woensdag 28 mei 2014

Asian Art and Dutch Taste

The Municipal Museum of The Hague has at this moment a nice exhibition: on Asian art products, made for Dutch consumers and therefore a mixture of Western and Asian models, taste and refinement. Much is from the collection of the museum itself, but also from a special rich lover of this art, Jan Veenendaal, unknown to me. It is a small exhibition: three rooms, but filled with good pieces.
It was a rainy day and so we were happy to be inside this light, modern building from the 1920s or 1930s. uch is, of course, from the Dutch East Indies, quite much also from Sri Lanka. Because of the preparation for a trip to Japan, planned for October this year, we had special interest for some art works from Japan. There was a large copy of a small painting: with two groups of ladies, mixed Dutch/Japanese.

Nice views, these examples of mixtures of several cultures.  In fact a process that happens everywhere.

Mathieu Wertenbroek and the SVD order in Flores

Mathieu Wertenbroek (born 23 October 1914, 's-Hertogenbosch) was a Dutch medical doctor who served between February 1951 and April 1954 in Larantuka, with his wife Anja Medendorp. He was a gifted man: had studied science, had been a teacher, and became a psychiatric specialist after returning to the Netherlands. He had much interest in history and anthropology. Several historical works (or rather collected documents in Malay or Lamaholot) are still at KITLV in Leiden. was also an artist and made many drawings. In 1998 a book was published with selections out of the two volumes of his Larantuka diaries. He has on many pages observations about Catholics, traditional religion and sometimes about Muslims in East Flores. I here present an abridged translations of pages 86-88 of his Schetsen van Smaragd. Tekeningen en dagboeknotities van een tropenarts in de jonge Republiek Indonesië (Nijmegen: Valkhof Pers, 1998, 119 pages).
Meal at the presbytery

In 1913 the mission was transferred from the Jesuits to the SVD order, but only after World War I this could become effective, Through education nearly the whole population became Christian. The Portuguese influence is still visible in Larantuka and is shown at great ceremonies at the the occasion of the Holy Week and Christmas, as well as through Portuguese hymns that are still sung.
The organisation of the mission ran smoothly. They picked up things that were left by the government. Mission was fully in hand of the mission. Now it has been taken over by the government, but with the result that salaries do not arrive or come late. On the seminaries everything goes easily. There were donations for poor students and even fellowships for gifted and promising young students to pursue higher studies in Europe. The workshop of the mission were craddle for craftsmen: smiths, carpenters, masons. Agriculture was modernised under guidance of the mission. It was the mission that accompanied Flores to the future.
Bishop Leven

Ende had a big printing house, where books and journal were printed, because illiteracy was, thanks to the school system of the mission, at the lowest level of Indonesia.
There were also big plantations for coffee where the mission made an example of good enterprise, but it provided also funds for the financing of all kind of other activities. The brothers who managed the plantations were brave cowboys, who managed their business effectively, provided jobs for many native people and taught them for later practice.

Gabriel Manek, the Indonesian Bishop

The mission judges that we do not receive a proper salary by pemerintah, the administration. They do not agree that we pay monthly for our furniture that was given by the SVD order. They apologize for the fact that also our salary is not regularly paid by the government. They continue to flood us with vegetables and eggs from the minor seminary in Hokeng. I addressed the dean myself and underlined that we are not really in such a difficult condition, that we need all this support. We know that the mission itself is also short of money, because nobody pays to them. The reason is that other people also do not receive the money they should receive.
... Just a short example of text and drawings, especially related the the Catholic mission: there are also many nice examples from contact with local people through medical practice. Nice book! To conclude Alex Beding (called Bediona, the first priest of Lomblen, page 101).

dinsdag 27 mei 2014

Christian Slaves in Muslim Countries, the CMR programme

These days my wife Paule says in her mild way: you are involved in too many different affairs'.  She is right. There is a book on Fethullah Gülen in Europe which waits for a final reworking. The 3d volume on Catholics in Indonesia. Smaller commitments for writing and some lectures. But I am also quite involved in the CMR programme, a project on Christian-Muslim Relations, a Bibliographical History. It started in 2009 with its first volume and the year 600. Now it has reached already five volumes until the year 1500. I am involved for the next volume on the 16th century, where I wrote about Erasmus and Miguel Servet and their ideas about Islam.
I am now working for some sections of the 17th century and one is the history of the Christian slaves who were taken prison by the pirates of Algiers, Tunis and Salé and at great cost were redeemed by the French, Biritish and Dutch.
One of the very interesting books of the 17th century is this History of the origins ... of Mahomet and how he spread his empire among the Turcs.. It was published in 1627. It is a strange story. The first 11 short chapters, until page 23 are about the life of Muhammad. It has some nine drawings. One is about the epilepsy of Muhammad.
The strangest story is about his death. According to this story Muhammad died in Mecca. His friends and followers expected his resurrection and waited first three days, then until twelve days. But then they put him in the coffin that was prepared in the 'finest and richest church of Mecca'.  Muhammad had prepared magnetic stones in the ceiling and the coffin was made of iron and so it moved immediately upward!
So, this is the reason of the pilgrimage to Mecca, according to thissmall book.

