Yesterday it was the first day for the Dutch hosts and the Indonesian guests, participants of the regular meeting of the NICMCR. It started as an initiative of the Dutch Protestant Churches to stay in contact with the former missionary churches, now independent and adult churches, perhaps even somewhat more vital than the original Dutch churches, suffering from secularisation, shrinking membership and shortage of leadership, new ideas, in short: nearly everything.
There was quite a big group, seven participants, from the State Institute of Islamic Studies of Ambon. When I was asked in the beginning of this informal meeting to give an idea of what has changed between 1970 and 2010, I told them that in 1970 is stayed in a pesantren for my PhD research. I confessed that I was a Catholic, but liked to join prayers in the mosque. It was OK. But nowadays there are signs outside mosques that non-Muslims are not allowed to visit these places. Even, when visiting the great mosque of Ambon town in 2009, with Prof. Saleh Putuhena, young Muslims protested: how could a bule or white non-Muslim with his wife visit this mosque?
I was happy to hear that one of the participants here in Utrecht also had been member of the party in Ambon in 2009 and agreed with the strong defence by the late Saleh Putuhena in this debate: the Prophet Muhammad had met with a delegation of Christians from South Arabia, Najran in the mosque of Medinah. And 'the time of their prayers having come they stood and prayed in the apostle's mosque and he said that they were to be left to do so. They prayed towards the east.' (in the translation of the sira by Guillaume, p. 271.)
To Dutch people present here, both Christians and Muslims from Indonesia assured that there was a rise of hardline fundamentalist Muslims in their country, but also a strong chain of liberal movements as well.
There was a nice gift from Dr. Aris Pongtuluran, theologian of the Duta Wacana Christian University of Yogyakarta: a batik painting with Jesus and the miracle of feeding the four thousand from two fishes and five pieces of bread.
The Consortium not only brings together NL+IND, Christians and Muslims, but also academics and activists. One of the latter group was Irfan Amalee of Peace Generation in Bandung. He told us that in the life of the Prophet there is also a miracle with much food: while working in the trench to defend Medina against the attacks of the Meccans, Muhammad worked hard and than felt weak and wanted to eat.He was invited to eat some nice and delicious soup, but many others also were in the row for this soup: for more than hundred there was enough soup! A nice message for those who dream of paradise, prosperity and peace for all.