation for one year; 3. with asistance of PERSIS he helped muallaf in Flores for 2 years and 3 years financed by a Quwaiti foundation. 4. Then he was in Buleleng, North Bali with a Muhammadiyah organization; 5. Again in Flores he was involved in politics and even received a seat in the local parliament for PBB, a Muslim party during the 1999 elections, but he did not take his seat, rather moved to 6. a freelance position in Jakarta and finally 7. to Nias for a proghramme of AAP, Al Azhar Peduli. (Latief 235-7)
These preachers only receive a low salary, stay often in a room attached to a local masjid. Their education is not fit for development work, because their education concentrates on Arabic and Quranic Studies. They like Islamic Banking, but another informant for Latief was a member of the Catholic Credit Union in Nias, because there was no money for things other than dakwah or direct preaching.  On page 252 the charity is defined as "Progress in this region means the ability to provide local people with wider access to education, particularly Islamic education." In fact often not much more than chanting the Qur'an.

donderdag 16 augustus 2012

Rolf Reichenbach 1911-2004, Charismatic Catholic priest in Indonesia

It is a quite significant turn: from a biography of Soegijapranata to that of the German-born, Dutch-educated priest Rolf Reichenbach and his development in Indonesia. But it may also be a summary of some developments among Indonesian Catholicism, from a true nationalist to a proponent of the more individualist charismatic movement!

The reason for writing this message about him is the book by Anastasia Filika, Rolf Reichenbach, Pelayan yang rendah hati, Batam: SSCC Indonesia Publishing House. SSCC stands for Sacrorum Cordium, the Catholic order Priests and Sisters of the Sacred  Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Filika (bron Belinyu in Bangka, 1970) holds a BA in Indonesian Studies from the Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta and teaches in a High School in Bangka.
Rolf Reichenbach was born as the third son in a Jewish-Catholic family in Cologne, in 1931. Because of the attacks to Jewish possessions and person in the 1930s the family moved to the Netherlands in 1939. The father moved to the UK where he died in January 1946 from an heart attack. The three boys all studied theology and entered the priesthood. Klaus was a diocesan priest in Cologne and could later send much money to his younger brother in Indonesia. Hans was a missionary to Indonesia, but had to return in the early 1960s to the Netherlands. Rolf was like his brother Hans a  member of the SSCC. He came in late 1959 in the diocese of Pangkalpinang and worked as a parish priest in the island of Belitung and even longer in Tanjung Pinang, close to Singapore. His parish was a diaspora church of mostly Chinese Catholics. He studied therefore Hakka Chinese and is several times in the book for his ability to speak that language in a fluent way. Filika does not tell much about her sources, but apparently she had access to the letters sent to the mother, but also to the two brothers Hans and Klaus and she gives a nice reconstruction of  a priest in this region where Malay Muslims and Chinese people have live together for already more than a century. The Malay fishers and farmers, with the Chinese workers in the tin mines. This was the time of the changes of Vatican II in the Catholic Church. Not much sensational can be heard of its, but the personal irenic mentality of Rolf was strengthened by the new openness. On page 61 she writes about 1964 that "A young Arab physician was really very helpful for poor people. He became a good friend of Father Rolf in giving assistance to poor people." On p. 54 she had written already that his brother Hans started his medical problems with an accident driving his scooter on his way to a celebration of Maulud Nabi, the Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. On page 62 we find a note about the first Natal bersama or ecumenical celebration of Christmas in this region.In the later sections of the book we find some general phrases about sympathy for Pentecostal Churches, but no concrete descriptions of common prayer events.
Pages 67-88 has a number of quotes from the magazine PELITA, Penerangan Katolik Tanjungpinang, short spiritual but also educational columns for his parishioners. Much is about educating children, but quite a few are also suggestions for frequent prayer and the support and consolation for these practices. One writing ia about Iner-religious Dialogue in the style of a debate between a man, his wife and thepriest. The woman does not like the idea, because her friend says that all religions are the same and she wants to remain Catholic. The priests fins a solution by stating that the differences between religions will remain, but also that it is good when leaders pray together, tal together about common problems, because "likes cooperation, brotherhood and universal love". (87).
In 1975 in the diocese of Pangkalpinang a new problem started: the arrival of ten thousands of boat refugees from Vietnam, espcially on the island of Galang. Reichenbach went often to the island. Later he was assisted by two French MEP Priests who had to leave Vietnam, but spoke the language and could give pastoral assistance in Indonesia.
In 1977 he became Vicar of the Bishop of Pangkalpinang and from 1979 until  1988 Apostolic Administrator of the diocese. He had to look for an Indonesian bishop and finally found the Flores SVD priest Hilarius Moa Nurak. From 1988-1991 he was the SSCC superior for Indonesia. But after that year he returned to the duty of parish priest and more and more concentrated on local and even national propagation for a charismatic spirituality. Page 132 describes how he attended in 1989 a seminar of Hidup Baru (New Life in the Spirit), led by the diocesan priest (Semarang) Gabriel Notobudoyo. [ Extra: a look to Notobudoyo on the Internet and found an amazing story at Mirificanet, 22 March 2006, where it is told that at a a well-known High School, SMU Pengudi Luhur , in Yogyakarta some 40 pupils and teachers had fainted  and behaved during four days as if they were possessed by an evil spirit, without clear reason. Priest Notobudoyo came there to say Mass and pray for the departure of the evil spirits. Praying the rosary is also a mighty weapon against the devil.]
From here the book has quite a few exciting stories about miracles, healings, groups that receive baptism in the spirit On page 128 one of the stories tells that Reichenbach came to a house for the bleesing of this place. There were hundreds of rats running int he house, but after a prayer with the exorcism of the evil spirits the situation came back to normal. A quite technical miracle happened when during a charismatic meeting the electricity fell down in a building, but the organ could continue playing!