In a more elaborated version this book has an addition that the present (17th century!) situation of the world is expecting the fall of Islam, because of many predictions of earlier times, especially the prophecies of some  Antonio Torquato from Italy that the victory in Constinopolis, Hungary and Rhodos would be the beginning of the end of the realm of Satan...
Well, this is also historical truth about Christian-Muslim Relations!
The Endgame or Eindstrijd is also a modern book (in Dutch, for Dutch readers!) about the long fight between Christians and Muslims: one may become sad while reading all this nonsensical writings, or become angry. I have now a spirit of a more cynical nature or even some idea of finding it really funny. Just laugh about it and know that things will not change much in the next century. May God help us to survive this as well!

SDA or 'Just the Same' or Sama dengan yang diatas?

Minister of Religion Suryadharma Ali must be very distressed these days. His party had no say in the election of candidates for (vice-) presidency, was humiliated, and now its leader has been accused of corruption in the only rich section of the ministry, the organization of the hajj-pilgrimage.
SDA is the abbreviation of this minister, who studied at IAIN Syarif Hidayatullah at the time I was living there with my family as a foreign lecturer. I think that his name now will be known as Sama dengan yang di Atas or 'just the same as the predecessors'. Already in the 1960s a minister of religion was sent to prison for corruption: the first was K.H. Muhammad Wahib Wahab in 1962 (or was it his strong position against Communism?). Second was Said Agil Husein al Munawar (minister 2001-2004) who was involved in setting away money from the hajj business at special bank accounts.
Now we hear that SDA has been called in a case of corruption and had to resign from his position. What a sad photograph in the Jakarta Post! Repentence?

Sandeep Ray and Colonial Movies

Sandeep Ray is a PhD candidate in Singapore, working on Dutch colonial film-making. He pays also good attention to the two major mission movies, Rio Rago, a very romantic, even sentimental story of the fight between heathenism/Islam and the new Catholic religion in Flores, concentrating on the story of a girl who must marry a haji because her father is indebted to this man. We saw already several times this most popular missionary movie of the late 1920s.
Yesterday we saw the other long movie (2 hours, 7 minutes), on the Flores Mission, This movie has a slow start: beginning in the Netherlands where a boy goes to the seminary in Steijl, follows education until the ordination to priesthood. Also the seminary in Belgium, the education for nuns and lay brothers receives good attention in the first 30 minutes.
The mission cross is given to the missionaries who then leave on a huge boat, to Colombo, finally arrive in Batavia.
 After Batavia (the cathedral and the big house of the Ursulines Sisters are shown), there are nice shots at Borobudur temple. Because there is no sound with the movia, there is only very short written commentary. Borobudur is really 'amazing'.  That is it. Probably the movie was shown for sympathizers of the mission and there was a spoken commentary to the movie, but now we could only guess what the commentator would say. It is clear that the movie would be used for mission propaganda, although less than 25% is about specific missionary or even Catholic topics. Most is nice impressions of traveling, of foreign countries, beauty, amazing. Not to the dark heathens, but rather to interesting places.
The new missionaries are well received in Ndona  by the faithful, especially young students who play the brass band.
After the short impression of the mission compound we leave the Catholic buildings and follow a missionary on horseback, going along the valley of the river, north of Ende, towards mount Kelimutu wi9th its famous coloured lakes. Much attention is also given to animals, monkeys, birds, hunting deers. Also the Komodo Varan is given a good deal of attention.
The local population is pictured, men, women, children, playing and laughing. It could have been a good anthropologists impression of his field of research. Cock fighting, dancing. There is a short remark about 'dark heathenism' but the dancing is pleasant and more joyful than sinful! There is a short written remark Wacht u voor de leer der blanken, 'Be careful not to accept the doctrine of the white people',  but not many signs of resistance against the new religion is visible in this movie. An adat house or heathen temple is built or restored, but that must be told. There are ceremonies of slaughtering a goat and a pig, the blood is put on poles of the temple, but it is not frightening or looking disgraceful. The the priest commentator must have said something about the power of the devil.
Only the last fifteen minutes are more strictly about missionary work, schools (starting with the carpenter brother), cattle breeding, chicken, sisters on horseback visiting the sick in villages. Some school classes, again the brass band, girls waving.
The missionary is finally shown in ceremonial liturgical dress.
In the middle we see here bishop Verstraelen. The text explains the missionary as giving all-for-all, from friend to teacher, building a church. Baptism, wedding is celebrated. In a style that is easy to be recognized by Dutch Catholics as well.
This is a nice class of instruction on Indonesia in the early 1930s, especially the island of Flores. It depicts Catholic mission as a modernizing movement rather than as a new and powerful religion.
The first time I saw a missionary movie was in Leiden, about 1990: the anthropologists had a project of  interesting movies and showed Ria Rago, but after 20 minutes the tape set fire and it was stopped. Then I could buy a copy from KDC, the Catholic documentation centre of Nijmegen University.
Now Sandeep Ray received the access to the movie through a code on the internet from the Eye Institute in Amsterdam, the Dutch Institute for photographs and movies. Thank you, Sandeep for sharing this link with us.

