GENERAL COUNCIL F.I.C. - Prins Bisschopsingel 22, 6211 JX Maastricht, The Netherlands  Phone: *31 (0) 43 3508373
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Mission in Indonesia

Mission in Indonesia, 1920-the present

Around 1900 a new view about the colonies in the East emerged in the Netherlands: the nation had to redeem a debt of honour with regard to the indigenous population. Awareness was growing that the Dutch possessions in the Dutch East Indies should not only be used to enrich the mother country, but that the State had to do something in return - more than it used to do - by raising the cultural level of the original population. Here the European tendency towards superiority came into play, but this was characteristic of the time. Queen Wilhelmina (1880-1962) articulated the new ideas in the speech from the throne delivered in 1901. She spoke of The Netherlands which - being a Christian power - had obligations towards the indigenous population. The Netherlands, the Dutch Government, had a moral mission in the Indies. The original population should be more fairly treated and the Christian mission had to be promoted. Thus spoke Queen Wilhelmina, who was greatly admired, also by Catholics.

The queenly appeal to promote Christian missionary work also caught on with the royalist Catholics in the Netherlands, be it that they interpreted Christian mission as Catholic mission. They too were captivated by the idea that in the Indies a task awaited them. If the Netherlands had to redeem a debt of honour there, the Catholics in the Netherlands would redeem their share of that debt by stepping up their missionary work. In this enterprise the Maastricht Brothers too could, or, according to some, should play their part too.

The General Council based their choice of Central Java as mission area on historical grounds: the first request for work in the missions had been made in 1883 by a Jesuit priest in Java. In 1919 the Dutch Jesuits had repeated this request. There is no doubt that in this choice the motive outlined above also played a part, namely the interest in the Asian overseas territory on the equator, which had been growing among the Dutch since 1900. The Netherlands had a task there, also in the field of mission and education.

In 1920 Java - four and a half times the size of the Netherlands - was the main island of the Dutch colonial empire in Asia, with Batavia, now Jakarta, as its capital. Java had a Dutch administration, with a legal system modelled on Dutch lines, and in general a Dutch culture alongside - or, according to quite a few, above - the indigenous culture. The school system was roughly the same as in the mother country. The curriculum ran parallel with that in the Netherlands, complete with all the medieval counts of the county of Holland and eight canals for navigation round the town of Groningen. Dutch was the principal teaching medium, except at the schools that were entirely local. In cases when Javanese rather than Dutch was the teaching medium - this was allowed in the lower classes of the schools that were not strictly local - the lessons were not given by brothers. In Central Java, where the brothers established their first houses, there were already Dutch Jesuits, whom the brothers knew from long and close association in Maastricht and in other places of their mother country. Through the Canisius Foundation the Fathers administrated the Catholic schools for the Javanese. The Brothers' school would also fall under this foundation, or at any rate would closely cooperate with it, for the brothers were sent out in the first place to give Dutch tuition to Javanese pupils.

The work done by the first brother missionaries in Java did not differ much from that in the Netherlands. Apart from the differences in climate, surroundings, diet, housing and timetable, and the different kind of pupils (who were said to be quite manageable, cooperative and eager to learn), there was not much of a change for them. Indeed, every local superior in the missions - then and later - was urged by the general council to depart as little as possible from the congregational customs in the Netherlands. Initially the brothers in Java even wore the Dutch black habit, which was not suitable for the tropics. So before long they were replaced by white habits. The teachers earned more than in the Netherlands and enjoyed excellent provisions for their leave. Every five years a Dutch teacher in the Indies got a one-year leave; the return trip by boat - for him and his family - was paid by the Government, i.e. the administration in the Dutch Indies. The brothers took advantage of this provision only once every ten years.

