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Breath Becomes the Wind





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Breath Becomes the Wind Old and New in Karo Religion






Breath Becomes the Wind Old and New in Karo Religion Simon Rae

mrrmn wrwgt SAW WUJfCZSOO, CA 94108 &t*


Published 1994 by the University of Otago Press

Box 56 Dunedin New Zealand The

publishers gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the

Presbyterian Church of New Zealand in the publication of this

Cover design by Jenny Cooper

© Simon Rae ISBN

1994 908569 610

Produced with the assistance of the

Computing Services Centre, University of Otago, typeset by Alpha Typesetting, Dunedin, and printed by the University Printery.



List of Illustrations









The Karo World



Karo Society


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief





The Intrusion


of New Religions


Islam and Christianity


Part HI: The Process of Religious Change 5.


The Protestant Mission and the Colonial Penetration of Karo79

land 6.



Religion and Social Change in Karoland 1940- 1950



War Developments, 1950- 1965




The New Indonesia 1965-


And New


Christian Mission In Karoland

Part IV: Conclusion: Old 10. Religion 11.

1890- 1942

88 111

and Karo Society

From Old



— Aspects of Religious Change


199 in

Karo 216

Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations










List of Illustrations Maps 1

2 3


(pp. ix-xii)

Western Indonesia, with pre-colonial states in Sumatra North Sumatra and Aceh: principal ethnic homelands Province of North Sumatra Karoland


page 5

Young women weaving mats on

the lure, or verandah, of a

Kuta Galuh, 1977. Traditional house, Lingga 1976. Roadside town in the upper lowlands: Bandar Baru, 1978, viewed from behind the settlement. traditional house,

6 17


Traditional dancing at a house blessing, Singgamanik, 1976.

60 77

Lowland Karo village, Sangapura, in Langkat, 1975. Augmented traditional orchestra at GBKP Church Synod, Kabanjahe, 1973.


window and wall decoration, traditional house, Above the traditional designs, and below a stylized may be seen a European riding a bicycle and someone

Detail of

Lingga. lizard,

passing a bottle of grog.


Old and new



style highland houses,

loos, village

Kuta Galuh, 1977.

meeting house, Sarinembah, Karo high-


109 1


110 197

Sunday school, Kuta Galuh, 1977. Gelora Kasih Children's Home, Suka Mukmur, 1977. River crossing, Langkat 1975. Old and new: rebuilding the Binjai church around the Village


structure, 1978.




with offering wands to the right, near Lau

Sidebukdebuk, Karo highlands, 1977.


This study has grown out of a suggestion


1973 by the Rev.


H. Sidabutar, then Acting Moderator of the Karo Batak Protestant Church, that some attention should be given to the process of religious T.

change among Karo people, particularly in recent years. In the years since then I have accumulated a mass of debts. Karo informants, of many religious and other persuasions, have been keen to contribute to the documentation of a remarkable process of change.

It is

extensive international literature on


social, cultural

their story that is told here, with

and religious

some reference

Norm Sumatra

also to the


in the colonial


Both research and writing have been undertaken in conjunction with full-time employment, and with neither travel nor research funds. I am thus very grateful to those who have assisted me to find material in many places: Dr Thomas van den End and students in Jakarta, Dr Ian Cairns in Yogyakarta (Jogjakarta), Dr John Roxborogh in Kuala

Lumpur, Pastor Werner Grothaus and Professor Dr Lothar Schreiner in Germany, Dr Christiaan de Jong in Indonesia and the Netherlands, and particularly to successive Librarians of Knox College, Dunedin, (Mrs J. E. Warrington, Mrs E. V. Nichol and Mrs B. J. Frame), and their staffs, for their relentless pursuit of material I needed during the period 1978-1992. The chapters on Karo culture and the primal religion were presented on several occasions in seminars in the Religious Studies Department, Victoria University of Wellington, and grateful to

Dr James



to Professor

Lloyd Geering, for





The production of the book has been made possible by the kindness my recent employers and my former secretary. The Council for Mission and Ecumenical Co-operation has allowed the initial word


processing to be done in their Christchurch Office, and the Rev. Stan

West, General Secretary of the Methodist Church of New Zealand kindly authorised the use of the church's patient, careful


and good-humoured

facilities for this




of Mrs Judith Williams to

produce a professional script from material unfamiliar in both content and format and to cope with repeated revisions have been crucial




to the publication of this study. In a very concrete sense

it is

her book


Professor Anthony Reid, of the Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, kindly read a then

longer version of the text

Dr Reid's



his direction to areas

in revising the text

any way responsible for the remaining defects



and comments,

needing further examination,


have been of crucial importance in

detailed criticisms


He is not, however,

my work.

family shared the experience of living in Indonesia from 1972

tol978, and have shared patiently the long process of research, reflection

and writing since then. Living together as a family enlarged and enriched our Indonesian experience and widened my awareness of many aspects of city and village



The book,

like the experience, is theirs, too.

assistance and co-operation of a

staff is also gratefully

number of University of Otago

acknowledged. Martin Fisher and Les O'Neill,

me started on map drawing, and Manson Wright of the Graphics Unit produced the finished maps.

of the Department of Anthropology, got

Graeme McKinstry did a large part of the typesetting while employed by Computing Services Centre; we thank him for his patience and care. My very sincere thanks are due also to the Editor, University of Otago Press, Dr Helen Watson White, for her unfailing encouragement and guidance through the process of revision and editing. Martine O'Shea the

has cheerfully prodded and guided Finally, to the


— whose

standing tion,

Karo people

me through

the stages of production.

— our kalimbubu, anak-beru and


great hospitality opened doors of friendship and under-

we had

never dreamed


we must always be grateful. Adop-

according to Karo customary law, gave us secure places in Karo

families, lineages

and clans


we, and our children, will always


and people of the Karo Batak Protestant Church gave us opportunities to work in a unique environment. Their trust and friendship will always be valued. While sure. Similarly the leaders, ministers, elders

they are in no


responsible for anything

offered to our Karo friends in the hope that the celebration of a century of change in



have written,




may go some way toward





— Simon Rae-Bangun

WESTERN INDONESIA -with pre-colonial 1


2 Samudera-Pasai

5 Langkat

6 Deli

9 Asahan

10 Siak

kingdoms 3 Perlak 7 Serdang 11






Western Indonesia


Sumatra 4 Lamuri 8 Batubara

12 Palembang


North Sumatra and Aceh Principal Ethnic


Banda Aceh






Key 1

2 3 4 5 6


Gayo Alas


(Pakpak) Karo Malay Malay and Minangkabau Simalungun Toba Batak Angkola





7 8 9




boundaries are approximate;

drawn on the basis of linguistic data in P Voorhoeve. Languages of Sumatra, 1955.


North Sumatra and Aceh

provincial capital

town or large



other mountain



—•-» —*"*
















Province of North Sumatra




Indonesia has proved a rich field for the study of peoples and cultures, both during the colonial period and since independence. As Professor Koentjaraningrat's Anthropology in Indonesia demonstrates, even


a major endeavour, and research continues, with Indonesian scholars and institutions now taking the initiating role once assumed by Europeans. The study of religion in Indonesia is a productive area of cultural investigation, both because piling a bibliography of the work produced


of the important place accorded to religion in the


of the nation

and because of the contribution Indonesian religious studies can make internationally. Today students have ready access to studies of regional religions in Indonesia written cial

from the perspectives of sociology, so-

anthropology, phenomenology of religion and comparative religion.

There are major studies of Islam and Christianity in Indonesia, and surveys of the processes by which these world religions have adapted to the Indonesian cultural milieux. In recent years the Protestant churches

have undertaken a major self-study programme that has put on record

much social and historical data on their development. The present study was undertaken on the suggestion of the acting Moderator of the Gereja Batak Karo Protestan (GBKP) that an outside 1

observer, actually involved in the process, might be able to record

aspects of

what was

already, clearly, a process of rapid social


might be overlooked or taken for granted, he thought, by people whose whole social experience since 1942 had been one of change. Field research undertaken between 1972 and 1975

religious change; aspects that

among Karo people

in Jogjakarta,

in the Binjai-Langkat region

Bandung and

Jakarta in Java, 1976

of the east coast of Sumatra and 1977-

1978 in the highland village of Singgamanik and the surrounding area,




provided opportunity for both participant-observer observations and for investigating the oral history of social and religious change in society. Personal circumstances terminated



time in Indonesia and

delayed the completion of the research, and of the writing. East Sumatra, as the region was


in colonial times, attracted

considerable interest, for economic and political reasons, and there

no lack of contemporary


from accounts of

travel to official

reports, to provide a context for the use of oral sources.

argument presented here

Karo informants, and



While the

based on information and reflection from

the conclusions reached

were formed



made wherever sources, and use has been made of the many valuable

outline in the field, subsequent reference has been

possible to written

regional and national studies to set the process of religious change in

Karoland in the wider context of regional and national

which was is


history. Karoland,

brought under effective Dutch rule as recently as 1904,

an ideal arena for the study of the social context of religious change.

The region is compact, the period of pre-colonial life was only one generation removed in the 1970s, and Karo people have a strong interest in seeing their history recorded. The repeated question, "Have you got that written

down?", and the alacrity with which informants shared what

they knew, soon overcame any doubts about the appropriateness of an outsider undertaking such a study, in a society that had so recently

freed itself from western cultural imperialism. Adoption into Karo clans, and into lineages associated with the historic village of Batukarang, at the initiative

and invitation of

local people, has left a strong sense of

obligation and a desire to place on record

of Karo people in the

some aspects of the experience

hundred years, as they were shared with me. At the same time care has been taken not to intrude on areas where last

Karonese or Dutch scholars are better placed This


to write definitive studies.

not a history of the Dutch mission in Karoland, nor

of the Karo Batak Protestant Church, and neither body sponsible for what


have written.


have not had access


is it


a history

any way

either the Nederlandsch Zendelinggenootschap or the Gereja Batak

Protestan and, so far as literary sources are concerned,



to the archives of



have confined

documents and reports of both institutions and to the published writings of their members. Nor is this a detailed that task remains to be undertaken. study of the Karo primal religion What is offered is a study of the process of religious change in Karo society, with an introduction to traditional social structure and function, attention to the public



main aspects of both belief and ritual in the primal outcome of religious religion, and and the social, political change, change. Interest centres around religious and cultural factors that, at different times, either promoted or impeded a

summary of


a brief concluding examination of the


or influenced the directions


The primal religion


from the viewpoint of ordinary Karo people, not venture into the

much more

The summary offered





informants, and does

elaborate religious world of the guru.

a guide to the beliefs and practices of Karo

people, not to the ritual and esoteric knowledge of the religious experts.

comment on Islam, Christianity and the "Hindu-Buddhism" was just emerging in Karoland in 1978, is from the viewpoint of Karo participants and observers, not of theologians or religious experts. Theological and religious questions as to the validity of certain beliefs Similarly, that

or the value of particular rituals are set aside for discussion in their


proper context. The primary data for the study of religion are the beliefs

of the religious adherents themselves, as the late Professor W. Brede Kristensen, of the influential Leiden school of religious studies, insisted

so firmly. After this book was accepted for publication, a major study of the first fifteen

years of the Karo mission was published by Rita Kipp, an

American anthropologist with extensive field experience in Karoland. Working from Dutch archival sources, Dr Kipp has presented detailed biographies of the first missionaries and a survey of the social, political and theological environment that shaped their understanding of their task. This work, The Early Years of a Dutch Colonial Mission: The Karo Field,


an outstanding contribution to the developing use of biography

by anthropologists

in pursuit

of a more historical ethnography.

It is

also an important contribution to the developing anthropological study

of "missionaries" as an identified social group. Professor Kipp has concentrated her attention on the early missionary families and their struggle to understand and resolve their

East Sumatra. The present study, of a



roles in colonial

longer period, concentrates

on Karo responses to the intruding world religions and the ways in which these were influenced by social and political factors. While I have drawn attention, where appropriate, to Dr Kipp's analysis of the period 1889-1904, 1 have not enlarged on my own brief account of the missionaries, being more interested in how the Karonese perceived the Christian mission than in

how the missionaries saw themselves and their

calling, important as that question


Dr Kipp's sensitive portrayal of the



Dutch and Minahassan missionaries, and her highlighting of the oftenneglected role of the missionary wives, has added depth and detail to the

Karo mission, for which one can only be grateful. During the period under review Dutch, Indonesian and the regional

early history of the

languages of Indonesia have


undergone reform and rationalisation

of their spelling. In bibliographical references the original spelling retained as


appears in the relevant



reference, or author's name.

Other spelling, apart from quotations, has been brought into conformity with modern usage; Dutch in conformity with the Act of 14 February 1947, Indonesian and Malay with the joint reform of 1972. 2 Karonese

and Toba Batak have been brought into conformity with modern Indonesian spelling, and the diacritical marks employed in colonial times have been dropped. Where personal names were changed the new spelling is used, with the old form in brackets where necessary. Where old spelling

was retained after 1972

case of those actually used


(a matter of personal choice)


in the

died before the reform, names are given in the form

— although

in the latter case Indonesian writers often


ploy reformed spelling when referring to people prominent before 1972.

Complete consistency is no longer possible. Romanisation of Sanskrit and Arabic is according to Indonesian convention, which will be more readily helpful to most readers. A pleasing feature of Indonesian, Malay and Karonese is the inclusive pronoun. Reluctantly I have sometimes employed the so-called English generic masculine to avoid cumbersome alternatives. It must always be borne in mind, however, that Karonese and Indonesian pronouns are inclusive. Thus ia, for example, carries no implication about the "gender" of God; 'That is a problem for the English", one informant said. To avoid confusion all personal titles follow Dutch and Indonesian conventions; thus "Mr" is always Meester, never English "Mister".



are used in translation;


thus "Missionary" (a church- worker ordained for the mission field only) for Zendeling. For simplicity the Indonesian archipelago

as "Indonesia" throughout, although the




referred to

modern. In colonial

times the nation was officially known as Nederlands Indie, "Netherlands India"

— Hindia Belanda

East Indies" which


to the indigenous


— not



an English coinage. The region discussed was part

of the East Coast of Sumatra, or East Sumatra, in colonial times and


part of the province of North




The Karo World

Traditional house, Lingga 1976.

Previous page

Young women weaving mats on traditional house,

the ture, or verandah, of a

Kuta Galuh, 1977.




The Batak homeland, which today forms

the larger part of the province

of North Sumatra (Sumatera Utara), lies between the province of Aceh in the north and the provinces of West Sumatra (Sumatera Barat) and


in the south,

approximately 50,000 square kilometres in extent, or

one ninth of the total area of Sumatra. Dominant geographical features are Lake Toba and the extensive mountain ranges and highland plateaus which form part of the Bukit Barisan range that runs through the length of Sumatra. Among the high peaks are active and dormant volcanoes, a

number reaching

heights of over 2,000 metres.

The highland area has a

wet climate. Lake Toba, which has a central place in Batak folklore and tradition, lies in the bed of an extinct volcano in the heart of the Batak highlands and is dominated by a large island, Samosir, which is


about 50 km long and about 16 km

on the west


at its

widest point.


and the extensive lowlands of the east

narrow plain coast, while

not part of Batakland proper, have had extensive Batak populations since pre-colonial times, "to the great discontent of the local inhabitants there", as the

Batak anthropologist Ph. Tobing observed.


The Karo people occupy

the region north of


Lake Toba known


Karoland (Taneh Karo), approximately 5,000 square kilometres in area, between 3° and 3°30'N and 1°30' and 2°30 W. Karoland includes part /

of the shore of Lake Toba in the region of Tongging. In addition to the

Karo highlands Karoland embraces

parts of Dairi, Deli,

Langkat. In altitude the Karo territory ranges from the lowlands, through

200-700 metres

in the

Serdang and

40-200 metres


upper lowlands to heights

of 700-1,400 metres for villages in the highlands.

There are seven peaks above 1,800 metres, two being active volcanoes, Sibayak (2,070

m) and Sinabung

(2,417 m).

Karo Society




the north the Karos' neighbours are the staunchly Islamic

enese, to the east the

Muslim Malays of

the former sultanates of Deli,

Serdang and Langkat, to the south the Simalungun or Timur (Eastern) Bataks, to the south-west the Pak-Pak or Dairi Bataks, and across the



Toba Bataks.

Various attempts have been


to explain

and define the name

Batak, from the simple observation that to the coastal Malays



a general designation for the non-Muslim highlanders 3 (ethnic Bataks

converted to Islam being described as "Malay"), to the less flattering


definitions given

island of Sumatra'* offer

4 )

by Winstedt

("a wild people in the north of the

and Loeb ("pig-eater" 5 ). The Bataks themselves

no explanation apart from the name of


mythical ancestor, Si

Raja Batak, the Batak King.


important feature of Batak society


the Indian influence, as-

similated over a long period into the primal culture.





evidence that the Karo world was influenced by Indian ideas, beliefs

and practices

that are

no longer perceived


be intrustive or foreign, and

Indian science and culture helped to shape the traditional world view of the

Karo people.

Many have

noted, for example, the Indian sub-clan


in the

Sembiring merga (Colia, Pandia, Meliala, Depari, Pelawi, Malayalam,

Berahmana, Tekang,


and Keling), which indicate a strong Indian element whose name, alone among the five primary 7 clans, has a clear meaning: Si Mbiring, the Dark One. Hendrik Kern in this clan

has associated these Indian names with peoples, kingdoms, regions or 8

Even the term for clan, merga, is of Sanskrit origin. was elements of clan Sembiring that practised cremation until fairly recent times. More generally, Karo script, the compass, the traditional calendar, and divination charts all show strong Indian 9 influence and there are many Sanskrit loan words in Karonese. According to George Coedes, the Tndianisation' of Southeast Asia commenced around the beginning of the Christian era. About A.D. 100 there occurred a remarkable expansion of maritime and commercial activity by Indians, involving Burma, the Malay peninsula, Indo-China and Indonesia. 10 Sumatra had long been known to India and the ancient world as a source of gold, benzoin and camphor and, while the port of classes in India.



