Unto You Your Religion and Unto Me My Religion: Muslim-Christian Relations in a Javanese Village

By Kim, Hyung-Jun | SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, April 1998 | Go to article overview

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. …

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