Brothers on leave in the Netherlands from the Java mission would be teased with the observation that they were not real missionaries. Missionaries: men with long beards, wearing sun helmets, who, crucifix in their hand, a rifle on their shoulder and - in the face of thousands of dangers - fearlessly penetrated into the jungle to baptise the (heathens) and so lead them into the kingdom of Christ. This romantic picture from mission stories in the Netherlands did not fit the Maastricht Brothers in Java. In the civilised Dutch Indies they taught classes, day in, day out, just like their confrères in the Netherlands; furthermore, their religious daily order was hardly different from the one in the Netherlands. Their life on the equator was far from spectacular and, to be sure, not in the least adventurous. Giving courses for baptism was their only direct (mission work).

Yet there was an unseen problem in this seemingly so quiet existence in Java, a snag which, within some decades, would lead to big trouble. Indeed, under the surface grave danger for the colonist lay in wait. The brothers - and with them so many other Dutch people and Westerners - were unaware of the danger till they were right in the middle of it, till they became victims without offering resistance. The Javanese world in which the Maastricht brothers found themselves was a peaceful Dutch world on the surface only. Especially since the victory of Japan over Russia in 1905 and again after the First World War (1914-1918) nationalism, the striving to get rid of colonial rule, had got hold of Asia, and of Indonesia too. The nations, colonised from Europe in the nineteenth century, wanted autonomy. It is quite likely that the brothers, being European, did not realise that they were only a fraction of a tiny minority. The greater part of the population, non-Christian, born and bred in the Indies, felt alien to the Europeans and tolerated them grudgingly. The hard- working brothers in Java gave themselves selflessly, but they remained outsiders: Dutch, Westerners, (wealthy) Europeans, quite distinct from the local population.

Between the foundation of the mission in Central Java in 1920 and the outbreak of the Second World War around the Pacific Ocean in December 1941 the work of the Brothers developed peacefully. There was a steady stream from the Netherlands of new workers for the growing number of primary and advanced primary schools. The first Javanese entered the Congregation. The number of houses went up to six; in chronological order: Yogyakarta, Muntilan, Surakarta, Ambarawa, Semarang and Bara. The house in Bara (1938), with the only Brothers' school not recognised by the Dutch-Indian administration, was deliberately set up as a real (mission). It was also the only congregational school in Java without any teaching in Dutch. The house in that poverty-stricken district was to be completely financed by the Congregation.

The other houses in Java could easily meet their own expenses from the handsome teachers' salaries, the generous subsidies for the schools, and the school fees. What the Dutch-Indian administration paid to the officially recognised schools considerably exceeded the level of the Dutch refunds for education, even after substantial cuts were made during the financial world crisis in the 1930s. However, the law did not guarantee in the Indies complete equality and the same subsidies as in the Netherlands. The non- denominational government schools did not like total freedom of education. They would have preferred to have the monopoly, and therefore they thwarted the recognition of mission schools as much as was in their power. The schools of the brothers, however, developed in spite of all opposition, thanks to the good results their pupils achieved, year in, year out.

Interruption through World War II, 1941-1945

In May 1940 Germany invaded the Netherlands and within a few days occupied the whole country; Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch Government fled to London. The connection between the brothers in Java and their confrères in the occupied mother country was lost. Once in a while only there was some contact still. This did not have immediate, really unpleasant consequences for the mission in Java. These followed only one and a half years later, when Japan joined in the Second World War in December 1941 and the Dutch Government in exile together with its allies declared war on Japan.

In March 1942 the Japanese occupied Java without too much difficulty. This did not cause any suffering to the brothers nor any damage to their houses. After a few days of uncertainty school life was resumed. But before long all Westerners were forbidden to teach. In the course of the summer of 1942 the brothers, just like practically all other Europeans, were interned by the Japanese. They landed in camps for prisoners, scattered all over Java. Kesilir, Banyubiru, Yogyakarta, Bandung, Cimahi and Baros were the principal stations of a via dolorosa (sorrowful road) which lasted four years, marked by privations, disease and death. Nine of the seventy-five brothers died from the effects of life in the camps. We honourably list their names: Eustatius Eyck (1869-1944), Lambertus Heynen (1884-1945), Nazarius Maas (1886-1945), Gerontius Mandigers (1889-1945), Theophilus Collignon (1890-1945), Simeon Planken (1890-1945), Photinus Diderich (1893-1945), Ildefonsus van de Vorst (1896-1946) and Blasius Willems (1911-1945).