Barus on the west coast of Tapanuli cannot be linked with any certainty 11 it certainly came to play a key role in Indoto the Barusai of Ptolemy, Indonesian trade. In 1872 a Tamil inscription was discovered near Barus


Karo Society

indicating that in 1088 there had been 1,500 Tamils from South India living in the port

and forming a merchant guild trading


"Kapur Barus"

and incense. 12

From such

colonies Indian cultural influences penetrated as far as

Karoland, as evidenced by the oral tradition of the Barus sub-clan of

Karo-Karo, whose ancestor, appung Barus, with his wife, after contracting ago", finally making a



said to have left that


a forbidden marriage, "hundreds of years




Recent research reports by E. Edwards McKinnon and others have

added a new dimension to discussion of the process of "Indianization" in Karo society, by drawing out the significance of sites, such as Kota Cina on the east coast of north Sumatra, now known

have had international

to 14

It seems possible now Karo society from both the west and east coast trading settlements, and perhaps increasingly from the latter as the

trade links in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries.

that Indian influence entered

focus of international trade shifted to the east coast

some time

in the

twelfth century. In

time people forgot the origin of Indian practices



such as and elements of Indian religion, culture and technology

were absorbed by Karo society. The various Batak groups speak related but now mutually incomprehensible languages 16 and show significant variation in custom, dress, architecture, village lay-out

and socio-political

system central to Batak society



The kinship Toba Batak

usually designated by the

Dalin na tolu "the three stones" of the traditional fireplace, symbolising y

which are given different names in each same function in each. To be part which the Karo call sangkep sitelu, is to

the three pillars of Batak society

group but which of


essentially the

this three-fold relationship,

be a Batak, bound by kinship


and obligations


a firm social


Karo society these three pillars are the kalimbubu (a man's wife's and brothers along with their families, and also one's mother's father's family), the anak beru (the families into which one's female relatives have married) and the senina, (all those who, in Karo terms, can be addressed as "brother" or "sister"). The kalimbubu and anak beru groups also include, more broadly, the clans (merga) to which one's wife's and mother's father belong (kalimbubu) and the merga of all In



who have


strongest obligation



of one's

to those with



clan (anak beru), but the



an actual, as opposed

Karo Society



a class ifactory, relationship. The senina group of agnatic relatives




one uterus). This kinship system has been described clearly and fully by a Karonese anthropologist, Dr Masri Singarimbun, 17 and it is necessary also as

in this context only to

of Karo





basic importance for

not least the traditional religion. In




important trans-

must be present anak beru of the feast-giver do the work and make the arrangements, but a man's anak beru is also his advisor and the security for his proper behaviour. One's kalimbubu must be treated with great respect, spoken to politely and seriously, and obeyed. The kalimbubu is spoken of as a visible god (dibata niidah), the source of blessing (tuah) and, as the writer's anak beru tua Pa Gemuk, put it, "the anak beru must not joke or be flippant with his kalimbubu or 18 tell him an untruth, but must talk properly as though talking to God". The most basic unit of Karo society is the domestic family ox jabu, which inhabits one apartment (also called jabu) of a traditional house, or more commonly today all or part of a separate house. The jabu may be one person, such as a widow, or parents with their children, including sometimes the children of a previous marriage, and sometimes a grandparent, usually the husband's mother. A child becomes a member of the jabu at birth and leaves only on marriage, although boys after the age of eight or so no longer sleep in the family apartment but with

actions of


representatives of

and involved. In the giving of


three kin groups

feasts the


their peers in the rice-barn, rejoining their families for meals. Strict

avoidance taboos are observed between particular his wife's



(his marni), his wife's brother's

his daughters, a

man and


boy with


mother and

mami and turangku he

person concerned nor remain alone rigid,

relatives: a


wife (his turangku)

sisters. In the

will neither


case of a

speak directly to the

in her presence. In other cases a less

but still very reserved and discreet, relationship pertains. Given the

frequency of the incest theme in Karo folklore and the closeness of life


the traditional house may be assumed and the removal of the young men from the family apartment is to avoid even the appearance of improper relationships which, in the primal community, were seen to be the cause of such natural disasters as drought, epidemic illnesses, or failure of crops. A fundamental element in Karo social structure is the merga, a 19 dispersed clan which is divided into sub-clans, also called merga. Many Karonese explain merga as derived from meherga (valuable, it

that both the kinship prohibitions


Karo Society


expensive) and one writer has suggested that the father of the founders of

was Meherga, son of (Nini) Karo, son of (Si Raja) however, that the same word occurs in other Batak

the five primary clans





languages, with the same meaning but independent of the Karo stories,

would seem

to confirm the alternative explanation,

an Indian origin,

way of doing something. 21

from the Sanskrit marga, a way or path, or a Karo society is characterised by having five primary merga, Ginting, Karo-karo, Peranginangin, Tarigan, and Sembiring, each with many subclans.

To belong


one of The Five Clans (Merga









A life,


Karo boy



into his father's merga, remains within

identifying himself by either his primary clan or sub-clan name,

A woman

he chooses.



related to her father's clan as beru (a

example beru Ginting, and she retains this identity for life, not exchanging it on marriage, although on marriage she, like her husband, becomes anak beru to her father and brothers and their families. Karo merga are patrilinial descent groups and are often related to particular clans in other Batak societies, enabling the Karo to relate to kinship structures beyond their own tribal society. In marriage a man may not take a wife from the same primary merga, although some intermarriage between some stated sub-clans of Sembiring and of), for



allowed, indicating perhaps that

some such groups

were once recognised as being different from the primary clan. Ideally a man should marry a cross-cousin, his mother's brother's daughter (his

anak mama or impal) although this ideal is rarely realised. Karo clans are dispersed within society, have no clan chiefs or other structures or institutions relating solely to that one clan, and do not gather together separately from other clans for any purpose at all. In fact most of the five primary merga are represented in any village and no one merga group acting alone can initiate or carry through any enterprise of importance, whether a

life-crisis ritual

or the founding of a



merga or beru identity each Karonese also has a bere-bere, the merga of which one's mother was beru. Two people of the same bere-



bere are classifactory siblings, being either senina (sibling of the same sex) or turang (sibling of the opposite sex). Kinship relationships are

Dr Singarimbun. The cement of Karo society is adat or custom, the traditional way of relating, making decisions and getting things done. It will be seen described in detail by

presently that adat cannot be distinguished clearly from the primal



Karo Society


religious belief and practice, a fact which complicates life for the


in a



pluralistic society.



both customary law and

a compendium of traditionally accepted beliefs and practices. supernatural sanctions in that to break adat




to invite disaster in


form or another, and to fulfil one's obligations under adat, particularly one's kalimbubu, is to ensure good fortune (tuah).

It is


adat that provides

social cohesion and the norms and sanctions of everyday life. Kinship and adat are both woven into the fabric of Karo religion, but not all

customs have religious sanctions.

One example of this is


custom of naming. Besides


or beru, each individual has a personal after birth, traditionally in the case of a


boy by

his or her




(gelar) chosen

mother's brother (his

mama) and in the case of a girl by her father's sister (her bibi). This name may be associated with the circumstances of the birth or some


child or

person younger than the speaker, including a younger sibling,

may be

event of that time, or with some hope for the child's future.

addressed directly by name, but never a person older than the speaker. Strict is

avoidance of naming one's elders, and particularly one's parents,



forced to identify them, for example for an


people will resort to all kinds of expedients to avoid actually saying the

name: "His name




as the

name of that

tree", for

forced to utter the name, a person will often preface




with an invocation

or formula to avoid the ill-fortune consequent upon such a breach of

custom: ola melus bulung-bulung






the leaves in the garden not wither

Older people are addressed by the name of



their oldest child:

Pa Benar,

— Father of Benar, Mother of Benar; and grandparents grandchild, name of may be addressed, or by — Nini Benar Grandparent of Benar. avoid naming

Nande Benar






their adult child:

Sub-clans have a pair of names for their male and female children: in the case of the

Bangun sub-clan of Peranginangin, Girik

for an elder

daughter and Teger for an elder son. Thus a person whose child's merga is known can be addressed by teknonym, even where the child's name is not known, Pa Girik or Pa Teger for example. Where the child's name is known some may still choose to use the characteristic 22 A woman may identify her husband as "the father of sub-clan name.

or beru actual

this child", or as "the

one who paid the bride-exchange for




Kaw Society



aku) \ thus avoiding naming her spouse. child


not yet born

may be referred to as



her husband's merga name, not his gelar: "Si

of the


of Munthe

woman whose


"the wife of so-and-so", using

man Munthe

the wife

sub-clan." Older people are generally addressed

by kinship terms such as kaka, older brother, kakak, older sister, bapa, 23 father or father's brother, mama, mother's brother, and so on. This complex system of parallel with other societies

the person



name avoidance where

suggests, at

first sight,


fear of supernatural influence over

given as the reason for avoidance. However no

Karo informant offered such an explanation, or responded when such a possibility was hinted at. Rather, people commented that name avoidance was simply a matter of showing respect for one's elders. People have no hesitation in revealing their own names at the conclusion of the ertutur process undergone with each new acquaintance to determine kinship, and younger people are referred to, and addressed, by name without hesitation. The formula quoted, where it is resorted to, is said to ward off the ill consequences of failing to show respect, rather than any consequence to the person named. The traditional Karo house, called rumah, constitutes both a social and a ritual community, being occupied by four to eight family units in various relationships to the head family of the house, so that the three elements, kalimbubu, anak beru and senina, with respect to this family, are present.


traditional houses are


occupied in the

Karo highlands, but there are fewer now since many were destroyed during the Revolution. Factors of time and expense make it unlikely that any more will be built. A modern style house may be occupied by more than one family, but increasingly family units are seeking separate accommodation, more in keeping with the modern era. Dr Singarimbun has provided a description of the social life of the traditional house community, and the Building Research Institute in Bandung has published a detailed architectural description of the traditional buildings of a Karo village. 24 Beyond the family and house stands the complex social structure of the village, or kuta. Karo villages are not over large, from ten to several hundred families, and larger villages are divided into wards, kesain, which ensure that village participation is still relatively intimate and never impersonal. The village has its own land, the taneh kuta, controlled by the village's founding clan, the bangsa taneh. Wards, where they exist, play an important role in control of access to village


Karo Society



common villages

no longer have the high wall said to have been and more dangerous, times, but many smaller rural have a low fence to prevent domestic animals wandering at


in earlier,



Besides traditional and modern houses the village contains barns (keberi), in

men may




stored and in which the

sleep, coffee-shops (kede kopi), a lesung

young unmarried where women stamp

the rice in rice mortars carved in rows in a large

jambur or place accommodation

for village meetings

beam of

which may also serve

timber, a

as sleeping

young men, and perhaps a geriten or skull house. A burial place is found a little apart from the village and there are separate bathing places for men and women. Coconut, tangarine and banana are frequently planted in the village and pigs and chickens roam freely, the latter sometimes being provided with a lipo, or hen-house. Clumps of sacred plants, as family offering-places, are also common and will be discussed below. Both the jambur and the coffee-shop are important for

meeting places for the village which,

and a

like the house, is

community. The social composition of the village


a social


egalitarian nature of




illustrates clearly the strongly

in the traditional

house so


the village all three kin elements, with respect to the founding clan,

must be present: their kalimbubu, anak beru and senina. It will be clear from what has been said that the anak beru, the women of the bangsa taneh with their husbands and families, are in a subordinate, serving role, although this serving role includes responsibility to advise, warn and even correct where behaviour or attitudes may detract from the reputation of their kalimbubu. The senina group are equals, being male members of other branches of the founding clan with their wives and children. The kalimbubu on the other hand, the fathers and brothers of women who have married men of the founding clan, are socially superior to the bangsa taneh, which is in turn their anak beru. Thus the founding merga is always assisted by elements of their anak beru, senina and kalimbubu groups in


decision-making, and also in the

runggun adat, the traditional council which is the real focus of authority in Karo society, resolving disputes by open discussion based on accepted traditional values and customary law, interpreted in a realistic and

common-sense manner. 25 Karonese family in village affairs.

life reflects the

While a wife


same open, democratic

attitude seen

spoken of as "the one bought with


Karo Society

the bride-price" {si tukur

emas) and


jurally inferior to her


and brothers, she in fact enjoys rights and privileges that indicate that she is her husband's partner, not one of his possessions. All informants agree that the bride-price itself, far from indicating that a woman can be purchased or sold, is in fact a guarantee of her status and value, and many Karonese find it difficult to comprehend that western husbands and fathers do in fact place value on the women who are passed so casually

from one family

to another.

Husband and wife share

responsibility for the household

and for

A husband shows his wife the same respect he expects from her, and shows great respect for her family, his kalimbubu. A wife's

raising the family.

her consent. With the

may not be disposed of without opening of markets many women have developed


marketing, adding considerably to family finance



valued and her own possessions

and hence

skills in

to educational

and other opportunities for

the traditional village, however,


their children. In

of the work in the fields and


work is done by a man's wife and daughters while the husband is more free to travel about, or to relax with other men in the coffee-shop. Unmarried men appear to be under no obligation to work if they do not desire to do so. Traditionally men did the heavy work in the the household


and tasks considered dangerous. Informants speak of the physically of village women, many of whom had to fetch water and

difficult life

perform other menial tasks in addition to work in the house and


Money earned from the sale of produce, since the advent of the money is family money and while it is usually administered by the

economy, husband, to


not his to be disposed of at will. The wife has exclusive right

money earned from

the sale of stock she has reared herself, such as

poultry and pigs. Respect rather than an outward the relationship of

show of affection marks

husband and wife, but there

that lasts longer than the "first year" of marriage is

said to be the

main bond of


evident an affection

when mutual

unity, later displaced, so

it is



by a

shared love for the children.

There can be no doubt

that children are the Karo's

possessions. Affection for children


intense, as


most prized

grief for a lost child.

Parents, and grandparents, are proud of their children, "like a westerner

proud of his car", an informant in Kuala, Langkat, told the writer; and one of the obligatory questions in ertutur introductions is "Enggo piga is


— How many

children have

In family affairs the husband


we?" more reserved than

his wife,


Karo Society


does not hide his feelings. In theory the mother nurtures and the father disciplines, but the roles are not absolutely separated.

man would

While a Karo

not want to be seen occupied in any domestic task such

as sweeping or drawing water, minding a child or caring for is

clearly seen to

be appropriate. Avoidance

rules exist



between grown

children and a parent of the opposite sex and rules of deference between



same sex. For example, a man will male kalimbubu, at the bathing place.

children and a parent of the

withdraw son

he meets


his father, or

important to complete a family, particularly so that the


go to "other people", such as daughters' husbands. made, however, for daughters to inherit, or enjoy the use

inheritance will not



of the family land, either during the father's

of, part


is settled.






birth of a daughter into a family of sons is

also a cause for relief and pleasure. Relations between siblings


loyalty, particularly


between brothers,




proverbial. Discipline in

up to a certain point beyond which it may be harsh. After boy will no longer assist with household tasks and would be ashamed to be seen sweeping or drawing water. the family is lax

the age of about eight years a

Relationships in Karonese society in the period before Dutch rule are

by frequent conflict between groups, and neighbouring ethnic groups. 27 Karo wars, however, were limited, being quickly broken off when some "omen" occurred

said to have been characterised villages strictly

which could determine victory, or the vindication of one party. Destruction of trees and villages was prohibited. That conflict was a common experience however, even in the democratic pre-European society of the Karonese, is confirmed by informants, and by a well-known proverb,

Adi tinaruh

ibas gargar





even eggs

in the nest

how much more


to quarrel."



will people,

Interpreting this proverb,

Singarimbun says, "In


Balincam manusia


into collision with each other

who have


and hands.

which he gives in a slightly different form, Dr no end to the opportunities for

this life there is


The everyday life of the Karo village revolves around seasonal labour in the fields. Most village Karonese are small farmers following either wet-rice (ersabah) or dry-rice (erjuma) cultivation. Every village raises

and sometimes cattle. The water buffalo is both a beast of burden and a means of investment, being sold off to raise ready cash. pigs, hens

Karo Society


Today vegetable,


and flower cultivation


important, often on a

quite large scale, for city and overseas markets, and co-operatives have

purchased and operate

tractors, trucks

and other modern implements.

Coconut, citrus and banana trees are planted around many villages.





is still

Javanese or Toba Bataks some of

often performed by non-Karonese:

whom may

live in or near the larger


Roadside town in the upper lowlands: Bandar Bam, 1978, viewed from behind the settlement.

Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

The Karo Primal The


Karo people encountered by both Muslim and To the Muslim the Karo was a kaflr, an unbeliever, to the Christian a pagan. To the European ethnologists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many of whom were officials, missionaries or explorers, the Karo was an "animist", a worshipper of ancestral spirits and of the spirits religion of the

Christian visitors to Karoland has been described in a variety of ways.


of nature. 2

The Karo, who

in the primal

world did not differentiate between

categories such as "religion", "magic", "custom", "culture", "belief"

and "ceremony", called himself perbegu, a venerator of the spirits of the 3 dead. Perbegu is concerned primarily with the existence oibegu-begu, the spirits of the dead, and with the rites and ceremonies associated with them and while in modern Indonesian the term perbegu has come to have negative connotations such as primitive or heathenish

have been



need not always

A recent writer has suggested that perbegu is a missionary

term 4 but the term was used without hesitation by the Karonese up to the 1960s, and a missionary term for "heathen" or "pagan" in fact existed, kapir, of Islamic origin.


led to the displacement of

inherent politeness of the Karonese has

bom perbegu and

kapir in recent times by

pemena (the original belief) or by the Indonesian expression belum masuk agama (not yet joined a recognised religion). The most important observation to be made about the Karo primal






it is

not expressed in any systematic way. There are no

holy scriptures, there


no systematic theology, there


no dogma. As

will be seen there are inconsistencies, elements that cannot be wholly


Pemena: The Original Belief

Kiniteken Si


some intrusive elements sit uneasily alongside ancient Indonesian insights. The greatest reconciled without distortion. Different traditions exist,

danger facing a western observer


that in seeking unity




not exist one may read alien elements into the analysis, a danger of which the early students of


it is

clear that

much less complex

were aware. 5 the primal world-view of the Karonese people



than that of their religious specialists, the guru.

of the deities and beliefs recorded by the guru are in fact





common people, and some represent the esoteric knowledge of only a few guru. An example is the deity Raja Kain Omas, The King With Golden Clothes, said to be, "a god who receives the souls of men after the

they cross the river of death" and also lord of the




to only a

few guru.

In this discussion emphasis will

Karo people,

"kingdom of the dead",


be given to the primal beliefs of the

rather than to the esoteric beliefs of their religious experts

many of which, along with the gurus' prayers and formulas, have been borrowed from neighbouring peoples among whom some gurus have always sought to widen their science (lanigurun). The sources for the most part are contemporary informants, for perbegu is still a living religious tradition in Karoland, while

from the colonial era which

some reference

now form

recent developments in perbegu tradition

The most immediate and Karo people




tendi jadi


bukjadi ijuk jukutjadi taneh tulanjadi batu

dareh jadi lau

kesahjadi angin



may be

power, and


may be detected.

dead person, and

tendi of the departed. This

in particular


becomes a spirit becomes a course black flesh becomes earth the bones become stones the blood becomes water the breath becomes the wind.

expressed in

the soul the hair

said to be the source



when the first movements

human tendi that makes a person own particular tendi, and it is this (kinitendin) that makes a human person It is

from an animal, which has

spiritual nature or spirituality


and basis of a person's

received before birth, at the time

of the unborn child are detected. different

to reports

departed kin and ancestors. According to Karo

begu is the soul or wellknown saying:

belief the


relevant element of the divine world for

the begu, the spirit of a

the spirits of one's


a valuable base-line from which



Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief




non-human creatures: "manusia


asang rubia-rubia

The tendi can away by a begu or evil influence, giving unconsciousness, coma or death depending on the period

erkiteken kinitendinna"


a Karonese saying to

this effect.

leave the body, or be snatched rise to fainting,

of the tendi 's absence.

Much of the tendi-cult is directed toward ensuring and untroubled so that it will not wander, and powers and influences.

that the tendi is content




safe from molesting

The tendi is said to exist throughout the body but is more evident, some say more concentrated, at seven important points, the left and right wrist pulses, the left and right upper arms, the fontanel, the heart and

the neck.

It is


movements of

by many Bataks with

the involuntary normal

the body. Tendi exists in parts separated from the body,

such as hair and nail clippings, and most powerfully of all in the placenta and amniotic fluids discarded during the birth process. The placenta is often buried carefully under the house and its tendi is often regarded as a twin of the new-born child brother or to



sister, it

who will come to address


as agi (younger

being of the same sex as the child) and offer prayer

preparing for sleep.




Westenberg noted



that the

amniotic fluid was also regarded as an "other-self and addressed as

kaka (older brother or called



and with the placenta-spirit agi could be

for assistance in time of danger.


Older writers such as A. C. Kruyt (Kruijt) identified tendi with the soul-material (zielestof) which


the focal concept in his analysis

of the animistic religions of Indonesia, but one which he later (1918— 9 20) discarded in favour of "magical-power" (magiscne Kraft).

aspects of the tendi-cult

be represented

in all respects

the persilihi sacrifice in

fabricated is





whole tendi can as for example in

clear the belief that the

by a separated


tendi-rich materials are offered with the

to represent the person

on whose behalf the


offered, or in the stealing of a strand of a girl's hair to be included

win her favourable response. Some guru believe humans have a seven-fold tendi, a common Malay belief, but apart from an informant in Langkat, where Malay influence is strong, no other Karonese reported such belief. Tendi can exist in all living organisms and in some inanimate main a love-charm to


of great power such as




said to have a very strong

and is used in blessing rites to strengthen the human tendi of, for example, a returning kinsman who has been overlong absent. In the


human person

the tendi forms part of a three-fold division, kula (body),

Kiniteken Si

Pemena: The Original Belief

tendi (soul)

and kesah (breath) and

enjoys a different blood,



reduced to



death each of these divisions

The body, made up of

in its

hair, flesh,

bones and

basic earthy elements, the soul embracing the

personality and identity of the individual



becomes a begu which

own appropriate way, and the breath


simply disappears into the


such belief may have arisen from simple reminder that much primal religion, far observation of life events, a from being irrational superstition as many have supposed, represents a It is

not difficult to see


draw hypotheses from empirical observation of view of things the tendi represents the lifeforce (levenskracht) observed in humankind and other living beings, a life-force so mysterious that few pre-modern societies could conceive of it simply ceasing to exist at death. It was from belief in this personal, indestructible spirit that the begu cult emerged. One Karo informant in Langkat expressed belief in a seven-fold death, not reincarnation in this world but repeated rebirth and death in the land of the dead, and an informant from Susuk in the highlands said, "people die again in the land of the dead". Others say more vaguely that death is a continuing process {mate enda pe si-mate-materi). It is not easy to reconcile this belief with the much more simple belief in decomposition into wind, spirit (now called begu) and material substances which would leave only the begu to carry on the process of rebirth and death in the stage in the attempt to the realities of


In this

land of the dead.



inclined to regard the simple decomposition theory as indige-

nous, or at least



and the seven-fold or repeated death

belief as a reflection of only partly assimilated Indian or Hindu- Javanese ideas.


