Unto You Your Religion and Unto Me My Religion: Muslim-Christian Relations in a Javanese Village
Kim, Hyung-Jun, SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia
This article examines Muslim-Christian relations in a Javanese village at the point at which the centrality of Islam in the everyday lives of Muslims has come to the fore and the religion becomes a factor in framing their perceptions of things around them. It shows that unlike the former situation in which religious difference was not a basis of social conflict, religious identity has been felt strongly in everyday interactions. A clear line demarcating the Muslim community from its Christian counterpart has been constructed and religious difference has been utilized to guide individual and collective actions, With these, the daily lives of Muslims, which were previously perceived to be outside the boundary of religion, have become a concern of Muslims as a group.
Studies about relations between Muslims and Christians in Java showed that the official view of the government, namely, that harmony dominated relations between followers of different religions, was not incorrect. Akkeren, who did his research in the early 1960s in an East Java community where Christians were the majority, pointed out that discrimination based on religious difference was not felt in social interactions (Akkeren 1970, p. 136). The same situation applied to a Yogyakarta village in the 1950s. There was little conflict between Muslims and Christians in this village and both religious communities appeared to respect each other's religion (Soemarjo 1959, p. 99). Research done in the 1970s in Central Java also noted that mutual respect between Muslims and Christians was evident and their relations were free of incidents (Zihid 1979/80, p. 177). Although the shortage of comparative data makes it difficult to make a generalization, these studies show that religious difference did not lead to social conflict, and religious distinction between Muslims and Christians was not felt strongly in non-religious domains.
It is likely that until recently, Muslim-Christian relations in Kolojonggo, a hamlet in Yogyakarta, were dominated by harmony, as was symbolized by the reciprocal movement of food and visits between Muslims and Christians. It is said that Christians were included in the Muslims' exchange network of food after the fasting month and were invited to slametan (collective meal) held after the fasting month. The food that Christians received at that time was reciprocated at Christmas when they sent food parcels to their Muslim neighbours while some Muslim villagers attended the Christmas celebration held in the chapel.
The wave of Islamic revivalism sweeping Indonesia in the late 1970s and 1980s, however, has had an impact on Muslim-Christian relations in Kolojonggo. Islamic identity is expressed more clearly in everyday life and Islam becomes more and more a factor in guiding individual and collective behaviour. As a result, between 1993 and 1994 no food was reciprocated and no more visits were made between Muslims and Christians after the fasting month and at Christmas.
The purpose of this article is to examine Muslim-Christian relations in Kolojonggo at the point at which the centrality of Islam in everyday life comes to the fore and religious identity gradually extends into nonreligious domains. In the first part of this article, a brief look at the research site will be presented. The next two sections will outline, respectively, the development of Islam and Christianity in Kolojonggo. This will be followed by a discussion of the Muslim villagers' growing consciousness of religious difference and expansion of the religious difference into non-religious areas.(1)
Kolojonggo, a Hamlet in Yogyakarta
Kolojonggo, a pseudonym for the hamlet in which this study was carried out, is located about 9 kilometres westwards from Yogyakarta city. Administratively, Kolojonggo belongs to kelurahan Sumber, kecamatan Gamol, and district Sleman.(2) The water supply is stable throughout the year and no shortage of water has been experienced since the construction of the Mataram channel during the Japanese occupation period. This provides favourable conditions for the development of wet-rice cultivation. In the 1950s and 1960s, double cropping was a common practice, and after the introduction of new rice varieties in the 1970s, triple cropping per year or five crops in two years became more common. The fertile land in Kolojonggo has been a factor in supporting a large population. In 1993 the population density in Kolojonggo reached approximately 1,800 persons per square kilometre, well above the average population density in Yogyakarta.
For the last two decades, population growth in Kolojonggo has been almost stagnant. In 1971 its population was 522 while in 1993 it increased slightly, to 544, of whom 258 were male and 286 were female. The majority of male villagers born before 1940 were employed in the agricultural sector while the ratio of those working in the non-agricultural sector was higher among the younger male villagers. Among the women, trading was the most important source of income, but the percentage of younger women working as factory workers, shopkeepers, white collar workers, and entrepreneurs was higher than their older sisters.
In 1993 the ratio of Christians to the total population in Kolojonggo reached about 30 per cent. This was much higher than in the district of Sleman and Yogyakarta, which had ratios of 8.2 per cent and 5.2 per cent, respectively, in 1991 (Kantor Statistik Yogyakarta 1991). Of 135 households in Kolojonggo, the Protestant community included thirty households and the Catholic, seven households. Among the thirty-seven households, eleven were mixed ones where Muslims and Christians lived together under the same roof.
Seen from the economic point of view, the thirty-seven Christian households did not have any characteristics which could distinguish themselves as a group from the other ninety-six Muslim households. The economic stratification, occupational structure, and educational background of Christians were almost the same as the Muslims. In many cases, Muslims and Christians were related to each other by kinship ties except for the two families which had first embraced Christianity. All the descendants of these families, whether they lived in this hamlet or not, were Christians.
The presence of a higher ratio of Christians has given Muslims in Kolojonggo more opportunities of witnessing the process of Christianization and of interacting with Christians than Muslims in other parts of Java. In this respect, Muslim-Christian relations in Kolojonggo cannot be generalized to show typical trends in rural Java. Rather, this discussion describes one possible mode in which Muslim-Christian relations may be developed in Java.
The Resurgence of Islam in Kolojonggo
In Kolojonggo a new phase of Islamic development started in the 1920s with the introduction of reformist Islam, which aimed to purify the faith contaminated by non-Islamic ideas and traditions. Even before this, Islam was deeply embedded in the lives of villagers: they were circumcised; their marriages were solemnized according to Islamic law; newborn babies were greeted and the deceased were mourned with Arabic prayers; some of the important occasions in the Islamic calendar were celebrated; and the recitation of Arabic prayers was taught to children. However, as Islam was an integral part of the villagers' life and no alternative form of perceiving and practising the religion was known to them, Islam was not a subject of conscious questioning but was often taken for granted. No villagers bothered to question whether certain practices were "Islamic" or whether these were commanded, recommended, or prohibited in Islam. Therefore, the significance of the introduction of reformist Islam was that it provided Muslims with the opportunity of coming into contact with an alternative form of Islam to the traditionally practised one.
The accommodationist attitude of reformist activists towards dakwah as well as the absence of an established kiyai in Kolojonggo and its vicinity made it possible for reformist Islam to be introduced peacefully and to coexist side by side with traditionally practised Islam. This peaceful introduction, however, proved to …
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Publication information: Article title: Unto You Your Religion and Unto Me My Religion: Muslim-Christian Relations in a Javanese Village. Contributors: Kim, Hyung-Jun - Author. Journal title: SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia. Volume: 13. Issue: 1 Publication date: April 1998. Page number: 62. © 1999 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS). COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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