Blog: Imagining War and Peace

29 June 2024

The opening of the second day of IRTI was less impressive than the first day. But, while there were no dancers in amazing outfits, no readings from all Scriptures and no pouring out of water, there was a short but important devotional moment, in which we read the Bible, prayed together and sang for the Lord. I cannot help but put it in the perspective of the lectures I have heard today as I reflect on it. 

Blog by Willeke Zigterman Rustenburg

Who we do it for

To me the devotional and the prayer served the purpose of enjoying our shared identity in Christ and reminding us for Who we do it in the end (and the beginning). A reminder that without the Lord we wouldn’t even be here. Maybe a reminder that others there didn’t need. Not necessarily because they’re better believers than me, but because context matters. To illustrate this point, I want to tell you about my encounter the previous day.

During dinner on the first day, I spoke with the rector of the Universitas Kristen Duta Wacana. She mentioned that she studied architecture and immediately I immediately assumed that meant she probably wasn’t a Christian. As a woman from a secular country, a country where the majority of people does not adhere to any religion, I assumed the rector of a University was not Christian. Only about an hour later I realised how wrong I was, when she was giving a short welcome talk for the Christian University Duta Wacana.

I need reminding

To me a shared belief in something greater is not normal, neither is it common, so I need reminding. I need reminding that there is a God, in Whom I believe, to whom I dedicated my life, and for Whom we all do this conference. But maybe, to the other people here, it is normal. Because even in the countries where there is a Christian minority, there is still a religious majority. Maybe they don’t need reminding that there is a God, because everyone knows all the time there is a God. Maybe, while they prayed, they found joy in something entirely different. Maybe in the character of God, maybe in His story. Or maybe they too needed reminding to become aware of His presence. I haven’t asked yet.

Participants of the IRTI conference

Imagination in politics

After this we started with the second keynote lecture by Marietta van der Tol. A lecture with a lot of information and I cannot do it justice in this short blog, so I will just write about what it taught me. She spoke about the use of imagination in politics. Political and religious imagination. The example she had were all words and phrases, like ‘Ubuntu’ from Africa or ‘make America great again’. These phrases mean different things to different people and speak to the imagination. In many cases they are used to build a foundation among the people for war. Like the term ‘katechon’ to tie it to a later lecture from Stanislav Bondar. A term taken from 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 referring to the ‘restrainer’ of the antichrist and assigned to Putin. A term that uses religious imagination for a political end, namely the support of the people and the Church for the war on Ukraine.

Imagination in conflict

Another lecturer also used the term ‘imagination’ when speaking about a conflict in Indonesia. Emanuel Gerrit Singgih and Adhika Tri Subowo described the unrest in the country caused by the conflict in Israël and Palestine, especially when the youth world cup of soccer was about to come to Indonesia. Israël, recognised as a country by most western and some other countries, was supposed to join, however Indonesians could not accept this. The country, that even seems to follow the European Cup, would not accept Israël taking part even if it cost them the event. So, it was moved. Then of course, there were also protests. In some regions with a larger Christian population, this even led to violent clashes and death. Safe to say the imagination of Israël as promised land to the Jews and as Holy land for Islam plays a very important role in social and political life.

Some ideas cross all boundaries

It was amazing to hear the different contexts and different issues that plague each country and the Church in those countries. It was also amazing to hear the different professors, doctors and master in the room make comments and connect it to their own context. Some theories and ideas truly cross all boundaries.

If you have been keeping up with the blogs you know that we have been here for a little while now. And even though everyone already spoke about it, I will also briefly tell you about my experiences with Indonesia and meeting the people here. First of all, they are very friendly and open. While the Dutch often suffer from having a strict inner circle, the Indonesians don’t seem against committing to friendships at all. Second is the insane number of scooters and the insane amount of trust needed to ride those scooters. I am sure someone wrote about it already so I won’t tire you with the details, but carrying a newborn in your arms on the back of one of the many scooters could maybe never be done in a country where most people don’t believe in a god.