In popular belief the life of the

world, although

some say

begu is said to be similar to life in this world of the begu is back-to-front,

that the

work being done at night and so on. The dead are said to follow the same occupations they had in this world, so a thief will continue to be a thief in the world of the dead and a gambler to follow his passion for

gambling. While Sanskrit words for heaven and hell exist in modern Karonese (surga and neraka) they have probably been borrowed rela-

from Malay or from modern Indonesian. Neither is noted Neumann's pre-war Karo-Bataks Nederlands Woordenboek 11 and

tively recently in

both have Islamic-Christian rather than Indian connotations in modern Karonese. There appear to be no truly corresponding concepts in the


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

primal religion. Reward and punishment are in real eschatological expectation.


world of the dead as being, "just

this life

and there



educated informant described the like

our world, in space, but in a

alam lain.) and having no direct communication with our world". Most people today say that they do not know what this

different realm (B.I.

world is


but occasionally people will claim to know of the existence

of a village of the dead (kuta kalak mate), as in Susuk where informants

claimed to have heard voices like rustling wind near the burial place.

The begu


not generally feared by the Karonese but

held in awe. 12 Care


taken not to offend




respected and

to provide for



by M. Singarimbun 13 although this term has other meanings, is the spirit of a person who met a natural, and not untimely, death (si mate gerpa-gerpa). These begu remain attached by sentiment to their close kin but are of no significance for others. They are summoned soon after death in \he perumah begu rite and in time they are forgotten. A much more significant begu is the begu jabu or household spirit, 14 also called dibata jabu or household deity. This is the spirit of a close relative who died suddenly (si mate sada wari one who died 15 in one day) by accident, violence, or suicide but not through illness. After the perumah begu rites these begu become household spirits, or deities (dibata), protecting their families from evil spiritual powers and influences. The only observed Karo reference to salvation was noted in this context, in the saying begu jabu ngkelini jabuna the household spirit saves his household. The salvation, however, is in this world, salvation from the powers causing sickness and other troubles, not some far-away eschatological salvation. These spirits, or deities, are said to dwell in the family home, and offerings are made to them. More remote begu, the ancestral spirits, may also exercise an important influence. The tendi of certain persons possessed of extraordinary supernatural powers during their lifetimes, such as the guru, smiths and musicians, are said

The most ordinary begu,

also called jin ujung



deities (dibata).

Because of the sudden, traumatic nature of its death the begu si mate sada wari is a powerful and dangerous spirit, and if it is not propitiated properly in the perumah begu rite it may become a powerful threat to its kin and others against whom it may harbour resentment. Taken from this life

suddenly, and unwillingly, having had no time to prepare for death,

such a person might become a wandering wild


(begu mentas),

confused, uncertain where to go and bitterly resentful of

its fate.



Pemena: The Original Belief

Kiniteken Si

inappropriate attempt to re-enter the family circle of

living kin will


bring them sickness and death, as will a sudden encounter with a family


on a

in the fields or

rite the spirit is

reconciled to



its fate,

that in the perumah begu made aware of its new state and the

It is vital

behave toward its living kin, and given opportunity to take proper farewell from its family, indicate its last wishes and complete any unfinished business that may be necessary. Other begu known to the Karo include the begu Butara Guru, the spirit of a still-born or appropriate



miscarried child, also called begu perkakun jabu a household. Such a learned to talk in


spirit also is potentially

life, it is

thus, unwittingly,


— guardian


unable to communicate




needs and desires

may offend it. Tambun

family and kin


having not

says that

17 and disasters to such a spirit. Special rites of propitiation will be described below. Care is taken to bury the body of such an infant secretly for a guru could use it to manufacture

the guru often attribute accidents

medicine (pupuk) which could then be employed to bring misfortune on the family or others.



The begu known

as Bicara

lived only to die before cutting

properly this


can become a

who is known also

spirit protector

the spirit can be






its first

Butara Guru

household, but


the spirit of a

tooth. If propitiated


in the highlands,





to serve a guru.

The begu ganjang or

"tall spirit" is

a supernatural monster the very

mention of which can strike terror into the heart of a Karo adult, even on occasion the modern Karo adherent of Christianity or Islam. Its origin


said to

be the

used to do their several


of an ancestor given to descendants to be

may be male or female and a guru may have so a person may obtain one on application to

will. It

begu ganjang,

such a guru with offerings and prayers.


then becomes a supernatural

also a heavy burden so that

few desire such a helper. walk stooped because of the burden they carry. This supernatural monster is employed only to do evil, it can kill by strangulation and its very appearance may cause deep shock or death. An informant in Kuala, Langkat, held the view servant but



person with a begu ganjang

much of


said to

evoked by mention of the begu ganjang arose tales told by parents to frighten their children; the childhood bogeyman lived on in the adult consciousness that

from the

the terror


warnings and

as an instrument of arbitrary power.


other spiritual powers are described as begu, for example the

begujuma or spirits of the agricultural land and the begu pengulubalang


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

or spirit of a stone or carving, originally the spirit of a

made at that place to become the

spirit protector

formants suggest a clear distinction between the


of a village. 18 spirits


Some in-

{begu-begu) and

the divinities {dibata-dibata) but the terms are clearly interchangeable

such expressions as begu (or dibata)jabu and the perumah begu rite is sometimes called perumah dibata. There may be some tendency today to


assimilate perbegu terminology into the


fashionable by Christians

more respectable terminology

who speak




Dibata but ,

it is

more likely that indigenous {begu) and Indian {dibata) words exist side by side, describing the same things. It would be in keeping with general Indonesian patterns with



over a period of time the Sanskrit loan word,


scholarly and cultured tone, should replace the ancient,

indigenous, term altogether. In



religion the gods {dibata-dibata) are numerous.


H. Neu-

defined "dibata" as: "God, gods, the divine world {godenwereld)

the pregnant


bom; dibata idah



[the visible

in his dibata



S.R.] a

(father-in-law); dibata si nangkih nusur


S.R.] being not yet

name the

for the kalimbubu god who goes up and "

19 by the gods The dibata jabu usage has been noted above. The word dibata appears derived from the Sanskrit deva, which has come into Indonesian as dewa, "anything that is worshipped", 20 and into Latin as deus, a god. In Indian religion the deva were the major gods, "the bright and shining ones" {div, "shine"). Devata (plural) was applied to special gods {ishta


S.R.] the sun; kedibatan punished




devata, "the gods chosen" to be worshipped), or to the lesser gods such

and the gods causing disease.

as village deities, water


The Hindu propensity

worship "practically every object on earth and

in the stars,






tree spirits

stones, trees, pools, rivers, the sky, sun,

moon, planets,

animals, birds, man, the male and female generative organs,

ghosts, demons, departed ancestors",


found a natural home in Karo

and the term devata, originally plural, was readily assimilated as dibata a Karonese singular noun sometimes employed with a vaguely society


The missionary-ethnologist J. H. Neumann Karo Batak the name Dibata has many meanings.

plural or undefined meaning.




the three- fold





si telu) y



called Dibata, the

empung), \hejin ujung, the sun and so on are all called Dibata. Whatever is unusual {mehantu), powerful {megegeh) or 22 possessed by awesome power {mejin) is said by perbegu to be Dibata." deified ancestor {nini


legend associated with Kandibata village in the highlands



Kiniteken Si

use of "dibata". Here a great fish (ikan dibata) was caught, whose

this tail


Pemena: The Original Belief



in the


when its head had been carried to the fisherman's




Karonese dibata can be applied to any divine or semi-divine worshipped or held in awe. To the meanings given by

object, anything

Neumann Dr Singarimbun adds, "a special class of guardian spirits", the dibata jabu mentioned above, and "the penis".





si telu)


which Neumann referred


appears to be a Karo reflection of the Hindu trimurti, Brahma the creator,

Vishnu the sustainer and Siva the destroyer. In Karo

this divine triad is

represented by:

Dibata Idatas Dibata Itengah

Dibata Iteruh

God Above God in the Middle God Below. 24


This belief, however, belongs largely to the esoteric knowledge of the guru, a vestige of partly assimilated Indian teaching, and




practical importance to ordinary people in their daily lives. Informants

made Karo


however, that belief in the divine triad was general in



and may have been

significant in

Karonese response



This three-fold

God is




incantations of the guru

well-known or popular invocation retrieve a wandering tendi:

the only really rite, to



O Dibata si nidatas, O Dibata si nitengah, O Dibata si niteruh,

O God Above, O God of the Middle World, O God Below,

Sampati kami pemulihi tendina

Help us

anak (kempu) kami

our child (grandchild)



the ngaleng tendi

to retrieve the soul of .


Karo people asked to describe these beings usually resort to speculation, such


God Above God in the Middle


God (Allah)


Humankind (Manusia, Lord of the Middle World)

God Below



The Mouth of Death.

informant mentioned belief in a Devil in

that the

Karonese expression



this context,


si telu






— God



Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

Three in One,


of Christian origin. As Dr Singarimbun notes, there are


cults associated with the divine triad.


These three gods however are involved in the Batak creation story which in its Karo form is fragmentary with an incomplete assimilation of borrowed elements of Toba Batak and other traditions. God above, 11 identified as Guru Butara or Batara Guru i empung, whom Neumann identifies as "the

lands above".

foremost of the high gods", 28




said to "rule his


and the source of all good and blessing. He dwells


said to be the high creator. Both


the high



as a

Dibata kaci-kaci} 9



the caretaker of the natural order, the guardian of

Tambun and Bangun

whom Neumann


in high


on the other


female divinity (een vrouwelijke dibata). Sadakata Ginting

God: "toron

reports the use of Dibata Kaci-kaci in the invocation of

Dibata Kaci-kaci, kundul Dibata itengah, naiklah Dibata iteruh

down Dibata

Kaci-kaci, be seated Dibata in the middle world,

Dibata in the world below". 30 Here again Dibata Kaci-kaci

God Above.

identified with

Similarly, Dibata Kaci-kaci


come come up




number of tabas or mantera: "ningku Dibata Kaci-kaci hear me [literally, I say] Dibata Kaci-kaci ". Neumann's report,

directly in a







seems, reflects a tradition that sees Dibata Kaci-kaci as either the wife

of Batara Guru


in the



or as the sister of

Banua Koling

Middle World, Tuan Padukah


ni Aji, is alternately de-

scribed as the high god in his manifestation in the middle world or as the brother of the high


god sent

to create

God Below, Tuan Banua Koling, is

and dwell

in the


likewise described either as a

manifestation of the high god or as the brother of God Above, sent to the

world below {iteruh) from which he had rule over he was displeased with causing


all spirits.

He is


he blew on the newly created world

to rock as well as giving rise to mountains, seas

natural features.


his place

and other

also said to cause earthquakes.

recently published version of the

Karo creation

story emphasises

the opposition of Guru Batara's second son to the creation of the Middle

World, and the killing of the bird Si Danggur Dawa-dawa, from whose 31 ashes the living creatures were formed.


uncertainty in the identification of these gods


would seem


Hindu trimurti has been imperfectly fused with older Batak traditions, which saw god as a supreme source of life and power. The Bataks do not make clear distinctions between these gods, who in the popular religion may be considered manifestations of this one indicate that the

— Kiniteken Si


Pemena: The Original Belief

ancient deity, and they are the least important aspect of the everyday religious observance of the Karonese.

Karo people speak of Dibata

in a

way which seems

older, or simpler, concept of a deity, uncluttered


to reflect this

later Indian ideas. *

was said by an informant in Langkat, 'Dibata enda sada dibata si ndauh kal idatas langit si meganjangna. La nai iingetna God is a far-away god, above the highest heaven. persoalen manusia He no longer recalls the problems of humankind." To this informant the begu-begu were the agents of God in everyday affairs. Another informant saw the kalimbubu as the agents in this world of God, who had distanced himself from everyday human affairs. On God the other hand, the saying, "Dibata meteh mate-geluh manusia For example,



the death




of humanity", indicates belief



people in an all-seeing deity, and the saying, "Ndahi raja

doni enda uis bersih nge sibahan, apai denga ka


min ndahi Dibata

approach an earthly ruler we wear our clean clothes, how much more so if we approach God", indicates an awareness of the holiness and power of God. In this latter respect it is impossible to determine now the extent to which these perceptions were shaped by Muslim and even early Christian influences on the primal religion. It is interesting, also, to note the reference in Neumann's Woordenboek to debata si mula jadi which he describes as an "incessantly repeated refrain chanted by women in the duma-dwna", a narrative chant of old women, now little understood. He offers no further explanation, but taking the literal meaning of the words this is a reference to a god whose existence was from the beginning, or who was the beginning, of 33 creation. This deity is clearly related to the Toba Debata Mulajadi na Bolon, whose name means, "The Great God, the Origin of What Came into Being", whom Vergouwen identifies as probably an old Batak deity to be distinguished from the Hindu trimurti, a god who embodies in himself the entire cosmic order; the High God of Professor Tobing's 34 analysis. While Karo tradition has now almost forgotten this god it may be suggested that the Dibata si Mula Jadi of the ancient chants is a If to

remainder of an ancient Batak Sumatran history.

vestigial in

deity, antedating the Indian era

Other deities known to the Karo include the sun god, Sinarmataniari, whose name means, literally, the light of the eye of the day. With the three gods, or the three-fold god, (Dibata Si Telu), sometimes described as her brothers, she is said to

have existed before creation. Her power



Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

concentrated in the

dawn and

sun-set and she

God Above and Tuan Banua


said to mediate between

Koling, particularly in the pacification of

the latter 's anger. Si Beru Dayang is said to be the begu of a woman who committed incest with her maternal uncle (mama). Her place is in the moon (Bulan) but she is seen also in the rainbow (Benteha). Her task is

to ensure that the earth, the


domain of Tuan Paduka

ni Aji,

does not

or fly away.

Other supernatural beings are numerous and discussion must be limfew characteristic examples. The Beraspati ni taneh is the

ited to a

personification of the natural forces associated with the land and fulness,

and appears


be one of the few consistently good

its fruit-



becomes visible in the aspect of the lizard, an almost 35 universal feature of Karo decoration, traditional and modern. It is to this spirit, known sometimes as begu juma spirit of the agricultural land, that children are introduced soon after birth and propitiation was made, in former times with human or other sacrifice, before sinking the to the Karonese. It

piles of a

house or bridge or


Beru Lau, the Water Woman,


any other way disturbing the a female water spirit to

earth. Si



are introduced soon after birth. Associated particularly with the water-

source of the village, she


important particularly in the areas of the

volcanic plateau where water can be scarce or difficult to obtain.

Another class of supernatural beings


which was not worshipped

or propitiated but which held an important place in folklore. This in-

umang and jangak, described by Dutch reporters as elves gnomes (dwergen, kabouters). These beings clearly possessed supernatural powers (kesaktin) although they seem also to have some of the attributes of the aboriginal pigmies encountered by the Karo in past 36 The umang was generally dangerous; being greatly attached to times. humans it would snatch away an infant or adult to its village in the deep forest, bewitching the victim so that they could not find their way home. A number of villages have stories of people who finally returned home, remembering little of their sojourn with the forest people. The umang cluded the or


skilled builders




be seen

The jangak was Its

and are said in Deli,


built the

Batu Kemang burial

Serdang and Langkat.


a kindly being, generous and helpful to humankind.

kesaktin was used to help the poor and distressed and stories exist

such as that of the poor to



it in.



given a locust tied on a long string and told

he did so

benefactor had disappeared.



became a water-buffalo and

his kindly

straightforward nature of the jangak



Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief





aversion for bargaining, giving rise to several sayings




bagi jangak

nukur-nukur ola bagi jangak both meaning do not give the The;7rt



price asked, but bargain.

a supernatural being or

male or female. The word


do not be like the jangak, or do not buy like the jangak,

which can take human form, Malay- Arabic origin, like its


clearly of

humans but can be pacified by the release of a hen (ngelepasken manuk) in a place that is inhabited by a jin (mejin). The jin employed by an important Anglicised form, genee. The jin


generally troublesome to

Karonese reflection of the good and evil jin. The grave of an important guru is always mejin, and is usually marked by a white flag. The jin ujung is said to be a wild spirit which attaches itself to a person and can speak through him or her. That person is the host, and the jin ujung their servant, but one that cannot be put off again and which in time becomes a burden to its host. H. H. Barlett was told by informants near Berastagi that the jin ujung was a "fearsome and powerful demon of the mountain peaks, old forests and such places. It was as far as possible from their wish to be possessed by it, for it was evil and terrible". 38 The name suggests that this jin was a spirit of the mountain tops (ujung bukit) and propitiatory sacrifices were made on both Mt Sibayak and Mt Sinabung, and in other places where the territory of the jin ujung might be violated. Sometimes the jin ujung is said to act as perkentas, the intermediary between a spirit medium and the spirit world, even to be the guru's tendi merangkap or second soul. 39 A person may have two or more jin ujung and it is said that sometimes a man may have guru may, however, be


beneficial, perhaps a

belief that there are

a female jin ujung, or vice versa, a condition that gives rise to trouble

which Neumann does not specify. 40 The Karo of Langkat express great fear of the puntianak (Malay pontianak), the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth, the

The remaining the



fearful of all spirits.

deity to

be discussed

as dibata ni idah

in a variety of


the kalimbubu, referred to

ways from, "a way of showing honour and

belief that, "in this world


the visible god. Informants describe this

respect", to

Dibata only reveals himself through one's

kalimbubu; one only encounters Dibata in his visible manifestation, the kalimbubu". There is general belief that one's kalimbubu by birth give tuah,

good fortune and


which are almost synonymous

in the


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

Batak mind, and oured. There

it is

kalimbubu must be honkalimbubu were ever treated

for this reason that the

no evidence, however,


as "divine", a suggestion that


greeted with smiles by the modern


Karonese, or that the expectation of their blessing than a very general sense.

among whom

It is

is held in any more Simalungun Bataks,

interesting that the

was more highly developed, na taridah or visible gods, the exact equivalent

the institution of kingship

called their kings naibata

of the Karonese expression.




rich in legend

and story but the Karo have no myth 41 and their traditional cosmology

explaining the origins of their society.

appears to be limited to the fragmentary creation story mentioned above.

Many myths

explain the origin of certain lineage groups. 42 Other myths

relate to the origin of the magical staff possessed



and of the rainbow; both concern cases of

supernatural punishment.

which Aceh.


by some important and its

sibling incest

The legend of The Green

Princess (Putri Ijo),

not exclusive to the Karo, reflects conflict with neighbouring

Traditional Karonese music and dance had religious, as well as artistic,


and recreational dimensions, a


which led the Christian

mission to ban both the traditional orchestra (gendang Karo) and Karo

dancing (landek) to





course of action was to have a

considerable inhibiting effect on the progress of Christian evangelism in

Karoland some examination of the religious dimension of music and

dance will be of interest.