Mid-August 1945 Japan capitulated. In the years 1942-1945 the Japanese had deliberately fanned the urge - already existing in the Dutch Indies and particularly in Java - for an independent Indonesian state. On 17 August 1945 the Indonesian nationalists proclaimed the “Republik Indonesia”. After the Japanese capitulation the struggle for independence went on without hindrance because there was a power vacuum in the interval between the end of the Japanese occupation and the takeover by the allies of the Dutch. When the Netherlands tried to restore its former authority in Indonesia by sending troops from the mother country, it was too late. A turnabout on the road to independence already travelled was unthinkable, all the more so, because the war allies of the Dutch, with the United States of North America in the lead, sided with the young Indonesian Republic against the Netherlands.

After the Japanese capitulation the brothers in the camps, like the other internees, remained for the time being locked up owing to the serious unrest in Java. Most of them did not regain their freedom until around the turn of the year 1945-1946. Only then did the brothers have the opportunity to visit the old mission region of the Congregation in Central Java and survey the damage it had suffered during the war. A few had managed to do this already in September 1945, to find extensive damage. Their houses and schools had been requisitioned by the Japanese occupying forces and had badly suffered from neglect. Only out-of-the-way Bara had been spared. The eight Javanese brothers, who had entered before the beginning of the Japanese capitulation, had not been interned. To the best of their ability and with the assistance of the small number of Catholic Javanese lay teachers, they had been teaching classes in Javanese, the teaching medium decreed by the Japanese. They took care of the deplorable remnants of the once flourishing schools and institutions, up to 1942 run by 75 Dutch and 8 Indonesian brothers, before the internment of the Europeans.

In 1945 repair work on houses and schools was, for the foreseeable future, out of the question. The brothers who came from the camps could not start working yet; their physical and mental condition ruled this out. Actually, they should have been repatriated to the Netherlands as soon as possible to regain their strength. However, the chaotic political situation in Java itself and in the whole of South East Asia, which followed the Japanese capitulation, made this impossible. The repatriation of the Dutch brothers who had been released, took three years, 1946-1948. One year later, on 27 December 1949, the Netherlands turned the sovereign power over to the Indonesian Government. The Indonesian independence proclaimed on 17 August 1945 was finally settled now.

Independent within limits, from 1950-the present

The Indonesian independence led to a great change for the Dutch brothers and their work. From now on they had to live and work in a world which was quite different from before the outbreak of the Second World War. The standard of living was much lower, the schools and the pupils were different. The new regime tried as much as possible to forget about the old Dutch colonial education. From this time on the teaching medium was Bahasa Indonesia. It was prudent to give up your Dutch nationality and to exchange this for the Indonesian. For the Dutch brothers who had still known the old Dutch regime, all this meant a complete change. Some could not cope and returned to the Netherlands for good.

The brothers who - after 1945 - arrived in Java from the Netherlands for the first time, did not know those inhibitions. They had some idea of what they could expect and were more or less prepared for this. Probably less rather than more, for only gradually did they get to know the real situation. They had to learn to live in a society where the influence of the Europeans had dwindled, as most of them had repatriated never to return. In the course of the following years the same happened among the Maastricht Brothers. But in this case it was for a gratifying reason. The Congregation was growing in Java due to a fast increase in the number of Indonesian brothers. They could take over a lot of work from their expatriate, elderly fellow brothers.

