zondag 14 januari 2018

FKUB: between bureaucracy and a creative spirituality of elections

FKUB or Forum Komunikasi Umat Beragama is created by Indonesian law in 2006 as a body of local religious leaders that must give advice for inter-religious harmony. In 1980 Minister of Religion Alamsyah Ratu Perwiramegara already created a National Body for Consultation of the Religious Communities (Wadah Musyawarah Antarumat Beragama), but after 1990 we did not hear much of its initiatives (after more than 500 pamphlets and books were published as reports of meetings in one decade, anyway!).
The FKUB must be created on the level of provinces, kabupaten and kecamatan: until the small towns and at sub-district level.
I am now writing on ecumenical circuits and networks, in preparation for an international conference in Hong Kong, 13-14 April this year, and so I take also in consideration the inter-religious circuits as the macro-ecumenism, against the internal Christian networks as micro-ecumenism. However, most reports support the idea of FKUB in a general and idealistic way, but not many of its concrete initiatives are shown: in many places it is not (yet) really functioning. The Ahmadiyyah problems of 2008 and later were not solved by FKUB because they are not seen as an inter-religious, but internal Muslim conflict.
Now there was a special news about an initiative of FKUB in Papua. From noon Thursday 11 January 2018 until sunset the following day, leaders of the major religions joined a new style of fasting as preparation for a peaceful election of local administrators (pilkada aman damai). President of the FKUB Papuya is the Roman Catholic priest Linyus Biniluk. Buddhists, Muslims, Protestants and Catholics joined this Assisi-style prayer and fasting. There are pictures of a meeting in a universal style of hotel, people sitting like common bureaucrats, but this Papua dancing is specific for the event. May peace be supported during the coming period! May God bless the people of Papua, especially while praying and performing new rituals in this way!

zaterdag 6 januari 2018

Religious elements in Eka Kurniawan, compared with Ayu Utami

Only now I have read a first novel by Eka Kurniawan. It was hit first Cantik itu luka, from 2002, and I used the Dutch translation by Maya Liem, published in 2016.
The book is written in de magic-realistic style, which we also know from Ayu Utami's Bilangan Fu and where the Japanese author Murakami is a well-known representant.
It is realistic: the main figure is a pretty Eurasian lady Dewi Ayu, born about 1925, who was forced to become a prostitute in the Japanese administration. She has four daughters: no 1 marries a Javanese soldier who already was fighting the Japanese in 1943-5, then as a guerilla warrior aginst the Dutch, but later he became a corrupt military officer of the Indonesian army. No 2 marries a  handsome and intelligent man who becomes a Communist, leads the poor fisherman aginst the military who receive money from the fleet of big ships fishing illegally. No 3 marries a thug who become a great criminal in a harbour place in Southern Java (Parangtritis? Cilacap? Pengandaran? Pelabuhan Ratu?) No 4 is the mythical one, very ugly and gifted with magical elements. She plays a minor role.
Many historical details are used here, not in the heroic style of the Suharto period but in the critical, even somewhat cynical style of the Reformation Period, after 1998. So, there is much emphasis on the conflict among the Indonesians in the period 1945-1949, Communists against Nationalists, people who sought a military career against  those who did not like fighting. The prisoners in Buru in the 1970s, the oppression of nationalism in East Timor by the army.
It is a cruel book full with drama, killings, forced sex: it is not a romantic and soft book.
Especially the ghosts of the 'Communists' are described as frightening and dominating the lives of many people. They are afraid that the ghosts will take revenge for the cruel killings. They are anxious that curses will effect their life.
There are several religious elements in the book, besides the myths and magical effects of the ghosts: official Islam only enters in two ways: the penghulu is necessary for an orderly bureaucracy of marriage and the imam takes care for prayers at burials. That is all for Islam: only these two rituals.
There are some references to Mary, mother of Jesus. First on page 15-6 where she is seen as a resting place for the divine son, compared with the two wives of Pandu andf their sons. Dewi Ayu is (p. 144) seen as born in a Catholic family and she joins the teacher training at the Franciscan Sisters (of Mendut?) Page 338: No woman can be pregnant without sexual intercourse, unless you believe that Mary gave birth to Jesus without a relation with a man!
On the whole, however, the description of religious ideas and practices is only in passing, without depth and often negative: not a positive value but only something to become afraid, especially the ghosts of killed Communists.
How different from Ayu Utami who in Bilangan Fu 2008) gives much attention to the ecological spirituality of Suhubudi and his padepokan, some kind of Neo-Javanism, where religious traditions of Java are open also for modern thinking and the global traditions of Islam and Christianity. The same can be found in her Saman and Larung (resp. of 1998 and 2001).
But on the whole the story of Cantik itu luka is fascinating reading agianst the background of modern Indonesia.