Karo orchestra is related in a well-known myth. 44 In the beginning humankind was created by God, through the intermediary Tuan Banua Koling, and lived happily not knowing death unul they numbered forty-eight persons. At one time however, in a terrible storm of rain, lightening and cyclonic winds, a beautiful young girl died. Her


origin of the

mother, the chieftainess (kemberahen) grieved deeply, wishing that she

might have died before her



that time five

sounds were heard:

the sounds of

a tung-tung,

possibly a kind of frog [meaning uncertain],

two katak

or frogs,

kayat pitu sedahan a gaya


Ampuk bird,





46 seven beetles on one branch,



Xantholaema haemacephala

S. Mull.

One of the beetles entered the mouth of a woman named Si Beru Mbalu 47


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

who became






Baso or female


medium. Hearing

the wailing of the chieftainess for her lost daughter she ordered her to

imitate the sounds of the tung-tung, the katak, the kayat, the

gaya and the

two craftsmen who fashioned instruments to reproduce the five sounds. The sound of the tung-tung was reproduced by the gendang or drum, the worm (gaya), by a wooden flute or oboe (serunai), the ampuk bird by the small gong or cymbol called penganak, the beetles by the gong and the frogs by a bamboo

ampuk bird. This was done with

the aid of

percussion instrument.

The account of

the origin of the five traditional instruments, the

Penggual Lima Sedalanen, emphasises the close link in Karo thinking between the Guru Si Baso and the traditional orchestra, used in many rituals, including the trance dance, the rite to recall a wandering tendi, the ritual bathing of a new-born infant and the persilihi and perumah begu


Individual instruments also had magical and ritual uses, such as the

The master-musician, like the smith who worked with spiritually powerful metals, was held in respect and some awe by Karo communities, ranking in life and death with flute,

frequently used in casting spells.

the guru as

one who handled mystically powerful manifestations of While music served a variety of purposes, including

the divine world.

relaxation, recreation


and magical gendang, were

artistic creativity, its religious

dimensions, underlined in the story of the origin of the

never far from sight, and explain the uncompromising prohibition of the orchestra and traditional dancing by the pre- World


War II


Karo traditional concepts of good and evil reflect the belief that good rewarded and evil punished in this world, and not in some future life. Wrongdoing (salah) is almost entirely limited to social offences;

failure to

show proper

respect (la mahamat), failure to follow the

requirements of custom (la eradat), acts which bring shame on others

such as unmarried pregnancy, incest (sumbang) and acts universally forbidden such as murder, adultery, rape and gross violence. Such acts invite divine retribution in this life, in the form of disasters of one kind or another (banga kalesa, such as sickness, suicide or untimely

death) or judgements (ketulahen, such as physical deformity, albinoism

or leprosy), the punishments often being visited on the children or

descendants of the offender. Incest,



thought to upset the whole cosmic balance,

paradigm of such offences.

If the




a useful

not restored by suitable


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

ritual intervention,



and sanctions not taken against the offender, crops

or be destroyed by disease, or a serious drought

Wrongdoing, therefore,




a threat to the whole community, and the

community seeks to safeguard itself by observing (adat) and by taking action against offenders.

the traditional


The word sin (dosa) occurs in Karonese but is imperfectly understood, retaining in fact

much of its

original Sanskrit

meaning of "judgement",

or in popular Karonese thinking "unlucky". For example, persistent

man who was said to have committed many war and Revolution was described as dosa, clearly

sickness in the family of a killings during the

not sin but judgement.

For many modern Karonese un-influenced by other religions dosa faults and

can be said to be synonymous with salah, centring on social community-threatening wrong-doing.

It is

only in Christianity that the

Karonese encounter ideas of sin as a human condition causing separation from God. Thus the ethical orientation of the Karo world is toward social

wrong-doing and



Magic, called kinigurun


(the science of the guru) or mistik (from

Dutch mystiek) is an all-pervading influence in Karo life, in the primal community and also among those who have embraced Islam or Christianity. Palm-reading {retak tan)


said to reveal the important

secrets of an individual such as unwitting offences or forgotten faults

against kin or


A very senior elder of the

church and retired


servant, attempting to defend the validity of this particular science to the writer, likened


employed by the police, one was valid the other must also be valid

to the process of fingerprinting

"to detect wrongdoers".


he argued. Auspicious or inauspicious days are determined by a guru skilled in the appropriate science, the



guru si beluh miktik wari ras maba

referred to the thirty-day lunar calendar, in conjunction

with signs and omens affecting the particular case.

The guru si dua

lapis pengidahna, or guru

who can see on two levels,

claims to be able to see the future, and also to be able to see the tendi, and in this latter role is able to

as for





warn when a tendi

at a funeral

so-and-so's spirit


being attracted away,

when such a guru may is


out "tendi

following", so that the wandering

toward the grave by the


or chased out of the open grave by




of the deceased, can be recalled, or with sweeping motions.

Reference needs to be made also to Karonese religious


Pemena : The

Kiniteken Si




Be lief


proves tantalisingly unhelpful to the investigator. In pre-

colonial times strong durable books {pustaka)

were made of alim bark

(Aquilaria Malaccensis), which was stripped, flattened, polished, folded concertina- wise and glued between


covers. Black ink



and stiff pens were made of sugar-palm fibre or twigs. Although most of the pustaka that have made their way into European

prepared locally

200 years old they represent an ancient tradition of magic, divination and folk-medicine. Material was also recorded in traditional script on bamboo rods, writing longways between the nodes, and on flat bone as in the sarang timah amulet. 50 The Karo alphabet of nineteen letters, called the surat si sepuluhsiwa, 51 and was mastered by perhaps a little is undoubtedly of Indian origin less than half the male adults in the pre-colonial society. The contents of the pustaka, however, were for the most part available only to the guru, and often only the particular guru who wrote it. Written in the so-called "poda" or instruction language which the linguist P. Voorhoeve has identified as an "archaic southern Batak dialect", 52 they were freely mixed with elements of various Batak languages and Malay and were thus largely incomprehensible to the uninitiated. Karonese libraries are less than

today dismisss

this linguistic

concoction as "cakap Timur", the language

of the east (Simalungun), where traditionally Karo guru went to learn their art, or

from whence came the famous, and feared, travelling



Furthermore the very nature and purpose of the pustaka

restrict their

Almost all the texts that have been studied deal with magic and divination and were either dictated by a Batak guru to a pupil or were written by a pupil to supplement oral instruction. They are abrupt, fragmentary and the secret nature of usefulness to the outside investigator.

their contents



desirable for the guru to



as difficult as

The only adequate commentator on a pustaka, Dr Voorhoeve concluded after

possible for the uninitiated, or even for a rival, to follow.

years of investigation,

would be

In pre-colonial times

only the guru,

were free


who were

the datu or guru





54 it.

frequent travel dangerous

protected by their dreaded magical powers,

and take up temporary residence among strange people, and there are many stories in Karoland about such travellers. They passed on their lore in a mixture of their own language and the poda dialect and it is clear that the Karo guru only slightly adapted the to travel

language employed and, as with




ritual languages,

Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief


the very strangeness of the formulae to

effectiveness of the incantations.


It is

Karo ears added

to the

the place of origin of a particular pustaka or to isolate


in the lore of the guru.

The Karo examples noted


awe and

thus very difficult to determine





Dr Voorhoeve's catalogue of the Chester

Beatty Library's collection of Batak manuscripts include instruction for the

making and using of

No. 1101),

the Batak

illustrated instruction


on the

staff (tunggal


table of constellations (perbin-

tangen) used for determining omens (perbintangenken) of war or birth

(No. 1131), medicines (No. 1143), lover's songs of complaint (bilang-

bilang,Nos 1146, 1147, 1148, 1149). A sentence, "Without God's help life would be unbearable" in M.S. No. 1148 Voorhoeve identifies as evidence of Christian influence


Karo primal



The sirang timah amulet, No. 1150, is an excellent example of Karo, and generally of Batak, protective magic. On one, slightly convex, side are a variety of magic symbols of a kind common to many Batak manuscripts.


the other, slightly concave, side

here from Voorhoeve's romanised Karo



bissumirahhi rahma de rahim!


the text, translated



the blessing of


umang, because you dwell among the clouds, because you flash [or flame] out that which reaches above and below, because you have the Seven Pools as your bathing place, you make the magic of spirits that destroy humankind, you make the protecting magic (pagar)\ turn aside the shot of my enemy's gun. Be off with you [go] up above, be off with you go down below! May I lord, ancestor, king of the

stand firmly in your village square

O my lord! 59

Religious Practices The religious

practices of the Karonese are

most clearly seen by examin-

ing the major rites of passage celebrated by individuals or on their behalf at various stages



The unborn child is recognised and acknowledged as a person (jelma), an authentic human being, from about the end of the first month of the mother's pregnancy.

It is

at this

time that they receive their tendi, an

event that determines their fate or destiny; also from


time the child's

kinship relationships are firmly established and recognised. Should the


abort, or die before giving birth, the identity of the

unborn child


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief



lost. It

From time to time offerings


as a spirit guardian of


first rite

mother's is



its name through a its intervention made secure to may be

becomes butara guru and its

for the



will reveal


child, in the seventh

month since

menstruation and usually celebrated only for a

kalimbubu mesuri


kalimbubu provide food, which


described fully by Masri Singarimbun. Briefly, he states is

to give the child

its first


first child,

meal and





determine whether or not there

are any disturbances between the parents and either their kalimbubu or the spirit world. This latter divination

made by a


disturbances must be put right, by sacrifice if it

or by

harmony is


restored before the




ignored the child will suffer misfortune

A to


a reconciliation rite if the injured party


pregnant woman, or one


a spirit that is offended



medium who Any detected


"reads" the boiled egg and chicken head used in the

a kalimbubu.

It is



said that if this rite

all its life.

has recently given birth,



a number of prohibitions (pantangen) to avoid evil influences. She

should not attend the burial of one fate

who died in childbirth,

brought about by the resentful begu of the

should she walk outside in the twilight or being, like the

woman's own



avoid a like

deceased woman. Nor

too long in a doorway, both

condition, transitional states, likely to be


The thetic


associated with birth demonstrate the admixture of sympa-

magic, divination and kinigurun characteristic of primal religion.

As soon

as possible after the child's birth a guru is

determine whether or not the day of endar,

was nunda, of


-omen, that


birth, in the thirty-day is




likely to bring fatal misfortune

(nundaken) to either parent. The tunda can be averted by the guru's performance of appropriate rites. The way in which the child was born can also declare omens for in the

Karo lowlands, and




future. Informants in

various sympathetic rites such as the opening of doors and the untying of knots in string

Pancur Batu,

Singgamanik, in the highlands, describe

and rope

windows and

to assist a difficult birth.

To protect the souls of the newborn and its mother from begu who might snatch them away, thereby causing sickness or death, bundles are

made of sacred plants

including, kalinjuhang leaves (the red leaf of the

Cordyline fruticosa Backer, Fam. Liliaceae, the Indonesian lenjuhang, a widely employed sacral plant), seven strips of palm-leaf rib (purih), leaves of the enau

palm (Arenga pinnata M6rr.) and leaves of the sangke


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

sumpilet (a large bush, Justicia gendarusa L. Fam. Acanthaceae). These

bundles are then spat upon (isemburi) with belo penurungi, a mixture of betel leaf (Karonese belo, Piper betle L.) pia (a small onion or shallot) lusana (garlic) lada (pepper)

gambir (Uncaria gambir Roxb.

a rubiacious climbing plant yielding an astringent substance) and lime (kapur).

These bundles are blessed by a guru or tabas over them. in each


doorway of



recites a

such bundle, called purih tonggal,

the house, and one




then hung

placed near the mother and

taken by her whenever she leaves the house. If the mother must leave the house at night, even if only to


to the ture, a roofless veranda-like

platform outside the doors of the traditional house which serves at night as a

communal toilet, she will either throw

live coals

from the house-fire

woman with a flame, to ward off lurking spirits. In Langkat pregnant women and women who have recently given

before her or be preceded by a



wear an

iron nail in their hair as a protection against the puntianak,

begu of a woman who died

The purih tonggal is

in child-birth.


carried until the initiatory rites are completed.


two should be noted, both involving the introduction of the newborn child to the environment and to its principal spirits or supernatural these,

powers. In the pepitulauken



maba anak ku lau — bringing after the birth, the child is

known more simply


most people


the child to water, held about eight days

brought for the


time to the village

bathing place, either a river, spring or place to which flowing water is

piped, and which serves often as the village's source of drinking

water. According to Tarn bun's account


a carved stick (tungkat) or piece of enau

the items used in this rite are

wood (pangguh)

that has


blessed by a guru, the purih tonggal described above, two varieties of sirih {belo

cawir or whole

in sirih leaves), a

sirih leaves

and belo baja minak or coconut

wick (pundang) made of old cloth which, when away spirits, ash from

burned, will give off a pungent odour to drive the kitchen hearth in taro leaves, a

bamboo container (gantang berumade from citrus juices and used

beru) containing pangir, a substance

for cleansing the hair, jerango, the strong-smelling root of the

Rag or Calmus

(Acorus calmus L. Fam. Aaraceae) which

it is



has power, after being blessed by a guru, to ward off the begu ganjang. In the procession to the bathing place

pundang and ash

is left at

some of the



every intersection, and at any place of mystery


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief


power passed on

the way, to deter evil spirits from following.

A male

and bathed, by his mother 's brother's seldom in practice, will be the mother of his future wife), and a female child is carried and later bathed by her father's sister (the child's bibi, ideally the mother of her future child


carried in the procession,


wife (the child's mami,

ideally, if


The procession

to water sets off "while the

matawari nangkih), a time of good omen undertaking a


Tambun 65


rising" (sanga

for beginning a journey or

enterprise, being associated with the hope,

tuah ras kinibayaken ing to



the processional order

for a

for a boy: guru child with


good fortune and wealth may rise". Accordis





mother surrounded

child with bibi

by her

surrounded by relatives.


At the bathing place the child is bathed for the first time and introduced to the water spirit, Si Beru Lau, who controls this important source of the village's life, with words that recognise her as a deified ancestor:

O nini, arak-arak kempundu enda, tandai kam ia, adi lalar ia tegu-tegu kurumah, sabab irumah nge nande-bapana, ras



bibi ras bengkila.

O Ancestor, follow and protect this grandchild of yours, get to

know him

(or her), if

he goes astray lead him back to the

house, because in the house are his parents, his kalimbubu



anak beru.

At the same time the mother, guru and midwife all carry out a ritual washing (erpangir). This





both a ritual cleansing and a formal introduction

of the child to an important guardian



the return journey the

guru walks in the rear of the procession to ward off lurking


After re-entering the house offerings are placed on the hearth stones, including the fin of a sea fish (ikan belang mata, Indonesian kakap, a fish similar to the sole)

This offering


and the two

varieties of sirih

said to ensure the continuing

mentioned above.

and increased prosperity of

the cooking-place (dapur), and in case the spirit of the dapur had been

offended during the period the mother rested near the

warm cooking


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief



after giving birth.

Belang Mata


the house, to ensure that the child's

{gelah masin kata ibelasken anak

eaten in a ritual meal in

fish is


be "salty"


e)\ that is, that

in the future

they will be heeded and

deemed authoritative by others. Of a person of no reputation or authority

his words are no longer salty". After masin katana and at a time deemed to be propitious by the guru, the child's chosen and those present are asked to inform others. 66

said, "la nai

it is

the meal,



Four or

five days after this rite the child is taken to the family's

agricultural land (jwna) to

be introduced

commonly called begujwna. After this

source of the family's livelihood,



less elaborate rite, called



concluded and she


to the spirit guardian of this

free to

tiga, the

mother's confinement

resume her normal



may now be taken anywhere, and a male child is usually taken to home of his principal kalimbubu (his mama or mother's brother)

child the

and a female child to her anak beru (her bibi and bengkila, father's sister and brother-in-law). Gifts are given; a coin to symbolise the tie (iket) between the families, which will hopefully be strengthened by a later marriage,

and a

uis or shawl for carrying the baby,

perembah which symbolises



that the child will


as uis

have a long


(nteguh iembah).



general in western Indonesia, puberty



child's first teeth grow,


rites are




the Karo, either for boys or for girls. Haircutting, after the

and a boy's hair


case a lock being

marked an important

For the

earlier age.


cut by his

left to

transition in life, but at a

haircutting a propitious day

mama and a girl's by



her bengkila, in either

ensure that the child's tendi did not loose



and depart. 67 Informants mention the practice of circumcision (nunai), in which the

prepuce was


gradually with bamboo, but it was not universally, and

perhaps not even commonly, observed, and was not particularly associated with puberty.


The Karo term


clearly of


informant reported incision of females although

ported in other Batak societies.







has been re-

appear to have declined in

importance, even in communities that remain strongly perbegu.



discussion of courtship, marriage arrangements and kinship






given in Masri Singarimbun's Kinship, Descent and the

Karo Batak, which should be consulted. 70 Only


features of clearly religious significance will be noted here, although

the central importance of kinship to the

whole of Karo


and culture


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

cannot be too strongly emphasised, along with the overall religious sanction that under-girded adat in general and the kinship system in particular.

The marriage ceremony takes place when all the customary arrangements have been made between the kalimbubu, anak beru and senina groups. Marriage appears to be a custom (adat), rather than a religious

ceremony, as


demonstrated by the fact that modern Muslim and Chris-

Karonese observe the same traditional marriage ceremony as others, with the addition of whatever religious rite their new faith requires. There is none of the conflict about attending traditional weddings that tian

exists for example

when Christian Karonese feel a strong commitment to perumah begu. The distinction between customary

attend a rite such as

and religious




modern and western, and would not have

occurred to a traditional Karonese.

Marriage takes place sun


in the bride's village, in the forenoon,

rising which, as noted,


while the

an auspicious time, when the divine

powers working for human wellbeing are most active

in the


sun, an Indian concept that has taken root elsewhere in Indonesia, particularly in


The main element



in the marriage is the

exchange of the bride-price

and the formalisation of the marriage agreement, although in some cases

payment of the bride-price may be delayed. In this latter case mukul ceremony is observed and a preliminary payment made, but the marriage is not deemed complete until the full payment is made and a proper feast (kerja) held. At this feast the transfer of the brideprice is made by a group of 25-35 kin gathered together within a larger group of invited guests. Speeches are made by various kalimbubu, anak beru and senina kin, and the kalimbubu make a symbolic presentation of household utensils, items of practical use, a chicken, rice and an egg. The chicken is a bird of ritual significance to the Karo and features in many rites and sacrifices, and is "read" for omens. Rice, the basic Karo food and strong in tendi, is symbolic of life, as is the egg of fertility. In this presentation the kalimbubu emphasise their role as "visible gods", the source of blessing from the divine world. The guests then share a meal which is of social rather than religious significance. the final the

The actual marriage rite, called mukul from pukul, the name given to made between the thumb and fingers prior to eating, takes the form of a shared meal in which bride and groom eat from a common a lump of rice

bowl, thus joining their souls. 72




Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

believed that a guru can read the future destiny and character of

It is

the bridal pair by observing the

given by the kalimbubu,

The final religion



which the cooked whole chicken,

divided and eaten.

life-event of significance in the study of Karonese traditional




The main elements

in the funeral

gathering of kin for dancing (landek) and a

ceremonies are the

common meal, both of which

continue to be observed by Christian and Muslim Karonese, being seen as

custom and kinship ceremonies rather than





as religious rites.

mid-afternoon the family of the deceased

receive their kin (kade-kade) dancing with them,


bowing low

to wel-

them with sweeping gestures of the arms. Kin dance in groups

of kalimbubu, anak beru and senina, facing the bereaved family and

sometimes with clothes belonging

to the deceased,

and thus impreg-

nated with their tendi, draped over their shoulders, in the spirit of the deceased into the dancing. traditional orchestra


as each

straw mat,




way drawing

provided by the

group dances someone will speak or

chant, expressing feelings of grief and

and comfort. Close family


mourning and offering support is laid out on a

about the body which

women wailing in a formalised minor-key sing-song rhythm,

occasionally interrupted by the most

mundane requests

to the

anak beru

who are

seeing to the practical needs of the assembled people:



want a cup of tea! ", and the




The formalised chant revolves around themes of parting,



the chant of a classificatory daughter of the deceased, recorded near

Pancur Batu:


Bapa, Bapa sitandai, Bapa



la nai

ku rumah

Father, Father

we know


comes no more more ther



la nai



la nai reh



[you], Father

to the village, Father

no more, Facomes home no



Children walk about freely, viewing the body and observing proceedings

and are thus familiar with death from an early age. Smaller funerals dancing, but at least is


the gendang, a

used in the procession of an authentic perbegu funeral.



not use a gendang and speeches

some instrument from



A consultation

the gathered kalimbubu-anak beru-senina determines

burial will take place,


gong or

the arrangements including



payment of

the orchestra, and sees to the distribution of certain of the deceased's

— Kiniteken Si

Pemena : The



Original Belief

possessions to the kalimbubu a custom called maneh-maneh, or morahy

\hepuang kalimbubu. 13 The purpose of these gifts is both to honour the kalimbubu present and, as one informant said when the writer received such a gift, "to keep remembrance of the deceased

morah when given



The mortuary


proper take place in the procession and in the

disposal of the body. Mortuary customs of the Karonese are diverse,

and more clearly influenced by Indian customs than are those of the other Batak peoples, and it will become clear that for perbegu adherents these rites are of central importance in their religious


Sirang-sirangy from sirang, to part or separate,





by the occupants of the deceased's house at the time the body is first removed. Toe-nails are smeared with calm us (jerangko), and the citrus juices used in the pangir preparation, mixed with water, are spat out four times, to ensure that the spirit will not return unbidden to the house, or disturb its living kin. The body is then removed to a public place for the ceremonies described above, which extend from morning to mid-afternoon.