The increase of the local element in the Brothers' houses caused a change in the overall mentality: the Dutch stamp of the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception disappeared to make room for Indonesian characteristics. Internally, the local communities the Congregation became less and less Dutch and more and more Indonesian. The number of Dutch brothers reached its post-war peak in 1952 at 87.2% (68 brothers), to drop within thirty years to 26.6% (33 brothers) in 1980. In contrast the percentage of the non-Dutch brothers rose from 12.8% (11 brothers) in 1952 to 73.4% (91 brothers) in 1980. It bode well for the continuation of the task which the Congregation had undertaken in Indonesia after the First World War.

After 1950 the Indonesian houses became gradually less dependent on the Congregation in the Netherlands. Before 1930 they were supposed to ask the general council in Maastricht for nearly everything. In Java, on the other side of the globe, the same administrative regime was maintained as in the motherland, where a local superior had only little freedom of action. Even the simple transfer of a head teacher from one school in Java to another was subject to approval from Maastricht. It was a matter of course that, when the first Javanese expressed the wish to join the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception, they travelled to the Netherlands, to Maastricht, to be trained, clothed and professed as teacher brothers.

Meanwhile, though, from 1920 onward the communication between the Indies and the Netherlands had steadily improved. Telegraph, and shortly afterwards, airmail and telephone made a rapid connection between Maastricht and Java possible. The General Superior came regularly to Java for a visitation. Nevertheless, the Indies remained definitely foreign to the General Council in Maastricht, and this made it difficult to reach decisions. This became obvious quite soon. Therefore in 1930 a Mission Superior, a kind of super local superior, was appointed together with some assistants. As a miniature general council for Java they were to oversee the day-to-day running of the Brothers' houses in Central Java.

The General Council authorised the Mission Superior to admit or send away new members; moreover, he could on his own transfer brothers from one house to another. As to the finances he had to strictly follow the rules laid down by the six-yearly general chapter. These brief management rules for the missions became part of the new Constitutions of the Brothers, issued in 1936. They left a true leader with sufficient elbow room to operate independently in the missions. However, for a more diffident superior that same freedom was restricted by a warning in the Directory - which came out together with the 1936 Rule - namely that in everything one had to stick as much as possible to the regulations and customs of the mother country without any change whatsoever.

After 1950 the Netherlands gradually disappeared from view in Java, though the financial support from the country of origin was always most welcome. From then on the good or bad fortune of the Indonesian State determined for the greater part also the good or bad fortune of the brothers. The tie with the Netherlands became ever looser, and even broke down when at times the Indonesian Government forbade all contact with the Netherlands. Since the mid-fifties the Java mission was practically on its own. It was more and more forced to act independently.

After 1960 the administration of the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception tried to sort out this new situation by granting the regions of the Congregation, spread all over the globe, their own identity. As they changed into congregational provinces they became more independent. The foundation of a separate Indonesian province in 1966 was the official canonical confirmation of the existing situation in the Java mission. In 1970, for the first time in its history, this province elected its own government and thus laid the foundation for autonomy. The tie with the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception living elsewhere was maintained through the general council in Maastricht, through the common religious Rule and especially through a mentality so characteristic of the life in the Congregation: a fraternal, simple, sober life of dedication to others, a mentality which prevails up to the present day.

The congregational work in the province of Indonesia continued mainly as before. Teaching was and remained the principal task, also in the new houses established after 1945:  Klaten (1953), the second house in Semarang (1958), Jakarta (1965), the second house in Yogyakarta (1974), Belitang (1983), Sorong (1993), Sukaraja, Wedi and Giriwoyo (1993); the establishments in the island of Borneo (Kalimantan): Ketapang (1963), Tumbang Titi (1973) and Tanjung (1979), and in Sumatra at Belitang (1983). The Roncalli Institute, a formation centre at Salatiga (1950) and the agricultural project at Sukaraja in Sumatra (1977), where teaching was not the main occupation, were the only exceptions. Since the twenties there had been an exceptional enterprise at Yogyakarta, namely the Kanisius Printing Press, to which later a type-foundry was added. In 1972 the last brother withdrew from the business.

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