Reichenbach was very active in many places to give retreats, held talks, also for many young groups and he could use this opportunity to seek more vocations for his own SSCC order. In the 1980s Reichenbach went to minor seminaries in Flores to seek candidates for the new Major Seminary in Bandung, but he now also could reach new candidates through meetings of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal as was the official name.
There were until 1993 no SSCC sisters in Indonesia, but three young women asked Reichenbach to start their initation. This story of told by Sister Anastasia Puji Hastuti SSCC (181-6; the last section of the book is a collection of some 50 personal memories of Rolf Reichenbach). They started with a period of discernment, then they became aspirants and later postulants. From time to time an American SSCC sister from Hawaii visited them. In 1996 out of the first three candidates only one started  the new international noviciate in Manila, together with one from India, one from Hawaii and one from the Philippines. In 1998 they started an SSCC house in Bandung : one sister from Indonesia, one from France and one from Hawaii. Not only the spread of Catholicism, but rather the continuation of a specific religious order was the main motor behind this international initiative. Of course we may make comparisons with the rivalry between the many streams of Indonesian Wahhabi groups, as described in Noorhaidi's doctoral dissertation on Lasykar Jihad. Not the kristenisi of Indonesia, but the survival of a religious order is here a main motive.

In the late 1990s Reichenbach became the regional supervisor of  BPN PKK, Badan Pelayanan Nasional Persekutuan (Doa) Karismatik Katolik. In 2002 he was nominated national supervisor, but soon after that his health declined with cancer of the skin and bones. After long suffering, trip to many hospitals in Singapore, Jakarta, Bandung and the Netherlands he died on 11 September 2004.

In October 2007 a long time sympathiser, Mrs. Fransisca Gazali visited his grave in the Netherlands, then still in Breda at the SSCC House in Bavel. When she heard that these graves had to be removed soon to a collective grave, she organised a reburial in Batam on 10 October 2008. His body was still in good condition when the coffin had been opened. It was miraculous!

dinsdag 14 augustus 2012

Ramadan 1433, Summer 2012, Mohon maaf, lahir batin

At the occasion of Laylatul Qadr, 25 or 27 Ramadan, and the celebration of Idul Fitr I express here the traditional: mohon maaf lahir batin, forgiveness for mistakes and things neglected. Let the cleansing of Ramadan be effective and give new spirit, new start. Especially for the humanitarian disaster in Syria, but also for the continuing depression in Europe, we hope for a new enthusiasm, openness  among people of different opinion.
In the near future (I heard per 8 September 2012) a new website will be opened: It will give the biblical and quranic texts of the major stories that the two communities share. Related to that occasion I was asked by initiator Marlies ter Borg to give some picture of the wayang Natalan, the images made by a Yogyakarta artist for the occasion of a Christmas play at the Islamic University, IAIN, (now UIN Sunan Kalijaga). The wayang figures were made in the later 1980s with the mediation of Dr. Abdurrahman (Wijyakusuma) my close colleague. The first here is, of course, the angel Gabriel/Jibril, in the Indonesian style with the wings not attached to the shoulders but to the ears.