When all

the time determined for burial has arrived a final landek of

kin groups


stretcher, facing

held and the body

away from


the village



in a coffin or

on a

and from the faces of the bearers, its former home or

so that the spirit will not be attracted back to either to


living kin.


recorded in 1901 the practice of the Dusun

Karo of burying the corpse with


so that

the spirit rose


aspects of the disposal, burial day, are dictated

goes to




its head looking away from the village would not see the village. 74 Almost all or cremation, usually completed in one

need to ensure that the


of the deceased

proper place without trying to attract other tendi to

without trying to re-enter

The perbegu






is noisy, with gendang or gong and shouting. Magic preparations are thrown before the procession and on those walking near the body, and each time the procession halts a white cloth is waved vigorously

funeral procession

providing music, and

to call spirit.



back the tendi of the mourners from following the deceased's Four times the procession halts for this purpose; people explain


the significance of four (empat) in this



and the sirang-sirang



with the similarly sounding word selpat (to collapse),

embodying the hope that evil calamities will "collapse" buat selpat banga kalesa. At cross-roads the body may be put down or rotated and


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

eleven its

men may walk around it four times to confuse the tendi, and make

return to the village




significance of four has been

explained. Eleven (sepuluhsada) is associated with ersada, to unite, with the


On the

and kin will be united.

(pendawanen) a close kinsman waves unlucky and impolite, hand, holding a wad of sirih in ersam




that the family

arrival at the burial place

four times over the body saying a farewell formula such as:

nggo nam sam kerina belawanta, mejuah-juah



kerina itadingkenndu 77 all

our agreements are

now wiped out, you leave us

all truly

in peace.



spat out four times and placed on the body. This



formal associations with the deceased so that the in family affairs. Offerings

with the body, the money,



wipe out promises or agreements, serves spirit will

to sever all

not interfere

such as betel, cigarettes or money are

it is

they meet up with their departed kin in the world of the dead. rite

of separation, called ngeleka tendi

be held either four or seven days perumah begu ritual.

At the place of kerin


may be


being to pay the person's costs until


parting with the

after the burial,

A further



and may include a

burial or cremation a final landek, called pengkeri-



this is

followed by the playing of seven

no one dances. It is believed that now the begu of departed kin come, dance to the music and different landek


to which, this time,

receive the tendi of the deceased.

The number seven, pitu,



with pitut (covered) in the saying: "gelah pitut banga kelesa misfortunes

may be



Batak graves are shallow,

souls to leave and to avoid angering the earth-spirit

deeply, and this in spite of the in



to allow the

by digging too

occurrence of grave-robbing

former times when, for example, the deceased was known to have

worn a

particularly powerful amulet.

to cause to




actual burial


called nurun,

go down. cases of burial the final stages of the procession are rushed

with the bearers breaking into a trotting run and the body placed in the

grave with a minimum of formality. 80 As noted above, a guru si dua lapis

pengidahna may warn into the grave,

that the tendi of certain

mourners are following

and these are recalled by ngkiap tendi or by sweeping

the grave with a

broom or with


A child who died before cutting its


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

was buried quickly and quietly, without gendang or landek, to keep secret the burial place, often under the house, as it was believed that a guru could use the body fluids to make magic preparations and thus recruit the child's tendi, usually for sinister purposes, as a begu bicara guru. If secrecy could not be assured the body was cremated, special care being taken to ensure that no fluids, or fluid impregnated soil, remained first


at the site.

was common in Karoland but not reported in other Batak societies. The ritual cannibalism reported in Toba and Pakpak societies was quite unknown among the Karonese, who were 81 Both these circumstances horrified by reports from the border-lands. emphasise the more extensive Indian influence in Karo primal society. Karo informants can give no reason for the decline in cremation which was in the 1970s reported only from isolated areas. Some suggest that it "contaminated the rice-fields", but it is probable that as Karoland opened to outside influences people became conscious that cremation was not practised by their neighbours and in time came to regard it as primitive and unworthy, much as other Bataks came to regard their ritual cannibalism. A Karo informant recalled seeing a widow attempt, Until recent times cremation

or pretend to attempt, to run into the flames of her husband's funeral

pyre and who,


restrained, tried to cut off a finger as a symbolic


According to Tambun 82 the cremation was performed by four women (called si dapur), after the mourners had returned to the village. The

naked body was placed face-down on the funeral pyre and covered with wood. Once lit, the fire could not be added to and those responsible had to ensure that the

flames with

body was properly burned, pushing limbs back into the


poles. In the case of a

woman who

died in child-

dead baby was tied to the mother's body for cremation. The corpse's feet were beaten to prevent the soul leaving.

birth the

In the case of

some Sembiring



as the Sembiring si

ngombak, the ashes and bone fragments were placed in pottery crocks, later to be floated away in minature boats during the Pekualuh ritual, formerly held at intervals of about twelve years. Sembiring Kembaran, the less Indianised branch of the Sembiring clan, bury their dead.

who investigated the Pekualuh rite, concluded that the name, which had originally puzzled him and which he had at first rendered as Pek Oewaloeh, signified "to bring something to the kualuh naar de koewaloeh bringen". Kualuh, he decided, could be taken either to mean



Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

the river-mouth (Malay kuala) or a very ancient village called



the heart of Karoland. In either case the term means, in the context of the


floated away.


away (ngombakken) in perahu ngombak boats to be

to bring to the river, in order to float

the decorated miniature boats




river in question



Lau Biang (Dog River),


for the upper section of the Sunggai

Karoland and flows into the Malacca



Karo name

rises in the heart

Strait after crossing the



The Pekualuh rite entailed lavish expenditure and the Sembiring ngombak sub-clans, having long forgotten its origin, saw the practice

plain. si

as a stigma


imposed on them

as a

punishment by the ruler of Aceh,

forbade the burial of their dead in Karo

involved, which in the nature of things




great expense

most heavily on the anak si ngombak women, and which it is said actually deterred men from doing so, led the merga concerned to allow the Pekualuh rite to fall into abeyance soon after beru, the

men who had


married Sembiring

outside influence penetrated into the heart of Karoland.

communal Pekualuh


was held

in 1902.



One Sembiring

last full


was believed that the ashes would be carried down homeland in India, an idea which has in all probability arisen in recent times as Karo people have been made aware, mainly by anthropologists, of their partly Indian origins. Cremation was not limited to the Sembiring sub-clans, but in most other cases the ashes and remaining bones were buried. Sometimes bones were exhumed some time after a burial and burned. The site of a cremation was carefully dug over to prevent any body substances falling told the author that


the river to the sea and thence to their ancient

into the hands of a guru.

The Karo mortuary


and the precautions observed, indicate


while on the one hand it was believed that the tendi had become a begu and had been sent off to the world of the dead, yet there remained an element of tendi in the body which had to be annihilated with the body to prevent



in the actual cremation

luck brought by the






or agent of a guru. Those involved

undergo a


bath to wash

away bad

of the deceased before they returned to then-

houses, and their hands were dipped in hot and then cold water so that

ipemalemken. Malem (cool) is an would be "cooled" important Karo concept, expressing peace, tranquility, calm as opposed to the "hot" thoughts and feelings which trouble humans and disrupt 86 An amulet of padang teguh grass (Eragrostis their relationships.

their thoughts


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

unicloides Nees


Fam. Gramineae), made and blessed by a guru, was

tied to the wrist or

that their tendi

neck of near kin of the deceased to ensure

would be teguh

strong, tenacious, not easily snatched

or lured away.

perumah begu

In the evening the important

"bring the begu

to the house".

was performed,



A spirit medium or guru si baso presided

and summoned the begu to meet with assembled kin in the house. The begu may not necessarily speak through the guru, but may speak through anyone who "has the way or path" (si empuna dalin), and at the


implore "whoever has the way" to buka dalin In other circumstances the guru may employ her spirit helper (perkentas) to bring the begu into the midst of its kin, and the perumah begu rite is also called iperkentas begu. Neumann held that the perkentas was the

beginning of the

ritual the

"open the way": "o





guru sjinujung.'

On the day following the funeral the husband or wife and the children of the deceased remain isolated in order to isolate the tendi (ngerebuken tendi) of the living kin



from the begu of the deceased. 88

morning of the second day, two nights

after the funeral,

the kin seek (nderami) their dead in the places habituated during


weeping (nangis) for the deceased, and in the afternoon they scatter clear water (lau meciho) mixed with fragrant leaves and flowers on the grave, in a rite called ngambur lau meciho. After the fourth day the guru and family perform the ngeleka tendi, or parting with the spirit, ritual, which may include such a symbolic act as cutting in two a piece of rotan. The perumah begu rite may be repeated performing a


in order to offer the spirit food, in a ritual meal.


may also be taken to the grave, and a teaand plate are commonly seen on modern perbegu graves. The grave itself is surrounded by a bamboo fence (pagar) within which may be planted kalinjuhang {Cordyline fruticosa) and other sacred plants. Sometimes a small ornamental house (rumah-rumah something like the third day food

pot, glass

89 a house )



beside the grave, from which a

more commonly today a This panji or

bamboo pole may be erected magical device of bamboo or flax, or

over the grave and a


large piece of white material, could be hung.

flag, it is said,


to help the spirit to



place, and

helped to warn people that the place was mejin. In the Singgamanik-



and perhaps elsewhere, scarecrow-like figures dressed shirt and trousers are erected over some graves,

in the deceased's


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

and some perbegu graves now have a "Christian" cross, an intrusive element of recent vintage, which was explained by one informant as an appropriate "sign for a dead person tanda kalak mate".


time after the

burial the bones may be exhumed, cleaned, by smearing food on them. 90 They are then


displayed, and even fed either

burned or re-buried. This


later rite (called

sometimes made up for an inadequate


first burial,

kin did not have the opportunity to gather at that time.



called milas-milasi

like a

particularly if

The burning of the

which has the basic meaning "to beautify".

In the case of a person of high social standing the carefully cleaned skull

might be placed


a special charnel house {geriten) in the



Offerings of rice cakes, coconut and sirih are brought to the geriten and the spirit of the deceased

asked to bless the household with the words:


tadingken tuahndu



— leave your

blessing in the


The it


may be consulted by


some cases, wooden casket

kin as they have need. In

has been reported, the body of a chief was placed in a

(pelangkah) carved out of a tree trunk and kept above ground, either inside or in a fenced enclosure until the flesh had decayed and the bones

could be cleansed. Informants explain that the purpose of the nderami, nangisi



and ngambur lau meciho rituals and the offering of food and drink at the grave is to encourage the spirit to come to the house to be fed in the ritual meal which is to win its support in the spirit world. It is thus evident that the initial fear of the spirit's return, and particularly of its interference in the affairs of its kin, that was so marked a feature of the disposal rites, has now given place to a respectful awe mixed with an awareness that the begu

may now become

a spiritual guardian of the

perumah begu rite that marks the turning point and establishes this new and appropriate relationship. If it is neglected the begu may become a dangerous wandering spirit, a household.


appears that

it is

the initial

begu mentas.

The function of the

held on or after the fourth begu becomes aware that its state now is different from the time when it was able to mix freely in the daily affairs of its family. While its help is desired, it may be dangerous for it to come too close, as is illustrated by the customs of leaving food day,


not clear, unless


final it is

ngeleka tendi


to ensure that the

below the ladder up

to the house, or at an intersection, or of


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

leaving a small lamp itself at night,

some distance from

so that

it is

the house for the

not necessary for


to enter the

begu to warm house to seek

food or warmth.

Some mention may be made now

of special death


Dr H. G.

Tarigan of Bandung has given a description of symbolic marriage

observed in the event of a youth (anak perana) or young



nguda-nguda) dying before marriage. Because of its secret nature this rite has been little observed, making this report of particular {si


would be


Dr Tarigan makes clear that a death in these circumstances Karo society as dosa, a consequence

interpreted in traditional

of some serious fault or sin on the part of the parents, the premature death

being a judgement from the divine world. To appease the tendi/begu of the deceased, angry and frustrated because this unmerited fate had fallen

upon first



to ease the guilt of the parents

responsibility toward their children

symbolic marriage


was performed

who have failed to fulfil their

by seeing

to their marriage, a

in secret in the

house before the


In the case of a youth the guru covered the genitals with softened



shoots, to symbolise intercourse,

and a formula was


O my this


now we have

you can no longer

married you, and because of

feel frustrated

and annoyed.


we have fulfilled our duty to you. For this reason depart in peace, and similarly we that remain (on earth) shall be in peace.


woman the guru shaped a symbolic penis from a young banana or the centre blade of a sugar-palm frond, and inserted this in For a young

the vagina, again symbolising intercourse,

and a similar formula was


O my child, now we have married you. Because of this you must no longer be angry with us. We have carried out our duty to you. Depart now,

my child, and no longer disturb us

who remain here. 94 The purpose of the

ritual in

both cases


to set right



lacking in

the parents' responsibility to their children, to appease the spirit of the

departed and thus to ensure that both the deceased and the living kin



peace (mejuah-juah).


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief


in childbirth

was also regarded

as untimely

of a punishment from the divine world. In themselves up in their houses and pregnant children had not yet cut their rites





in the nature

event villagers closed



women whose

were careful to observe avoidance

such as spitting four times into an embun-embunen mixture of four

handfuls of rice-flour, four bunga-bunga (the red flower of the Hibiscus 95 rosa sinensis L. ), four half bananas, four varieties of rice (red, white,

black and yellow), a strand of white thread, belo cawir (whole sirih leaves),

made the

gamber (gambir) cooked

for an offering

body of the


and an egg, a mixture usually


in this case taken

woman who

by the woman's family


died in childbirth.

The remaining rites and religious

practices of the

Karo can be divided

and offerings, although such from absolute. Because of limitations of space a

for convenience into nature rites, sacrifices

categories are far

be made of a few significant rites which best illustrate working out of the primal religion in everyday life. The close relationship in the primal mind between humankind and the natural environment makes nature ceremonies of great importance in selection will the

primal religion, particularly in regard to

fertility, health,

physical safety

and the avoidance of evil influences. Fertility rites play an important role

which values children above all else. Karo people believe that Mt Sibayak, an active volcano near Berastagi, and mountains in general, have mystical powers to heal and to in a society




Mt Sibayak is

mountain (mindo are

said to be the dwelling place of a powerful

Siberu Kertah Ernala and to



day childless

women pray to the

man deleng) for offspring, and offerings and sacrifices

to this spirit for healing, or to ensure offspring

which are closely identified in the Karo mind. On the day Cukera Dudu, also called Cukera Lau the y

of the lunar calendar, groups of people hold


and prosperity thirteenth


washings (erpangir)

Lau Si Debuk-Debuk, a warm stream at the foot of Mt Sibayak, whose mineral-laden waters appear to be helpful in relieving certain skin in the

While bathing people will entreat the spirit to return with their home. It is believed that the ritual washing removes all




influences of evil or troublesome spirits, leaving the people ritually pure.



home food

offerings of rice-meal, chicken, citrus fruit,


coconut and scented water, presented along with a white cloth, are made at the

family offering-place (pajuh-pajuheri), an enclosure in which

banana and various

sacral plants are

grown. 96 While dancing to gendang


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

music before the offering-place people become possessed, they believe by helpful spirits. As the dance progresses becoming increasingly free as the dancers lose control someone will call, "Ise si reh kujendal






here?". Eventually the spirit Siberu Kerta Ernala will

she has possessed and

food from the offering and eat that these favourite foods

of the

spirit is


This particular






encouraged to select

taken of what was selected so


can always be put aside for the


The aid

sought on behalf of the supplicant. rite illustrates

religion: the selection of

several important elements in


an auspicious day according to the thirty-day

lunar calendar, the erpangir ritual cleansing, belief in the spiritual power

of impressive natural features, the ecstatic dance, the efficacy of offerings


childless couple



at the

possession and


family offering place.

also participate in a nengget




kalimbubu and anak beru come unexpectedly to the house and perform actions such as throwing water to startle the couple. The kalimbubu give

may wear each other's clothing. Here can be seen elements of sympathetic magic, a kind of spiritual shock therapy, and belief that it is the kalimbubu, the visible god, who gives tuah or blessing, in the form of offspring and prosperity. food and the husband and wife

Rites to avoid or to cure sickness range from the simple expedient

of changing the sick person's

name (nambari

gelar) to

make him once

again sekula (prosperous, thriving, literally "one body" reflecting the belief that health

and prosperity depend on the tendi being firmly one (in harmony), to the much more complex

with the body or kula) or serasi rites

such as


In this sacrifice,

a substitutionary sacrifice.


for a very


person, a likeness of the patient


made from a banana stem, the head carved from the underground stem and the body from the aerial portion. The figure is dressed in the ill person's clothing and kin


give finger-nail trimmings or other tendi-

rich material to give tendi to the figure,

known as persilihi. The persilihi

then offered in substitution for the

person, in the hope that the begu



will release the patient's tendi in return for the persilihi.


persilihi figure

tion of appropriate all

may be erected


an intersection with the recita-

mantera (tabas), 91 or buried

(persilihi itanem) with

the rites appropriate to a proper burial thus serving as a substitute for

the death of the patient, or set adrift

on a

moment when



begu has entered

river {persilihi


at the

thus removing the troublesome

influence from the immediate environment of the sufferer. 98

Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief





records an instance also of a living person acting as

The story of the origin of Lingga Long ago the raja of Lingga Radja in Many guru treated him but could not make him well.

persilihi in this substitutionary rite."

village in Karoland

as follows.


Pakpak was ill. The Guru Pakpak-pitu-sidalanen, a band of seven wizards from Pakpak 100 said to be of the Sembiring clan who appear in many Karo stories, happened to be passing. Called in for consultation they determined that only the willingness of one of the raja's sons (anak-raja) to act as persilihi could restore the king's health. The youngest agreed, the ceremonies were held outside the village and the young man was left 101 (ilepasken ) in a small hut. After two nights there he left and travelled to where Lingga village in Karoland now stands. As persilihi he was forbidden ever to return to Lingga Radja but his descendants have kept alive the link between their villages. Clearly Neumann saw this also as a substitutionary sacrifice, with the son acting as scapegoat for his father, but there is one hint in 102 the Karonese text that the young man who became persilihi in this instance may have been, in some unspecified way, responsible for his father's illness. His agreement to become persilihi is recorded in the Then that particular son of his words, "Enggo ngakoe anakna ndai [the raja] confessed ". If the fault was the son's, and this would be consistent with Batak concepts of fault and punishment, then this persilihi bore his own punishment and was not a substitute for his father. Either way his exile removed the fault and its consequences from the 103 village, and the raja's health was restored. The ngaleng lendi rite, to recall a wandering or snatched-away tendi, has been mentioned above, where a formula invoking the Three-fold God is cited. This rite reflects belief that sickness is caused by the ill-will or thoughtlessness of a tendi that wanders off, or by a tendi being offended or startled, or stolen away by some evil power. Indonesians in general are careful never to awaken a person suddenly from sleep for fear that the soul may be absent and not have time to .