Paderi: contradictory Dutch positions.

For the CMR project on the bibliographical history of Christian-Muslim Relations, I now write an entry on Dutch accounts of the Paderi. There is a great difference between seemingly positive and harsh negative opinions, between doves and hawks. Ridder de Stuers was Resident of Padang between late 1824 and 1829. He had no troops, because they were all needed for the Java War against Dipanegara. He left the Paderi in the highlands and signed on 25 October 1825 a treaty with them, leaving them their own business and belief. He complained about the behaviour of Malay people in Minangkabau: 'While discussing with common Malay people nobody listens to other people, but they talk in an undisciplined way, while the Padri give the word to their oldest and senior priests' (From his two-volume book on the Minangkabau,Vol I:104) He also wrote that you could easily see who were Paderi and who not: the common Malay had black teeth from sirih chewing and tobacco smoking, while the Paderi usually had healthy teeth. 'They did not consider themselves as Lords of the land, but only as religious preachers.'
Lieutenant Boelhouwer, who stayed in the West Coast of Sumatra between 1831-4 also wrote quite positive about the Paderi: Schoon was het te zien, die sterk gespierde Padries.. de ingetogen Padrie welke zijne driften volgens zijne godsdienstleer nimmer botviert, schijnt een reus tegen den Maleijer, welke door zijn opiumrooken een beklagenswaardig voorwerp oplevert. [It was nice to see these healthy and strongly muscled Padri. They show discipline and control their passions because of their religious conviction. They appear like giants compared to Malay people who smoke opium and have a destitute figure.' Quote from his personal observations in Westr Sumatra, page 100, see also page 40 about the 'lazy Malay' who is addicted to cockfighting and smoking opium] . 

A very curious text is found in a lengthy proposal of the Batavia administration seeking peace in Minangkabau. It has in its openng the following text: Reeds sedert twee eeuwen is de Edele Compagnie met u in handelsbetrekkingen op deze kust geweest, en omdat de Mohammedanen en Christenen geene vijanden zijn, zooals sommigen onder u, om u te misleiden, geleerd hebben, daar wij en gijlieden belijden dat er maar één God is, dien wij moeten dienen en aanbidden, en die ons, zoo wel als ulieden, heeft geboden om de menschen lief te hebben en geen kwaad over anderen te brengen. Die hiertegen zondigt, die zal God straffen, hetzij hij Christen of Mohammedaan is, zoo als God zal zegenen die zijne geboden onderhouden…  [Since two centuries the Honorable Company or VOC has been trading with you in this region. The  Muslims and the Christians are not enemies, like some among you notwithstanding are teaching in a misleading way, and we and you confess that there is only One God whom we must serve and honour and who has taught us, including you, to love all people and not to do harm to other people. All people who sin aginst this doctrines will be punished by God, Muslims as well as Christian, like God also will bless all those who obey his commands..]  This is a quite theological start of a proposal for a political peace treaty! [De Stuers Vol II:9]
 In fact the Paderi consented in the presence of the Dutch on the coast, in Padang and others towns, but if they were not willing to spread the Paderi style of religion, the 'Company' should not interfere and not open fortifications in their region. De Stuers comments with some understanding on this wish: ‘Hoe kan er een gouvernement bestaan dat zich niet met het belangrijkste, het geloof, bezig houdt?’Or; Any government should also take account of the most important aspect of life: which is faith!

But there are also hawks who only have an open eye for the cruelties of the Paderi. It begins with the Muslim dress code: white robes, a turban and (when possible) a beard for men; white or blue long dress for women and heads covered with giant hats, veil attached to this. In the Muslim-against-Muslim jihad, violence was used when the Paderi saw evil things like the use of tobacco, opium, sirih, cockfighting. The festival places for cock-fighting were burnt down and even whole villages of people who did not obey the Paderi rulings.  The hardline Dutch who wanted to take control of the mountainous inland region found a good excuse in the request for support against the Paderi by Malay/Minangkabau people. In my description the major leader of this 'war party' on the Dutch side is General A.V. Michiels,  who became the resident in 1837 and concluded the fighting and was the designer of the economic and political policy since the 1840s. He wrote pamplets against De Stuers, like the latter wrote later also a two-volume book against Michiels (who died in action in Bali in 1849).