Our second image is related to the story of Christmas. Left (below) we see the craddle with little baby Jesus and the star of Christmas, showing to the three royal visitors the road to Bethlehem.
Prof. Jan Peters once suggested that the hu of anzalnahu is not the Qur'an, but rather the angel Gabriel or God's  Spirit which was sent down with the message or even the reality of the coming of Jesus. God knows better!  But also Angelika Neuwirth in her newest commentary refers to a 'logos-theology', a theology of God's Word that is sent down several times in history. In the Dutch commentary that I wrote in the Dutch version of this blog I write that maybe an old Christian hymns was reused in the time of Muhammad to describe also this new relevation.

Then the virgin Mary herself: the Indonesian artist knew that he was making wayang images for a Western client and about some Western story. So Mary (like the angel Gabriel) here has no refined Indonesian features, but a quite rough but expressive face.
So let it be known and accepted that we always retell the basic stories of our religions in a style adapted to our own context and culture.
Selamat hary Raya Idul Fitr!

vrijdag 10 augustus 2012

Ayu Utami on Soegijapranata

Ayu Utami did not write much about the great religions in Bilangan Fu. There is the commemoration for the death/murder of the kepala adat, traditional leader Semar, attended by some 12 national figures, many of them from Jakarta: Goenawan Mohamad, Ulil Abshar Abdalla, Ibu Oka, Dawam Rajardjo, also two Jesuit priests: Magnis Suseno and Sindhunata. This is support for alternative spirituality from representatives of major religions (besides Goenawan Mohamad who is more a humanist than a prominent liberal religious leader).
Her last book was written at the request of a Catholic project: the movie with the life story of Albertus Soegijapranata (1896-1963), first Indonesian, nominated (arch)bishop of Semarang in 1940.
Out of the three pictures above, the one below is the ´real´ or ´original´Soegijapranata, above are two pictures from the movie.
The person representing Soegijapranata her is Nirwan Dewanto, a Muslim who defended his playing that this movie is a nice example of the ideal multiculturalism of Indonesia. In the movie Javanese, Indonesia, Latin, Dutch and Japanese is spoken and it shows the real past of the 940s in his country.
The movie is accompanied by several publications. Gramedia has published a book Soegija in Frames (together with Puskat, Pusat Kateketik, Yogyakarta) with numerous photographs from the shooting of the movie with the main elements of the story.
Jesuit priest and historian Budy Subanar published a book\Kilasan Kisah Soegijapranata (KPG: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia, 2012, 135 pages) with ten articles about Soegija.

I was most interested in the picture given by Ayu Utami, Soegija, 100% Indonesia also published by PGK, Jakarta 45 pages, with many pictures from the movie, but also uite a few from other sources. There are several drawings by Ayu Utami (in Bilangan Fu she included also many drawings).

The book does not start with the birth date of  Soegija (1896 or the same year as the arrival of Father Frans van Lith in Semarang, this coincidence is repeated several times), but rather with the year 1940 when the Jakarta bishop asked the Vatican to nominate a bishop especially for Central Java. It is not sure whether Willekens himself has proposed the name of Soegija. Maybe someone else suggested this name. 'The Vatican is a quite closed institution and full of mystery. We do not know exactly what happened there.' (15) Soegija was at that time the leading priest in the parish of Bintaran in Yogyakarta, whiloe a Dutch priest, Jesuit A. de Kuiper was his assistant in this parish and this proves that the Catholic Church is not racist, like much of the colonial society! Willekens was a handsome man, full of elegance, while Soegija was not so attractive, not full of humour, a small and serious man.
Governor Karel Orie of Surakarta was a prominent Catholic. After to ordination to bishop, 6 November 1940 in Semarang, Soegija came to Surakarta and at the frontier of the Residence this Catholic Governor kneeled before the Javanese bishop and kissed his ring. This was another sign that Catholicism could erase the Dutch racism (17)