To perform a guru

the ngaleng tendi rite the sick person


taken by kin with

of some unusual or magical

baso to a keramat place, the site where the guru must first determine what has caused the tendi's absence and then seek its return. If it is determined that the tendi has wandered of its own accord it is simply recalled by the guru as one would recall a wandering child, using the person's own name. An informant object,



Kiniteken Si

Pemena: The Original Belief

described such an event which took place


when she was

a child.


understanding what was taking place she replied each time the guru called her


to the

annoyance of the adults present. In more difficult

may be employed

cases the guru's jin ujung

up the tendi



to force the spirit to yield

has snatched or lured away.

tendi cult


clearly based

thing has "gone out" of a person

on the natural observation



sick, listless,



unconscious or in

a coma, and that something had departed permanently from a person


has died. Thus


represents the primal community's attempt to

understand the natural world and


phenomena, and to develop working

hypotheses to explain them. Rather than the primitive superstition described

by early observers, primal religion faces us with a proto-science,

an early, pre-scientific, working phenomenology of nature. Around


attempt to explain the waxing and waning of "life-force" there evolved the "science of the guru" (kinigurun)

by which


was hoped

to influ-

ence these forces either for human good or for the evil purposes of the guru.


Personal safety can be maintained,

it is


by wearing an

amulet (ajimat) containing magic preparations, words from the Quran, or


sakti substance such as a tiger claw.

Observance of prohibitions

(pantangen) gives protection from certain dangers. For example, the tiger,

an animal of great power and mystery which can take human form

becoming an arimo segi


never called "tiger" (arimo) by people while


si mada karangen, way one is protected from both the physical and the magic powers of the tiger. One may also appeal to Nini

in the forest, but is

spoken of respectfully as Nini

Ancestor, Lord of the Forest. In this

idatas, Grandparent above, for protection against lightning,

which from

time to time claims lives in Karoland. It is


to bathe in

are said to bathe, size of a


it is

some rivers




the river spirits

pantang to leave unsown a patch of land the

human body when sowing a field; such a convenient grave-site

would surely attract the attention of the divine world and might bring about the death of a close relative. In the 1970s bunches of sacred plants were sometimes attached to a motor vehicle, an interesting adaptation of the primal religion to meet a new source of danger. Fertility

of crops


ensured by making offerings to the rice

spirit and example when the seedout when offerings are taken to the field and the house. It is significant that none of my

to the field spirits at approporiate times, for



beginning to

a ritual meal



held in


Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief

informants mentioned in any detail rituals relating to the planting and spirit, Si Bern Dayang. A recent article by Rita Smith Kipp surveys the decline in Karo rice rituals, indicating that the process has been a long one, antedating modernisation and

harvest of rice, or to the rice




extension, similar rites are sometimes held for the unborn child,

example "when the fruit begins to form", that is to say when the pregnancy begins to be obvious, when the kin bring offerings and share as for

a meal to ensure the divine world's blessing. Respect rice




field spirits at all times, particularly

it is




for the

cutting the rice crop,

pantang to sing or whistle.

serious problem in

the plateau

where the


parts of Karoland,

and particularly on

soft chalky soil will not hold moisture, is the

The ersimbu

bring on rain, are clear which a water-war is staged to imitate, and produce the effects of, rain. According to Tambun all the inhabitants, male and female, gather and bathe together at the bathing place, it not being forbidden irebu) on that day to bathe with one's

shortage of water.

examples of sympathetic magic,

father or kalimbubu.


rituals, to


Other informants describe the water battle in

which people throw water

in the air

and over each other from bamboo

containers or household utensils calling, wari!


— Rain o day! Rain o

"Udan ko

day!". This water battle

to three or four times if the

drought persists, and

rain the inhabitants of the village


Udan ko


may be if



is still


gather to determine the special

cause of the calamity.

With the whole village assembled the guru of the



together to fast gendang music while reciting or chanting mantera. In

time someone will appear to be possessed (seluk) by a



identifying itself in answer to questions the spirit will reveal to the village the fault that has brought the drought

upon them, whereupon

the villagers confess their fault and undertake to rectify the matter, or to


better in the future if they

their neglect.


have offended some powerful


return to consciousness the possessed person has

by no

what was done or said while possessed. which is particularly prone to drought, buses entering the area have sometimes been stopped and the passengers recollection of

In the Tigabinanga area,

splashed or sprinkled with water. recited while


waving a white cloth

imitate the gathering of rain clouds,

tabas or mantera for calling rain, in is:

wide sweeps over the head


Kiniteken Si


Pemena: The Original Belief

Kankan Pemena

O First Fish (god of the water world)

dogol-dogol ko Dibata

It is

dry in God's realm

udan ko wari.

Send a rainy

Kankan Peduaken

O Second Fish

dogol-dogol ko Dibata

It is


send a rainy day

ko wari.




dry in God's realm,

Kankan peteluken,

O Third Fish,

dogol-dogol ko Dibata,

it is

udan ko wari.

send a rainy day.

dry in God's realm,

Drought, and crop-failure, were frequently attributed to incest, which in

Karo terms means marriage within the prohibited degrees of kinship, not just the marriage of close blood relations. those of the

same merga (kawin

where such marriage


The sexual union of

se merga), except in certain cases

permitted, or of those in a classifactory brother-

sister relationship (er-turang-turang), invites the

severe retaliation of the

divine world, as such offences threaten the order of the whole cosmos, as

purification. in

Such an offence can only be rectified by a radical Communal reaction to such incest was always severe, and

Karo people see


most cases the offending

parties quickly fled to an area

were not known. One ritual employed

if a

where they

couple were apprehended was

i tiga) administered by the which the couple was sent away (ipelepas) carry their guilt far from the village. In this

a public bathing in the market place (iperidi

pengulu and

villagers, after

like a liberated sacrifice, to


was cleansed, order restored, the danger averted, and the shame would ensure that they never returned.

the village


Because of the culturally deep-rooted horror of such incest the fault was rare, but love-matches between classificatory kin did occur from time to time, the couple usually fleeing before they could be apprehended, sometimes going to the coast to masuk Melayu, adopting Malay names and the Muslim faith but remembering in secret for generations their merga name and Karo identity. Karo highlanders still speak of such people as having "gone to Sunggal", or gone "down-river (kujahe)". 109 Offering rituals, apart from those already mentioned, include the reconciliation rite for an offended kalimbubu (the "visible god") in

which a cooling-mixture of rice, onion, kaciwer (a sweet-smelling spice Kaempheria galanga), flowers and cold water is offered with

root, the

apologies to the offended person who, with other kalimbubu present,

Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief


drinks from


to "cool" his heart.

Reference has been made already to the

important antithesis between "cool" and "hot" thoughts and influences

among the Karo. Usually

a guru,

who probably identified the fault in the

would preside over this rite. Other rites are observed by people newly recovered from sickness; a meal is held for the assembled kalimbubu, anak beru and senina, during which a declaration is made that the person concerned has been restored by, and continues in the protection of, his guardian spirits. Hard rice first


(beras pihir) tendindu!



thrown with the exclamation, "Pihir tendindu! pihir

May your soul be hard", that is firmly attached to the body, not

subject to wandering. In other words,

"May you be strong and healthy".

Rice is also put on the head of a person

from a long distance, the


at certain times,

such as on return

being called jujung beras.

The Karo guru, who corresponds to the Toba Batak datu, are divided into two principal categories. The guru sibaso is a female spirit medium, whose art, to a large extent, is not learned but comes to her as a charism, or through psychological affinity with her work. She does Finally the role of the religious specialists must be considered.


and does not use the She must be skilled in tangis-tangis and other rites and in the formulas and incantations necessary to her task. The importance of her role in the primal society can hardly be overstated, for she is able to restore and preserve the unity of living and dead kin, restore fellowship between alienated kin, detect unwitting or unconscious faults that might cause disharmony, avert the consequences of fate and of faults committed. She guides the participants through life-cycle and other rites and her ministrations are a source of comfort and peace to mourning and not


particular use of traditional medicines


The guru sibaso will also at times reprove those who offend against adat, making her an instrument of social conservatism as troubled people.

well as social harmony.

The gurupenawar, on

the other hand,


a male healer

who employs

and cures, and who functions according to local 110 His lore can be inherited and diagnosis and therapy.

traditional medicines

notions of illness,

passed on, that is to say of mantera, and

off evil spirits who, is


can be learned.

may employ it is

He has an extensive knowledge

a magic staff which


powerful to ward

believed, cause epidemic illnesses. This staff

carved with a human face and surmounted with human




is linked with a story of sibling incest and its consequences, in 111 which the mysterious seven guru from Pakpak play an important role.


Kiniteken Si


Pemena: The Original Belief

Both categories of guru are likely to be older people but the guru must be a person of strong physique; the guru si baso for example may be required to dance for an hour and a half without pause and then conduct a tangis-tangis that lasts all night. While it is clear that


many of

penawar are

the remedies of the guru


being based

on knowledge and experience gathered over several generations, he is clearly a religious rather than a medical practitioner. Many substances are used for their magical rather than their medicinal properties and all are blessed (itabasi) so that


can be said that

it is


power of the


or mantera as much as the objective effectiveness (if any) of the remedy that effects the cure. Traditional and mystical knowledge is employed in diagnosis,

although the guru no doubt makes shrewd use of practical

observation of the patient's condition and any changes that might occur in



Belief that sickness


evil spiritual influences,

caused by the sufferer's, or others',


that the curative arts in



Karo society

were, logically, entrusted to a religious or ritual expert.


role of the guru has been seen to involve

aspect of the




almost every

of the individual and of the community. Besides the

and functions mentioned, the guru is also employed to read fortunes reading the lines of the hand to determine who by ngoge retak tan has stolen missing objects, to interpret dreams, and to provide charms rites

The guru also play an important role in communal rites such mere kuta, the preparation of an offering for the guardian spirits of a village (kuta). This is done to avert some threatened disaster, such as a (ajimat).


plague of spirits,

rats in the rice-fields, drought, persistent interference

or the occurence of


anger or neglect of the village guardian In the belief that this

neglect on the part of









state has resulted



from some

fault or

of the villagers, the village gathers

the guru present dance to the

until they are possessed.


sickness that can be attributed to the

accompaniment of



then communicate their complaints

and demands so that the village can rectify its faults and ensure better attention from its guardian spirits in the future. In this ecstatic dance a

medium possessed by

a snake-spirit (begu nipe) will crawl about like

a snake, one possessed by a dog-spirit {begu biang) will behave like

On return to consciousness those possessed have no what took place while they were in that state. Some guru also practice "black magic" or sorcery in order to bring harm to others, usually at the request of a third party. This can be

a dog, and so on. recollection of

Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief


achieved by making a sakat, a poisonous preparation over which a ritual incantation has been chanted. These preparations, like


owe some



of their effectiveness to the incantation rather

than to the potency of the poison


which may

in fact

be modified

or rendered harmless by the elaborate process of pounding, grinding,

mixing and cooking

that goes into


preparation. Other mixtures are

deadly poisons, owing their effectiveness wholly to their composition. Resort



also be had to symbolic magic, in which a small

to represent the intended victim, if possible including





fragment of hair or doming, and thus of the victim's tendi. This image is

stabbed or burned with an incantation to bring a like suffering on

the victim. Another form of sorcery



(literally resistant)


employed by a rejected lover, or by someone offended by the victim's kin, which can result in a woman remaining a spinster all her life. A guru may also supply a preparation, again embodying a fragment of hair or doming, to make a girl fall in love with the person for whom the preparation was made. A favourite device to this end is to place a stolen hair in a flute while romantic


young woman's


Specialist guru, or guru

peniktik wari



lunar calendar, the guru



played; even at a distance

may be won.





in specialist roles, include the


skilled in interpreting the thirty-day

maba langkah who is and non-propitious days, good and bad general (also called guru perkatika ox guru

beluh niktik wari ras

skilled in interpreting propitious

omens and si


fortune-telling in

niktik wari).

The guru


can see on two levels, can see the




pengidahna, the guru


world, and see into the future.

The guru perdewal-dewal is the spirit medium or guru sibaso; erdewaldewal is to make a whistling sound in the throat, which she attributes to hQTjin ujung. It has been seen that others beside the guru are involved in ritual acts and religious ceremonies. The role of the kalimbubu has been noted. The important ritual-social role of the anak beru as guarantor of his



well illustrated in the erduhum

Duhum means



to put something in the mourn, and

ritual oath-taking.




the only way open to the primal community to prove truth or falsehood,

involves the consuming of a mixture of rice, water, Joining (a herbal

mixture of tumeric, pepper and garlic) and


Dr Masri Singarimbun

gives the English text of the oaths of a person accused of employing

black magic and of his anak beru

who must also

take the oath,


Kiniteken Si


Pemena: The Original Belief

the mixture and thus put his life at stake before the oath of 112 The oath of inauguration of the kalimbubu is regarded as valid. sibayak, observed until this office was abolished during the Revolution,

some of his

illustrates the



Tangar ko beras, lada, kuning,

lau; adi la

kuikutken bagi

kata surat perpadanenku enda, mate aku, ibunuh beras,

ibunuh lada, ibunuh kuning, ibunuh


AKU! 113

Hear thou rice, pepper, kuning, water, if I do not keep the words of this my written promise may I die, killed by rice, killed by pepper, killed by kuning, killed by water; I!

was administered by the anakwho are his guarantors. To was to invite the retaliation of the

In the case of the sibayak the oath

beru kerajan, the anak beru of the sibayak, break an oath, or to swear



divine world, which could turn these staple foods to the oath-breaker's destruction.

Because the institution of kingship was not developed among the Karo is little sign of any ritual kingship or of the customs elsewhere


associated with a sacred ruler.

The only such custom reported



piring-piring in which the left-over food of a raja urung or sibayak

was believed, in certain cases, to have curative powers, a belief that might well have been introduced from neighouring societies where royal power flourished.

The Si


between the Karo and the Toba Batak priest-kings of the line is vague and unclear, but may have influenced


more of a chief than a ruler in Karo The sibayak only developed into "kings" at the instance, and serve the needs, of the Netherlands Indies administration. In Karo

the popular concept of the raja, society.



society the heads of families, houses, wards, villages and urung all social,

other offering places could be



ceremonial and religious leaders. Offerings at the family and


made by anyone, and

as tabas could

the religio-magic

be recited by anyone

who knew

correct formula for the given circumstance. Ritual and offering



thus not confined to the guru or to a priestly class.

Indeed musicians and smiths were believed to have sakti powers, a belief found in

power of


parts of Indonesia, because of the great spiritual

which they worked, the gendang orchestra, and other metals. Famous smiths and musicians were treated with the same awe as a guru mbelin, and their graves marked with a sakti flag. iron

the objects with

Kiniteken Si Pemena: The Original Belief


In this discussion of


traditional religion care has

to avoid the use of the imprecise or in the discussion of primal religions.

a primitive people, being

of Indian sciences. While

literate, it


been taken




were not

emotive terms

The Karo by


and were aware of the rudiments


ancient elements their religion

cannot simply be described as "primitive". Nor do the terms animism, spirit-worship or ancestor worship catch the whole reality of perbegu belief





a primal religion (the term

exact translation of the modern Karonese kiniteken belief) in that

it is

specific to

Karo society and




an almost

pemena —



Karonese people and

cannot be transferred to any other society or people. In this religion there the adopted



clear evidence of belief in a

belief in the three-fold God.



older than

The two concepts of

God, the ancient Batak belief in Si Mula JadiNa Bolon and the imported Indian trimurti, have so inter-mingled as to offer a new insight, in which the different elements are indistinguishable to those who have made this own. At the same time the complex strands that go to make up Karo primal religion, and their forgotten origins, offer reasons why belief in God is somewhat abstract and a little distant for the traditional Karonese, for whom the cult of soul and spirit, and the science of the guru, provide a much more present help in time of need. religion their


The Intrusion of New Religions

Lowland Karo

village, Sangapura, in Langkat, 1975.

Previous page Traditional dancing at a house blessing, Singgamanik, 1976.

Islam and Christianity

The Coming of Islam to North Sumatra The coming of Islam

to Indonesia is closely linked with the

patterns of trade in Southeast Asia.

trade with the east, both as


Arabs had long been involved

seamen and

as merchants,


and by the 7th

century A.D. were travelling as far as China, from staging posts in

Ceylon and India. In the 8th century there was an Arab colony in Canton. It

has been suggested that these seafarers sailed to India, and from


down the Malabar coast to Ceylon, then along the north coast of

Sumatra It


Kedah, thence through the Malacca


and on

to China.

was not long before Arab merchants landed in Sumatra looking for

As with the Indian seamen before them the Arabs' movements were limited by the seasonal winds, making

ports of refuge, refreshment or trade.

secure ports necessary to wait out an unfavourable monsoon. In time trade routes took ships along


coasts of Sumatra, along the north

coast to the Malacca Strait, and perhaps on to China, or along the south coast to the


It is likely,

Strait for landfall in

Java or eastern Indonesia.

though unproven, that Arab

traders, along with Indians


Chinese, were visiting Barus from the seventh century, the


of the Hijrah. 1 The port of Lamuri on the northern

of Sumatra,



and part of modern Aceh, was visited by Arab, Indian, Persian, and Chinese traders from the ninth century A.D., and from the twelfth century Egyptian, African, Persian and Indian merchants were visiting

on the north-east coast of modern Aceh. Alongside these Hindu maritime kingdoms of Melayu and Sriwijaya, whose were Buddhist, extended their influence over much of coastal


states the strong


Sumatra, peninsular Malaya, western Borneo and western Java from the



Islam and Christianity

eighth to the thirteenth centuries.


was the decline of these Hindu and

Buddhist kingdoms that provided Islam with the

first real

opportunity to

establish itself in Indonesia.

was a peaceful process of influence and penetration. 2 Merchants formed colonies and settlements in which Islam was practised, married local women who gave them access to local families and societies, and through their skill and knowledge exerted their influence in many fields. Essentially a lay religion, Islam was able to motivate many of its adherents to engage in active mission alongside their commercial or other occupations. In theory every Muslim was a mubalig, a Muslim evangelist. Initially this

The kingdom of Perlak turned


Aziz, later

to Islam

under the ruler Sayid Abdul

as Sultan Alaiddin Syah, shortly before the

of Marco Polo in 1292,



reported that while most of the small

kingdom's inhabitants were idolators "many of those who dwell in the seaport towns have been converted to the religion of Mahomet, by Saracen merchants


constantly frequent them."


The famous


also recorded an unflattering description of the mountain peoples of East


Those who inhabit the mountains live in a beastly manner; they eat human flesh and indiscriminately all other sorts of flesh, clean and unclean. Their worship is directed to a 4

variety of objects

Other kingdoms visited by the Venetians during



sojourn in East Sumatra, awaiting the change in monsoon, were


5 reported to be pagan but the powerful ruler of Samudera-Pasai appears


have embraced Islam soon afterwards when he married a princess of

was made and inscribed in Cambay in Gujarat. Samudera-Pasai became a powerful East Sumatran state, centred on Pasai, and a centre for Muslim evangelism and expansion, not always following now the peaceful methods of the merchantevangelists. The Arab traveller Sheik Abu Abdullah Muhammad of Tangier, better known as Ibn Battuta, who visited Sumatra in 1345, reported that the Sultan Al-Malik az Zahir of Samudera was,

Perlak. His tombstone, dated 1297, 6


a most illustrious and open-handed ruler, and a lover

of theologians.



constantly engaged in warring for the

Faith and in raiding expeditions, but

hearted man,

who walks on


withal a humble-

foot to the Friday prayers. His


Islam and Christianity

subjects also take pleasure in warring for the Faith


voluntarily accompany him on his expeditions. They have the upper hand over all the infidels in their vicinity, who pay

them a This ruler,

poll-tax to secure peace.

it is



had diplomatic relations with the principal Muslim

ruler of India, the Sultan of Delhi.