maandag 26 mei 2014

Pilgrimage or religious tourism

This week I received the final copy of the doctoral dissertation by Albertus Bagus Laksana, already discussed earlier in this blog (13 November 2012). It is on Muslim and Catholic Pilgrimage Practices, explorations through Java (Surrey, Ashgate, 252 pages). It states that Muslims can have much profit, more or less like pahala in visiting Catholic places of pilgrimage, and vice versa.

Muslim and Catholic Pilgrimage Practices
This same day, I saw on the UCAN page, that the local government of the district of Mamasa, West Toraja, wants to build a 14 meter high statue of Mary, 'hoping that it will promote tourism to this region'. People come to Toraja for traditional rituals of burial, but apparently Mary is an attraction in some regions as well. Look to Lourdes, Kevelaer, even to the Dutch town of 's-Hertogenbosch.
I add here an image of the statie of Mary in Sikka, still quite modest, just four metre high. Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis!
Sulbar siapkan  5 miliar rupiah bangun Patung Bunda Maria thumbnail

zaterdag 17 mei 2014

Religious views on history: glorious deeds or full of misery?

My former students of the late 1980s in Yogyakarta, Shafaatul al-Mirzanah asked m for a copy of an article by Angelika Neuwirth from Journal of Quranic Studies 2008:1-120. It is on tw vision of creation and history. It compares Psalm 136 with Surah 55 (Ar-Rahman). They have some striking similarities: both are a litany of praise for God. After each sentence (apart from the beginning of Sura 55), there is an acclamation: His love endures forever in the Psalm, more critical in Sura 55: O which of your Lord's bounties will you and you deny?
Besides similarities there are also differences: both texts praise God for our world, creation, nature where God's signs can be found. The Psalm praises God for many acts in history: from the Exodus from Egypte to the defeat of many enemies and the lovely country where they are now living in peace under God's protection. In Sura 55 there is also much praise for God's creation and this is followed by a praise for the delicious situation in the paradise hereafter. This description of Paradise is seen by Neuwirth as a corrective continuation of the Arabic poetic style of the qasida  where poetry often starts with pessimistic view on old civilizations that have gone. Here a positive view is given for the end of history. "The Qur'an derives the necessity of human confidence in God not from his works in history, but rather from his deeds in creation and his power of resurrection." The Muslim text is skipping history. Why? Because the Quran has a negative view on history: many prophets were sent by God but neglected, humiliated, even killed by their people. From Adam to Noah (neglected and rejected by his people), Abraham who left his people, Moses who was always in trouble with his people and finally Jesus who was brought to the execution place, to the cross.
Neuwirth sees Sura 55 as a 're-reading of the Psalm , thus in the very place where it deviates from the Psalmkist paradigm of history, re-installs reflection on history - by re-writing ancient Arabic poetry.'
In general I like the interpretations of Angelika Neuwirth very much, already since her very precise and modest book on the Meccan suras of 1980. But this construction of a contradiction between the two visions is too theoretical and speculative. Below we will see, that is only a construction not the full reality. Bothtradition are more complicated than is shown in this simplified difference.

These weeks we read in our Sunday service in St. Johns Church in Utrecht Acts of the Apostles. Let me begin this reflection with an image by Jyoti Sahi: Stephan received in grace by God after he was stoned.


Stephen was a powerful preacher. He saw the history of his people as one great deception: Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon and finally Jesus were in conflict with their people . Jesus brought guidelines for a good life without the strict text of Moses (that proved to be no effective) and without the cult of the temple. Below an image of Jyoti Sahi, where the people who throw stones on Stephan take their stones from the temple (and so also destroy the temple). The stones look likes seeds, but the ultimate seed is Stephan himself who will be another beginning of the community of Jesus.

This looks like a vision of history like dominant in the Quran and in Muslim vision: the optimistic psalm 136 considers history as one great gift of God for his people, but Stephan is like the Muslim prophets more pessimistic.
But as to content, there is a great dance in the drawing of Jyoti Sahi: in Acts 3, after Peter and John have healed a beggar sitting in front of the temple, all people leave the temple, dancing, not to return. Is this a vision of secular society now in Europe, happy leaving religion?