In chapter 2 we go back to the year1919 when Soegija came to Europe for his first period of study (until 1926) in the Netherlands and also visited the city of Rome.He traveled by boat starting in Tanjung Priok. Ayu gives a picture of the architecture and society of Batavia in that period. Until 1900 there were very few European ladies in the colony and white Dutch officials and other workers in the colony 'made indigenous girls pregnant and so produced Eurasian or indo offspring' (23). This was no longer the case so often after 1900 when colonial society became more and more Dutch. The rest of this chapter is devoted to the study in the Netherlands (a cold country, Dutch people are not smiling so easily as Indonesians). She also gives some basic information about the Vatican and the Catholic Church in general (in the whole book one can feel the also non-Catholic readers are supposed as possible readers). On pages 32-33 she has a curious defence of celibacy: if we compare the Catholic Church with the human body, the lay faithful are the blood and flesh, but the clergy are the bones. Blood and flesh can multiply itself, but no so the bones: they are anorganic, although from organic origin. The priests therefore cannot multiply themselves! Also Soegija's second period of study in the Netherlands (1928-1931).
Chapter 3 even goes further back in time: Muntilan in 1909, where Soegija was accepted as a high school student (after a crash course of Dutch, needed for the teacher's training school that he wanted to follow). Van Lith is depicted as a truly devoted and loving priest who started the school in Muntilan, without the obligation that pupils should become Catholic. He made it even difficult for pupils who wanted to embrace Catholicism: they he to ask for permission from their parents. Soegija wants to understand the background of his teachers, also the complex ideas of their religion like the doctrine of the Trinity. Pages 54-5 gives two explanations for the Trinity, the idea of Thomas Aquinas comparing the three qualities coming from the sun: radiation, heat and light, while from Saint Augustine she quoted the limitations of human knowledge compared to divine science.

Chapter 4 has as its major theme his ordination to priesthood, amidst  the start of Indonesian nationalism. In the Netherlands he met for the first time Muhammad Hatta. Later he remained in contact with his classmate Ignacius Kasimo, leader of the Javanese and later Indonesian Catholic Party.
On page 85 she gives a picture of one of the stone carvings by the Sundanese artist Iko at the instructions of Joseph Schmutzer, showing the Trinity as three figures, right one with a cross (=Jesus) and in the centre the Father also with a beard, while the one without beard is on the left: a female figure as the Holy Spirit. This image is according to her forbidden by the church and now at a hidden place in the Vatican. I have seen this image once in a museum of the SVD Order in Steijl, teh Netherlands. It is also in the book she quotes by Schmutzer, but her the beardless (an female?) figure is in the middle. I thought, but am not sure, that there is also a copy of this image in the church of Ganjuran. In the book by Joseph Schmutzer and Jan J. ten Berge there are two images: the one below was carved  in teak or jati-wood and puts the Holy Spirit in the middle. This is no 5. The one reproduced in the Soegija-book is no 6 in the same book. We do not find a reference to the Spirit as female, and that may be an invention by Ayu Utami. What is the reason for the different place of 'Our Lady Trinity'?

Chapter 5 starts with the Japanese attack to Indonesia. In the position of the church towards National Socialism of Germany Pius XI is praised as a brave leader, but Pius XII as a man with cool eyes, full of diplomacy, without ant prophetic charisma. Soegija is pictured as someone like Pius XI, who defended the church ('in good contact with Japan, recognized by your emperor), but also all Indonesians against the brutality of the Japanese. Immediately after independence there was a fight between the beginning Indonesian army and the allied forces. Soegija was a mediator between the parties and could reach the peace on 20 October 1945 after the 'Fight of Five Days of Semarang'.
In 1946 he moved to Yogyakarta to show his support for the Republic. Here he was close to the leaders of the Indonesian Republic, although he stayed in the parish house of Bintaran. He remained in contact with Bishop Willekens by writing letters (Ayu adds for young people: in former times people could not send an SMS and used to write letters!). He was the first to introduce Javanese and Indonesian in parts of the Catholic liturgy, long before the Council of Vatican II.
Chapter 6 is about Vatican II, the council he attended in 1962. In 1963 he made a trip by boat to Europe for the council, because his doctors did not agree with a trip by plane. In the presence of Y.B. Mangunwijaya (then for study in Aachen, with Habibie) and another Indonesian priest he died.
Curious: Y.B. is according to Ayu Utami an acronym for Juliana Bernard, the Dutch royal couple that married in 1937. But Mangun was born in 1929!
There is not much in the book about the internal ecclesiastical affairs of Soegija, how he built his church, the training for priesthood. In fact the years 1950-1962 are more or less skipped her, like in the movie. But I liked reading the book very much. Thank you Ayu, also for this nice writing. And thank you, Kees de Jong, for sending me the three books!