The kingdom of Malacca, founded about

the beginning of the 15th

century by a Palembang prince, traditionally a descendant of the Srivi-

jaya royal house, in the region

who had been ousted from

the foothold he

had gained

of modern Singapore, came to play an important role in

Muslim expansion during the century, enabling Islam to establish secure settlements from which to dominate coastal Sumatra and the Malay peninsula.

Aceh in the northern tip Hindu kingdom of Lamuri, rose in

In the sixteenthth century the small state of

of Sumatra, the successor of the importance, declaring 15 13,


independence from the Sultan of Pedir about

when the ruler Ali Mughayat Syah became its

to reunite the divided territories


Sultan. Seeking

of Lamuri, the rulers of Aceh entered

into close relationships with other



and sought


shipping and religious experts from India, Arabia and Turkey to assist


Portugese power into the region and Acehnese authority in northern Sumatra. Under Sultan Alau'ddin Ri'ayat Syah, Aceh mounted a campaign against the pagan in resisting the intrusion of

in extending

Bataks which, while successful in military terms, did not secure the

submission of the Bataks or the extension of Islam to any but a few of them. 8 Instead


set the attitude that

would be held well

into the era

of Indonesian independence, that Islam was the faith of powerful and threatening neighbours, not a faith for independent Bataks.

Muda (1607-1641), was probably during this period that the arose among the Karo concerning the establishment of the

In the seventh century, under Sultan Iskandar

Aceh reached tradition


zenith. It

Four Rulers (Raja Berempat) recognised by the Sultan of Aceh who, presumably in the person of one of his officers who penetrated the isolation of Karoland, bestowed a ceremonial dagger on each as a mark of office. The practice of referring to the ruler of Aceh as "Tuan Kita

Our Lord" presumably

also arose during this period.

that the institution of kingship



that very

The twin


never developed in pre-colonial Karo

few Karonese ever became Muslim within Karo


Islam and Christianity

Acehnese intervention

society indicate that the






short-lived or, from the outset, intended only to be symbolic.

In spite of several attempts to subdue the Bataks, there




or ethnological evidence that Karoland was ever ruled by the sultan of his representative. The Bataks, for their part, were always aware of their powerful neighbour, and of his ambition to extend his rule and his religion into the autonomous territories. Karo folk-lore bears its

Aceh, or by

witness to a history of tension and hostility. 9

Because of this tension the Karonese reacted strongly against even the faith, seeing their coming as an attempt to extend the power of Aceh into Karo society. The names of several of these Muslim teachers are preserved in Karo folk tradition. Tengku Sheikh Lau Bahun, who was killed without offering resistance and is buried near Kabanjahe, 10 and the Tengku Muda were both Acehnese, and seem to have represented the sufi tradition of tolerant, mystical

peaceful bearers of the Islamic

Islam, deeply influenced by Indian mysticism. is

also a tradition of a


In Bintang

Guru Malim, presumably a


Meriah there

holy man,


used his magic power to create water by striking the ground with staff. still

His pool (tambak malim) and

held in



in that locality.



which grew


in the ground, are


response to these efforts


times, although the



Karo continue



recorded from pre-colonial

have a deep respect for the saintly

faced death calmly, and no doubt their ancestors were in

awe of the men of seeming supernatural power who visited as they were of the awesome guru from Pakpak and

them from Aceh, Simalungun.

In spite of the fact that to the

some elements of Islam have a

Karo, most notably


natural appeal

democratic, egalitarian structures,

leadership without a priestly or clerical caste and




treasury of wisdom

and science which appeal to progressive Karo thinking, the long history of tension with Aceh and of conflict over land in Deli, Serdang and Langkat limited the influence that the sultanates had on Karoland, in religion as in other matters.

While the Acehnese attempted, without


success, to

Batak neighbours into the household of





appears that the sultans of the East Coast deliberately under-

played their religious obligation to extend the


The East Coast

had originated as river-mouth trading ports, dependent on the support of the up-river Batak chiefs, and even when they grew stronger they appear to have taken great care not to disrupt the uneasy balance of sultanates


Islam and Christianity

would have endangered whose rulers were always aware

pre-colonial East Sumatra. Forced proselytising the very existence of the coastal states,

of the pressure of Batak population expansion and were careful not to

provoke reaction from that direction.

The Coming of the Europeans The



North Sumatra

accurate European account of Batak


and society was pro13

vided in William Marsden's report of a journey in Sumatra in 1783. Although not visiting the Karo lands, Marsden made important observations of Batak beliefs, customs and practices, of particular interest in that they

come from

a period

when both

the East Coast of


and Tapanuli, the territory on the west coast between Lake Toba and the Indian Ocean, still lay outside the spheres of influence of Britain and the Netherlands, the powers which were to dominate the Malay archipelago.

Although the Treaty of London, 1824, delineated Malaya as a British sphere of influence and Sumatra as a Dutch sphere, it was the British rather than the Dutch who had first shown an official interest in North

Karo people. In June 1820 a comPenang to visit the principal chiefs of 14 the East Coast and a year before the signing of the Treaty the Governor of Penang sent John Anderson, a member of his staff, to ensure continuity of British access to the "pepper ports" and to prepare a detailed 15 account of the commercial prospects of the East Coast of Sumatra. The mercantile community of Penang had not been slow to realise the growing potential of North Sumatra as a source of agricultural and forest products and as a market for hardware, textiles and a wide range of other goods from Europe and the Empire. The result of Anderson's survey is Sumatra and thus,

indirectly, in the

missioner, Ibbetson, sailed from

of outstanding importance in forming a picture of the state of the East

Coast on the eve of colonial intervention. 16

The Deli, in the


of the East Coast were described in detail by Anderson.

he noted from Marsden's reports, had been mentioned frequently Aceh Annals, from as early as 1613, and must have long been of

considerable significance in North Sumatra, having thrown off the rule

A Muslim state, Deli was ruled by a sultan in 1823, as were neighbouring Serdang and Bulu Cina. The Malay rulers of Langkat

of Aceh in 1669. 17

and Asahan, where the population was more mixed, still had traditional titles, Langkat a Rajah and Asahan a ruler of the same rank, the Yang Dipertuan. 1 *


Islam and Christianity

Anderson recorded much data along with



impressions of

The Bataks

the Batak population of the coastal states.


on the

coast he described as peasants, soldiers (serving both for and against

Most of the pepper cultivation in and Bulu Cina was done not by Malays but by 19 Like Marsden, he observed a likeness between the Karo and Bataks. the Bataks in general but stopped short of assuming that the Karo were the local rulers), croppers and bandits. Deli, Langkat, Serdang

a branch of the Batak people. Langkat, he noted, had a population of 7,350 Malays.

He noted further

"Dependent on Langkat and under the immediate authority of the Rajah are a great number of Batta villages, inhabited by the industrious that,

race of pepper cultivators.


are the tribe

Karau Karau."20 In



estimated that there were 13,560 such "Battas" under the authority of the ruler of Langkat,

making them an ethnic majority in this Malay kingdom,

a characteristic Langkat has maintained to the present where the majority

of villages are Karonese, but where the authority the religion officially Muslim.





Malay hands, and

great impetus to pepper cultivation

Langkat and Deli had been given by the civil war in Aceh, 1815-21, which had cut off traditional supplies of this commodity. What is clear from Anderson's careful description is that already, early in the nineteenth century and before the advent of European in

colonialism, there were extensive Batak populations in the lowlands

of East Sumatra, forming an important element in the economy of the coastal



Because of the care with which Anderson

questioned his informants and recorded his observations a clear picture

can be obtained of the Karonese element in


Batak population.

At Kelumpang, for example, Anderson met members of the "Karau Karau tribe" from the mountains. Each carried a small shoulder bag with the requirements for his journey, sirih for chewing and the shag tobacco and dry leaf needed for making cigarettes (roko). Some seen in other places were armed with a cutlass (pedang) or a small knife (piso twnba lada).


Of frugal


and keen

to earn

money many Karonese found

employment in the pepper plantations, Sultan Ahmet of Bulu Cina alone employing 200. 22 Near Sunggal, a centre of Karonese settlement in the lowlands that was later to become proverbial, Anderson met twelve Karo superintendents of pepper plantations

who were keen


know, among

other things, the price of pork in England. These fierce, independent

people, "wild savages

who feared neither God nor man", clearly alarmed

Anderson, although he noted that the Bataks

in general

were more


Islam and Christianity

'delicate' in the matter

Karonese, as


in the


of dress than the Malays.



character of the

appeared to a nineteenth century Englishman, he summed

following way:

extremely avaricious; have had dealings with the

not addicted to cannibalism in proportion as they





Malays, they become cunning. They are extremely fond of amassing money, which makes them industrious notwithstanding they are addicted to gambling, opium-smoking

and other vicious propensities. They are proud and independent, and cannot bear any restraint on their inclinations, 24 becoming in this case furious and desperate. ... a quiet industrious race, fond of collecting money.


are not addicted to cannibalism but eat elephants,

hogs, snakes, monkeys, etc. ...


a dark ill-featured race. They are below the middle

stature generally

and not so stout as the Malays. They are

much addicted to opium-smoking, drinking toddy extracted from the anau


and other palms, and gambling; but

withal industrious, their avaricious habits and fondness for

money inducing them The


to exert themselves.

Anderson observed, was spent

in labour, the night in

the indulgence of these vicious propensities.




They do not

and are not particularly nice

in their

food; snakes, alligators, rats, monkeys, and elephants being

generally eaten although they have plenty of pigs, poultry, goats, etc.


In all he estimated that there

were 20,000 Karau Karau within two

days' walk of Sunggal, chiefly engaged in cultivation, and that the interior

was "very

thickly populated."


More recently, Professor Karl J.

Pelzer emphasised the significance of Karo pepper cultivation on the

East Coast where, he indicated, Karonese introduced

this perennial

early in the 19th century, organising the production

sometimes enterprise

in their


boats, as far afield as Penang.

was pushed aside by



and marketing, 27

This local

European plantations as the century


Observation and enquiry enabled Anderson to form some picture also of life in the interior, in the

could see


Karo highlands. From Sunggal he

Sibayak, a volcano on the highland plateau where, he


Islam and Christianity

noted, "Rajah Sebaya Linga resides". This ruler had a house in Sunggal

occupied by his uncle Datu Taboe


was very fond of travel. He had about

Sebaya Kampong Perbesi, and

fifteen wives,

wherever he goes." 28 Literate in his


script, the

own home

each with her

separate establishment, in different places, and so was, "always at

own language and accustomed to the

Sibayak Lingga was quite unable

to decipher the


widely used throughout the archipelago. 29 From his territories, six days' walk from Deli, pepper, gambir, horses, wax and ivory were script,

exported. Another highland chief known to Anderson's informants was the Sibayak Berastagi

who ruled twelve villages. 30 From the accounts he

heard Anderson concluded that the whole inland region was in turmoil at the

time of his

visit to

Sumatra. The highland Bataks he described

open countenances with dark penetrating eyes."31 They were a strong, independent people free of both European and Malay rule. Thus, on the eve of the colonial era in North Sumatra, there is

as having "fine

evidence of an extensive Karo society in the highlands and upper

lowlands independent of the coastal rulers,


engaging in trade

with the coastal states but largely sheltered from outside influences.


interesting sidelight

on Anderson's


and one which points


was his concern that the up-country pepper cultivators should accept in payment coins other than the Spanish dollars of Charles III and IV which had "a remarkably large and full bust; the Ferdindands the 7th being small and spare". This prejudice was a severe nuisance to the Penang traders who at times, for lack of suitable coin, were unable to purchase boat-loads offered. Because the Bataks often hid the coins, rather than offering them again in exchange, and sometimes melted them down for the silver or made them into ornaments, the flow of silver coins was one way. The problem the independence of the highland communities,

was solved with the signing of an Engagement between Anderson, the Sultan of Deli and the Sibayak Lingga (who is described as "the great 32 an event which demonstrates Batta Rajah Sebaya Lingga") in 1823, both that the Karo traded on their own terms and that the Sibayak Lingga was recognised by the Sultan of Deli as a ruler (raja) entitled to enter into an

agreement with the representatives of other sovereign states. the Karonese living within the domains of the coastal rulers,


or of the petty rulers of statelets

more or

less subject to the sultans,

Anderson noted a general reluctance to embrace Islam but provided no information about the extent to which this reluctance was overcome in individual cases, as we know from Karo oral tradition it was. When this


Islam and Christianity

did take place the convert in fact

moved into


Malay world, and


into modern, post-revolutionary times embracing Islam has been seen by the Karonese as a moving out of Karo life and out of the sphere of Karo custom to enter not a new religion but a new ethnic community. The term used for conversion to Islam, masuk melayu (enter the Malay 33 world) itself speaks volumes. For the most part, however, Karo people living in the lowlands have preserved their identity, the use of their own language, and their own

custom with regard is in

to marriage, property

and family relationships which

conflict at important points with Islamic law. Their journey or

migration to the coast was, in most cases, to seek economic or other

advantage, not for any desire to the religion of the rulers of the



into the

Malay world or

to adopt


The beginning of the colonial era proper on the East Coast came with first Dutch planter, J. Nienhuys [Nienhuijs], in 1863, the same year in which Nommensen began his missionary work with the Toba Bataks. Earlier, in 1858, the Kingdom of Siak and its subject territories had fallen under Dutch rule after a conflict between the Sultan, the arrival of the

his brother

and an English adventurer


Wilson. 34 Article 2 of the

Treaty concluded between the Netherlands Indies administration and the Sultan of Siak defined the latter 's territories

and dependencies as

they had been at his kingdom's greatest extent, including the coastal

between Siak and the Tamiang River which marked the effective Aceh's sovereignty: Tamiang, Langkat, Deli, Serdang, Batu Bara and Asahan. According to Anderson these states had been virtually states

limit of

independent of Siak in 1823 but


tractaat to recognise Siak's claims,

suited the negotiators of the Siak-

and thus the important pepper ports

of the East Coast and their potentially very rich hinterland passed under

Dutch rule. 35 Such a wide extension of Dutch responsibility was contrary to Government policy and nothing further happened officially until the appointment of Elisa Netscher as Resident of Riau, with responsibility also for the East Coast, in 1861.

As opportunity presented


Netscher was

able to formalise Dutch rule on the coast. For example the Pangeran

Tengku Ngah of Langkat appealed for Dutch help in 1862 against Tuanku Has him who had been commissioned by the Sultan of Aceh to consolidate the latter 's authority as far as Serdang. Deli sought similar protection and Serdang wavered but appeared willing to accept Dutch protection. Asahan, strong

and confident, wanted no

links with



Islam and Christianity

Siak or the Netherlands and looked to Britain for protection, although it

had no

treaty relationship with that country. British officials postured,

the gunboat Pluto visited several of the pepper ports a

number of times,

supposedly to encourage the rulers to honour trading agreements made with Anderson in 1823 in the face of mounting Dutch pressure. Un-

Dutch appointed controleurs to Deli and Batu Bara in 1864 and thus began to take direct responsibility for the East Coast. 36 A Dutch expeditionary force in the following year secured the submission

deterred, the

of Serdang and the defeat and replacement of the Yang Dipertuan of

Asahan. Netscher was able to report that Dutch influence was firmly established on the East Coast.


According to Lekkerkerker 1864 that the Dutch made in this case with the


was during


Asahan expedition of

their first political contact with the Bataks,

communities of upper Batu Bara. In 1867 the con-

de Raet made

Karo Bataks, probably Dusun, the Karo lowlands in upper Deli and Serdang. This contact was renewed in 1870 by the controleur De Haan and from 1888 onwards the Dutch took an increasingly active interest in the Dusun area which for their purposes became the sub-district (onderafdee ling) of Boven Deli, with its administration centred on Arntroleur Cats

in the area later


political contact with

as the

hemia (modern Pancur Batu), 1906.



the terminal point of the

of Dutch rule

the beginning of vaccination and other health measures,

the abolition of slavery, control of local conflict and rivalries

1904 no attempt was made

to extend the

sphere of Dutch commercial It

was the



Gradually the lowland Karonese began to feel the social impact


— but


Pax Neerlandica beyond



however, and not the government

the greatest initial impact

who When


on the East Coast of Sumatra.

Jacob Nienhuys landed on the East Coast in 1863 he had already heard in Batavia, from an Arab in the employ of the Sultan of Deli, of the tobacco of exceptional quality produced in the region.


pepper and other spices, as well as tobacco, were

found on arrival that still

being exported,

products of peasant cultivation as well as of the larger enterprises

of the local rulers, although not in sufficient quantity for Nienhuys to

proceed with

merchant agency

his initial plan

of setting up a tobacco shipping and

to Europe. Instead

he began tobacco cultivation on a

land concession of 1 ,000 bouw granted by the Sultan of Deli on a ninetynine-year lease.


In 1865 the

first fifty

bales of tobacco were shipped to

Europe, and in the following year 189 bales. Because of the exceptional



Islam and Christianity

quality of their product the Deli planters soon found an important place 40

world market, particularly for the Deli dekblad cigar-wrapper. The unprecedented success of this first plantation venture transformed the East Coast; large enterprises were soon established, gaining new in the

concessions, clearing land, bringing in Javanese and Chinese labour, and establishing the necessary

Among the East



economic and transportation


services provided for the expanding

economy of

Coast were an extensive railway system, roads and banking.

The Deli Railway Co. (Deli Spoorweg Maatschappij) was established in 1883, a subsidiary of the Deli Tobacco Co. By 1890 most plantation areas were served, with about 541 km of track, the most important being the Medan-Belawan-Arnhemia line. In 1892 the government began road formation, generally by upgrading the roads built by planters. The original export port of Labuan Deli proved inadequate for the growing volume of trade. With no natural harbour on the coast it proved necessary to develop Belawan in the estuary of the Deli River to provide a reliable port linking the East Coast to Batavia, Penang, Singapore and the wider rail link to Medan and modern facilities for loading and Belawan assumed an important role from about 1888 onwards and, as an international terminus, contributed greatly to the economic development of the whole region. 41 Medan was chosen because of its location to be the centre of Dutch political and commercial administration. Already a meeting place for Batak and Malay, it quickly became a cosmopolitan city in which Chinese, Europeans of many nationalities, Japanese, Indonesians from Sumatra, Java and Madura, and Indians from the north and south of the

world. With a shipping,

sub-continent: all pursued their fortunes in their

gained further in status and importance Resident were transferred to the







the headquarters of the

along with the Council of Jus-

(Raad van Justitie) and the important Council for the Cultivation Areas {Raad van het Cultuurgebied van Sumatra's Oostkusi). A Town Council (Gemeenteraad) was established, recognising that Medan stood apart from the self-governing states {self-besturende landschappen) that tice


43 it.

The labour regime

in the plantation areas

was hard,

very often harsh, and aptly described by Dutch liberals of the day as a "Great Outdoor Prison". Land concessions were sought and granted without concern for the livelihood of the local inhabitants, almost all the primeval forest of the East Coast was cleared and the government left the planters fairly free to administer

and police

their concessions

under the


Islam and Christianity

nominal oversight of the local rulers, who quickly saw the economic advantage of siding with the plantation interests. Ladislao Sz6kely's Tropic Fever paints a vivid picture of life at the growing edge of the plantation world, and in the process gives further glimpses of Karo the plantations lay a world

forboding; "Behind

me lay




to the Europeans, mysterious


the impassable Batak mountains: forest and

summit of Si Bajak volcano was was world's end."44 From this unknown world a few Karonese came to work for a time in the new enterprises, but too few to satisfy the planters' needs. The Karo, valuing their freedom above all else, resisted contract labour, working only when they felt inclined, and for whom they chose. As Sz6kely describes, they simply "wandered here from the mountain regions of Sumatra to do odd jobs for a couple of silver coins other money they would not take They were free coolies. They stopped work when they 45 pleased." Sometimes the Karo workers came in a group with their own leader who seemed to Sz6kely to pocket most of the proceeds himself, 46 leaving little for the others. These free workers lived separately from

jungle. In the distance the bare, rocky


quietly. This




the plantation labourers, burning green grass in their huts to drive off

the mosquitoes.