donderdag 9 augustus 2012

Bilangan Fu by Ayu Utami

Ayu Utami was in the Netherlands in May 2012 to introduce her latest book, Bilangan Fu. In an interview she emphasised the three main parts of her book, summarising the three dangers of our time: Modernism, Monotheism and Militarism. Modernism has destroyed our naïve and innocent view of our world, annihilated our ability to see miracles. Monotheism has reduced the rich variety of spiritual ways to six only, the officially recognised international religions of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Catholicism and Protestantism. And these great global religions are especially damaging the rise and development of true spiritual life when they express themselves in a fundamentalist way. Militarism is presented in a somewhat nuanced way: not all military are bad people. They are very powerful and so it may be wise to seek the cooperation of good officers and try to do good things with them. This will not work always.
The central themes of the book are religion and mountain climbing: in one interview (with detikNews) Ayu Utami compared the two: both want to reach the summit. Both can be abused if they are not used in the right way, so there must be clean climbing.
In this book a group of mountain climbers is divided over the issue of ‘clean climbing’. Can you climb a mountain without hurting him/her with nails and other instruments that are needed to safeguard the climbers? Main character as the I person, the story-teller is Yudha, member of a group of urban people who like rock climbing in the Gunung Kidul Mountains of South Central Java. We meet a number of people of this region: the village head Pontiman Sutalip (just the inverse of Pilatus!) cooperate with the military who want to cut the fine jati trees and start mining that will pollute the environment. The great opponents in this process are the traditional cultural chief, called here Semar and some Suhubudi, leader of a distinct spiritual movement. His adopted son Parang Jati (found, without a father: with the treats of Jesus, but possibly to be identified with Peter, because his name means rock) supports his father in this process. Another ‘found’ son is Kupukupu (Butterfly), also called Farisi, because he looks like a Middle Eastern (Persian, Parsi?) man with his long white robe (also for Catholic priests?). In the Dutch translation by Maya Liem that I use, his name is written Farisi, for Pharisee? (354-355)

There is regularly a surrealistic being Sebul that is quite sexually exciting (Javanese for a powerful blowing; it is explained as an instrument of the Asmat people of Papua who play on some kind of flute that is called a fu). He/she explained the number fu in the strange formula: 1:a=1xa, but a is not similar to a. In an interview with detikNews Ayu Utami explains that monotheism started before the idea of zero was introduced in our cultures. So, we must create our critical monotheism or creative spirituality.
The saviour figure of Parang Jati, together with his father Suhubudi want to have a spirituality that acceptes the southern ocean as a goddess without neglecting the formal Muslim prayers. Parang Jati has six fingers on each hand: 12 is more perfect than 10! Parang Jati is circumcised at the age of twelve and his father wanted to that he should live in celibacy, but that is (initially) rejected by the son. However, there is no spouse for Parang Jati.

Yudha, the telling figure, may be explained as Judas (p. 17), but I thought that we also may see this as some element of the Bharatayudha, the great fight between the two related families (as cousins): Pandawas versus Korawas. Do we here find a struggle between Kupukupu and Parang Jati as representatives of everything that is wrong with modernism, monotheism and military versus a true defender of the right way?
The book has many references to biblical passages, that give it a more or less religious flavour. In the first part one chapter has the title Sermon on the mount and it has many direct quotes from the gospels. Parang Jati says that he has come with a sword Matthew 10:34,  I did  not come to bring peace , but a sword (therefore I supposed first that Parang is used in another meaning of the Javanese word, a dagger or sword, p. 89). On p. 91 the Sermon on the Mount starts with an ecological variation on the beatitudes: Blessed are the meek for they will leave the earth intact (instead of: they will inherit the world, Matthew 5:5). That chapter ends with John 20:29 Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.  This may for this moment be the last remark: there are many more biblical quotes to be commented upon, many more interpretations to be mentioned. While reading it was for me an Indonesian counterpart of the fantastic magico-realistic novels by Haruki Murakami. Because of the biblical references and the notes about recent Indonesian political and cultural history it was even a much more lively experience.