They were deeply

suspicious of the Europeans and their

ways. Sz6kely described the Karo reaction to a proposed post mortem

examination of a labourer; they thought that either the European doctor the dead worker back to life, or that he would make magic medicine (obat) from the body substances to feed, and so strengthen, the

would bring

other coolies


Karo people were only superficially involved in the work of the plantations they were deeply affected, in other ways, by the economic development of the East Coast. The formation of the Deli Tobacco Co. (the internationally famous Deli-Maatschappij) in 1869, with a 10,000 bouw concession and capital of /300,000, was followed by the entry of 48 other companies, all seeking land and labour. Clashes of interest inevitably followed. The Sunggal Conflict, which the Dutch called their "Batak War" (Batak Oorlog), arose over competition for land in an area of conflicting Dutch, Malay and Karo interests. The Datuk of Sunggal, a ruler said to have had Karo ancestors, while in theory a vassal of the Deli Sultanate in fact acknowledged no other ruler as his sovereign. The guardians of the Datuk, who at that time was a minor, with the support of local Malay and Karo leaders, resisted further encroachment of plantation land in the urung. When in 1872 If the


Islam and Christianity

Sunggal to European

the Sultan of Deli granted land concessions in

withdrew to Timbang Langkat, from

interests, Malay and Karo where they raided and burned Dutch plantations, forcing the planters to withdraw to Labuan Deli. In May of the same year the Dutch mounted an armed expedition to put down the resistance, and some of the leaders were banished to Java. It was not until 1895, however, that guerilla resistance, arising from this conflict, was finally brought to an end. The Dutch imposed a military peace around the estates, and more land was taken for plantations. The effect was worst on the local Malays who were prohibited from growing tobacco and pepper even for their own use, and


a backward group with a very low standard of 49 amongst the riches and prosperity of their own country." Those Karonese who had permanently entered Malay society shared this fate. The highland Karonese, and to some extent those of the upper lowlands,


left to "live like


avoided the dislocation inherent in being part of a colonial "exploitation province" (wingewist).

The not so

rust en orde


imposed with military sanctions on the coast was and order" required for civil government as the

the "law

"peace and quiet" required for the forces of capitalism to invest, exploit

and reap the


of the extraordinary process that in a few decades

had transformed the East Coast of Sumatra from a forgotten and sparsely populated corner of the Dutch Empire into the most important province in the Indies.



the last

two decades of the nineteenth century Karo society was

under real threat not only in the lowlands but also in the seemingly secure Karo heartland, the upper lowlands and the highland plateau. In these areas pre-colonial

Karo society was politically independent, and all but a few comodities such as cotton,

economically self-sufficient in iron





Karo society had no centralised

institutions of govern-

ment, no state system, 52 and the isolation of Karoland and

undeveloped economy had enabled tions of neighbouring states.


Power was


are, reluctant to accept


diffused in society, shared by

kin, village chiefs (pengulu) petty rulers (raja

and the agents of the divine world


to escape the expansionist atten-

(the guru).

urung and the sibayak) Karo people were, and

permanent subordination or undemocratic

imposition of authority, remembering that in his


ancestral village

everyone is member of a ruling lineage, an aristocrat. The kinship system ensures that each Karonese person shows honour to some and is shown


Islam and Christianity

honour by others and

relates as equal to a third group.

There are no

absolute aristocrats, none permanently subordinate or subservient.

few slaves reported

in pre-colonial times


and, in spite of the survival of one Hindu caste



people of other tribes

name (Berahmana), there

no hint of any survival of the Indian caste system among the Karonese, who borrowed so much else from the Indians who lived among, or is

beside, them.

While Karo

and social discord, and the relative self-sufficiency of each village Karonese society remained essentially democratic, particoral tradition recalls internal conflict

the kinship system

ensured that

open and even somewhat communistic. 53 It was a society that 54 did not need a state for its internal life and affairs It was not, however, a society equipped to meet the challenge of a sustained foreign intrusion backed by the twin forces of capital and a modern army. The diffusion of power throughout Karo society made a concerted response to European encroachment impossible and the absence of a central ruler or state system meant that the Dutch could find no person or body with whom an alliance could be formed. In Karoland the polite fiction of indirect rule, as employed in the Malay states, was impossible. Tension between the Karonese and the Europeans arose on a variety of fronts. There had long been tension and bitterness between the Karonese of the upper lowlands and the Malay rulers of Deli, Serdang and Langkat. The Malay sultanates, originally coastal principalities centred on trade ports, had slowly extended their claims to sovereignty to the small statelets (Dutch kleinstaterei) that had traditionally been buffers between the principalities and the Bataks, and some of which in fact ipatory,


had Batak


This process of expansion, resented and resisted by

the Bataks, gained


as the sultans'

power and wealth grew

under the patronage of European capitalism. The principal Malay rulers gained a status, power and wealth they had never enjoyed before and, as the legitimators later

of the

and guarantors of the

oil interests,

any challenge

rights of the planters,


they were assured of European support against

to their position.

At the same time


Dutch supported

the rulers' claims to exercise jurisdiction over the land of all their

nominal vassals. Thus, for a relatively small contribution to the sultans' expenses, they secured access to almost all the "Malay" land, and on favourable terms. The freedom-loving Bataks, whose long-recognised rights over land they

were a constant

occupied and cultivated were directly threatened,

irritant to the coastal rulers,

claiming traditional rights


Islam and Christianity

power whenever they could. In this situation it was Malay rulers would draw their European patrons into conflict either with recalcitrant Malay chiefs or with Batak leaders, and this in fact is what happened at Sunggal in 1872. The Karonese became increasingly involved in open conflict and more commonly in the guerilla skirmishing that was the only practical form of resistance to colonial rule. In many places plantation buildings were burned and the work of the planters impeded by Karo raiding parties, until well into the and asserting


inevitable that the


Dutch policy, following the Sunggal conflict, was to bring the Deli 55 and an attempt was made to urungs under the Sultanate of Deli, integrate Karo chiefs (pengulu) into the local feudal aristocracies by granting to them a small share of the royalties for alienated land: a in direct conflict


with Karo concepts of land tenure. The ultimate effect

of this policy was to erode, and finally to destroy, the independent village

Karo and their land, as they had never been before, under the direct rule of Malay princes. With the destruction of the traditional participatory democracy of the dusun communities the Karo people living in the newly rationalised Malay (kuta) in the

dusun Karo society and

states entered itself in the

in the

to place the

a period of traumatic transition: a trauma that manifested

parhudamdam and similar movements of the colonial period,


conflict during the Japanese occupation


in the Social

Revolution of 1946, before the traditional rulers were swept away. Conflicts also occurred

between highland and lowland Karonese 56

further disrupting the rust en orde necessary for the

ploitation of the East Coast.



same time

commercial ex-

the Netherlands Indies

government was involved in a protracted struggle with the kingdom of Aceh, a sizeable, internationally recognised sovereign state at the northern extremity of Sumatra. Proud and war-like, the Acehnese offered a resistance unparalleled in the Indies and involved the Dutch

and controversial twenty-five year struggle, 1873- 1898. 57 Gayo, Alas and Karoland, being independent of Dutch rule, all provided in



places of refuge for Acehnese freedom-fighters, and for a wide variety

of fugitives from the coast including criminals, escaped prisoners and

run-away contract labourers. Having no free peoples the

treaty relationships with these

Dutch had no redress for a

situation that

was becoming


Of the various attempts to cope with this situation the earliest, so far as Karoland is concerned, was the proposal of J. Th. Cremer that a Christian


Islam and Christianity

mission should be initiated



among the Karonese, to evangelise, educate come to Deli in 1871 as a young admin-

them. Cremer had

became in time chief administrator of the Deli-Maatschappij, 1876-1881, and later entered politics in the Netherlands, becoming Colonial Minister 1897 - 1901 In each of these roles he was an advocate for the opening up and development of the East Coast and his proposal istrator,


for a Christian mission to the Karonese, beginning of necessity in the

most prone to Karo guerilla and bandit interference, was clearly aimed at pacification of the area with this long-term goal in view. 58 The outcome of Cremer's proposal was an invitation to the Nether-


(Nederlandsch Zendelinggenootschap




to take up this task, with generous financial support from

plantation interests.


It is

significant that the planters did not call

the Rhenish Missionary Society (Rheinische Missiongesellschaft



which had already made considerable progress in a mission Toba Bataks begun in 1861, 59 and might have been thought to have been likely to succeed in Karoland as well. However the German missionaries in Tobaland had shown a rather independent attitude to the to the

colonial administration and to European commercial interests (which

did them no harm with the Toba Bataks) and the planters looked instead

what they no doubt perceived to be more reliable assistance. The Netherlands Missionary Society had been formed in Rotterdam 19 December 1797 as part of a widespread European missionary re-


newal, influenced by European pietism and the revival movement. Like

many similar bodies it was not an official church mission but a society of individuals who were convinced that, if the churches were not prepared to act officially in mission to non-Christian peoples, they should take



were open

to them.



The Process of Religious Change

window and wall decoration, traditional house, Above the traditional designs, and below a stylized

Detail of

Lingga. lizard,

may be

seen a European riding a bicycle and someone

passing a bottle of grog.

Previous page


traditional orchestra at

Kabanjahe, 1973.

GBKP Church Synod,

The Protestant Mission and the Colonial Penetration of Karoland

The invitation to take up new work in the Karo region of North Sumatra was not accepted immediately; the Mission felt itself to be already overextended and was more than a little suspicious of the real motive for the request. At the same time it was realised that a new opportunity was presenting itself and after the requisite government approval had been obtained the first missionary, H. C. Kruyt, accompanied by Evangelist Nicolaas Pontoh, arrived from Minahassa on 18 April 1890. After


surveying the situation they


base at Buluhawar, a village of

200 households about 50 km south of Medan. In 1891 four Minahassan teachers, who had been Kruyt's students in the Teachers' School in Tomohon, joined him in Buluhawar, from where they opened primary schools in Buluhawar, Sibolangit, Salabulan, Pernangenen and Tanjung Beringin. Buluhawar was on the existing route into the highlands and was a strategic rest-centre for those making the journey on foot to or from the coast. A strong emphasis was given to education, alongside evangelism, in the initial work of the mission. Hendrik Kruyt, second son of a distinguished Dutch missionary leader, J. Kruyt of Modjowarno, and younger brother of the missionary ethnologist, Dr A. C. Kruyt, had been head of the mission teachers training school in Tomohon, Minahassa, since 1885.

He was a well-prepared and experienced leader,

but withdrew suddenly after two years and returned to the Netherlands. 1

The Mission, however, was suspect from the outset, and the Karonese, while respectful and even helpful, showed no more inclination to accept Christianity than they had shown in the past to accept Islam, the religion of their Malay and Acehnese neighbours. Both religions were perceived to be, not universal faiths, a

but rather the

concept unfamiliar to primal communities,

tribal religions

of powerful and threatening neighbours.



The Protestant Mission and

the Colonial Penetration


H. C. Kruyt was replaced by J. K. Wijngaarden, transferred from Savu in East Indonesia, who conducted the first baptisms, six persons, on 20 August 1893. In spite of adequate funding and the opening of five schools with a total of

39 pupils attending, progress was painfully

slow, there being only twenty-seven baptised Karonese by 1900. 2


was, however, the Deli Planters Vereeniging that provided the Mission's

/ 30,000 and annual grants of / 10,000 later Throughout the colonial era the missionaries had to

finance, an initial grant of

raised to /17,000.


face two challenges: to communicate the Christian faith to people

whose Karo primal religion and to persuade the Karonese that a Christian was not automatically a "Black Dutchman" (Belanda Hitam). 4 The circumstances in which the Mission began and by which it was financed did not make this second task any easier. In 1895 M. Joustra replaced Jan Wijngaarden, who had died in September 1894 soon after the first baptisms. Mevr. Dina Wijngaarden Guittard returned with their infant son to Buluhawar and courageously maintained the Mission's work until Joustra arrived and was settled into 5 his task. These events made a lasting impression in Karoland, the more so as the Wijngaardens had both been friendly and hospitable, trying their best to live within the rural Karo community. Their courage in adversity was perhaps the first clear sign to the Karo that the missionaries whole



lived in the context of the

represented something other than their


interests, or those

of the

expanding European enterprises.


the time of his arrival Joustra began exploring

means of ex-

tending the Mission's activities into the Karo territories independent of

Dutch rule plateau

(the onafhankelijke landen)



that the

and ultimately onto the Karo

Karo Mission


1897 was


in "a

day of small things", 6 Joustra travelled in June of that year to Bukum (a strategic village near modern Bandar Baru, whose pengulu was in many ways the key to access to the plateau) and to Pemangenen, and this was followed up in August with a tour of the independent areas by Guru Tampenawas and Guru Pinontoan, who went as far as Siberaya and Barusjahe. By the New Year Guru Wenas was established in Bukum, his house being dedicated on New Year's Day, and Sibolangit, later to become the Mission's centre, was being visited. 7 At the same time Joustra was looking for an opportunity to enter the highlands. 1897, however, was not a propitious year. There were rumours of a war in the mountains and a report that, "the dreaded Pa


(Si Bakal) has

been forced

to flee

from Kabanjahe and holds out


The Protestant Mission and the Colonial Penetration ofKaroland



8 Lingga." In a few years' time Pa Mbelgah Purba, as joint Sibayak of

Kabanjahe, would play a key role in opening the plateau to missionary occupation, and the seemingly precarious position he occupied during the late 1890s

entry of a

may go a long way toward explaining his openness

new political

to the

under his patronage, into the independent



Because of the rumours of war the Dutch Resident would not give permission for Joustra or others to

visit the

highlands in 1897, although

Controleur Westenberg indicated that the ban might be lifted in a few

months' time, and Christmas saw Joustra discussing a possible route with a military surveyor In 1898 Joustra

Karo lands


made an

spent the festive season at Buluhawar.

extensive journey through the independent

visiting important centres of population,

Neumann, who was


to serve the


until the






Japanese occupation in

1942, arrived, eventually making his headquarters at Sibolangit, through

which the Dutch road would

The attempt

later pass.

to establish the


Mission in Kabanjahe, an important

be the chief town on the Karo plateau, had important implications for Karo history. While the Mission worked in the lowvillage



later to

and was not

identified directly with the 11

Dutch administration,



it began to work directly in the Karo highlands about 1902 there was a very different reaction. Karoland proper was still outside the sphere of direct Dutch influence and intruding Europeans were treated with extreme suspicion, particularly if they showed signs of wishing to stay. In 1899 Missionary Henri Guillaume and a Toba Batak teacher, Mar-

did not cause any social


had been seconded by the Rhenish Mission from Seribudolok Simalungun to occupy the new post in Bukum, 10 km south of Bu-

tin Siregar,


luhawar. Guillaume was a Dutch citizen training in

Barmen and


made by Joustra in

was planned

who had had




he would follow up the con-

the previous year. He had travelled extensively Karo highlands in 1898, visiting several important centres of population. After making contact with two Karo chiefs, the joint sibayak of Kabanjahe, Pa Pelita and Pa Mbelgah Purba, Guillaume secured what he thought was permission to open a post in Kabanjahe. When in 1902 he began to do so other Karo chiefs opposed the venture, resolved to demolish the house Guillaume was building and to depose the two chiefs who had allowed his entry. 12 A Karo alliance was formed under the leadership of Si Kiras of tacts

in the


The Protestant Mission and

Batukarang who,

in his

the Colonial Penetration


own name and

in the names of the chiefs of Guru Kinayan, and several other villages, an ultimatum to the two sibayak against the

Perbesi, Juhar, Berastepu,

issued what amounted to

admission of the Mission to Kabanjahe. Si Kiras Bangun, a strong leader in his



held a powerful position in the highlands

through marriage alliances with five leading families, thus introducing a degree of unity into the diffused political structure of pre-colonial Karoland. 13 This ultimatum clearly demonstrates the identification of Christianity and the colonial regime in the minds of the alliance leaders.

The Christian Mission was seen as a direct threat to Karo life and society: There

nothing more that can be renewed


the provisions of custom (adat) us; these provisions




now among

which hold force among


aspects of every matter

be, inward [or spiritual]

and outward. 14

The Dutch army used the tense situation at this time as an excuse to mount an armed reconnaissance expedition into Karoland, in October 1903,


an act which further strengthened Karo opposition

to the exten-

sion of either the colonial regime or Christianity, which they

ideological arm. Guillaume, believing in




safe to return,

in early 1904, but the alliance

to take refuge in



formed by




to rebuild

Si Kiras forced

while Pa Pelita sought the support

of the colonial government.

The attempt

to establish a

Mission base

in the highlands

a division in Karo society. While some saw

in the

had created

coming of European

settlement opportunities for education and for health care services such as vaccination, others, alerted


the alliance,


the danger arising

from new teaching that would subvert the adat and so destroy the whole framework of Karo society. Such an attitude was not blind conservatism, for the

Karo have always embraced eagerly changes

that they perceived

and society were appropriate for them in ways that the life of the European, which they now knew well from close contact with the lowland communities affected directly by European expansion, was not. to

be for


their benefit, but rather a sense that their life

European side it is understandable that Guillaume and the two Pa Pelita and Pa Mbelgah, appeared to be the injured parties in the conflict that had arisen. Unaware of the realities of Karo democracy, in which chiefs' powers were limited in effect to what their people would put up with, the Europeans quickly assumed that the sibayak had been the


The Protestant Mission and the Colonial Penetration ofKaroland


unlawfully deposed from their legitimate rule simply because they had

given permission for the peaceful entry of religious workers into the territory they ruled. Si Kiras

and the alliance were readily

identified as


was not slow to act, given this opportunity to put an end to the problem of the free Karo territory once and for all. Three columns of soldiers under Lieutenant-Colonel Bleckman entered Karoland in 1904, being engaged by Karonese from 9 September in Lingga, Linggajulu and elsewhere. The Karo were in no way prepared or equipped to resist a modern army and several villages associated with the alliance were soon captured. Finally Si Kiras* own stronghold, Batukarang, was taken with the Dutch suffering only slight loss. Si Kiras


colonial administration

fled to Alas, several other leaders

but the chiefs

of the resistance took refuge in Dairi,

who were captured were forced to

seek pardon and to pay

ajointfineof/14,733. 16

By the end of September 1904 the Dutch controlled the two major Karo townships, Kabanjahe and Berastagi, and in the following year van den Berg was able to re-establish the Mission base in Kabanjahe where, through his friendship with Pa Mbelgah Purba, he was accepted 17 into merga Purba, as an adopted brother of the sibayak. The invasion of Karoland, which appeared so clearly to the Karonese as part of an attempt to replace their customary way of life with the "Dutch religion" (agama Belanda) and to bring them within the sphere of colonial exploitation, was in fact part of a much wider strategy. By the turn of the century it was clear that the liberalism that had hitherto been the foundation of colonial policy was an outworn creed. Private capital had grown economically stronger than the government, and international capitalism, with powerful corporations forming to support their



by common


had replaced the old individualism. 18

Efficiency, expansion, decentralisation, J.

development were

all in



Th. Cremer as Colonial Minister, 1897-1901, urged the opening up

of the so-called Outer Provinces. Even the advocates of the



which sought to redirect the aims of colonial government from subjection and exploitation to the welfare and development of the "subject peoples", saw an expansion of colonial power as the essential first step. Order and security were seen to be essential to the Government's policy",

welfare policy. Arising out of the protracted conflict in Aceh, in which the Dutch had

assumed the defensive stance of concentrating

their forces,

two men

The Protestant Mission and the Colonial Penetration ofKaroland


advocated a vigorous forward


to terminate the struggle.


two, Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, a distinguished Islamist and the

government's advisor on Islamic and native affairs, and J. B. van Heutsz who had come to the Indies as a subaltern in 1872 and by 1896 had

command the force in Aceh, both believed that action was less and more effective than defence. By employing light columns in a counter-guerilla role van Heutsz brought the Aceh War to an end and by 1904 had pacified most of Norm Sumatra. 18 His armies went on to occupy Tapanuli, Central Celebes, Central Sumatra, Central Borneo and the islands from Bali to Timor. By the end of his term as Governor-

risen to


General (1904-1909) the whole of the Dutch East Indies was, for the first

time, under effective Dutch control.


Seen, then, in a wider perspective, the Dutch invasion of Karoland was simply one stage in the rapid and dramatic occupation and pacification of North Sumatra and the other free territories remaining within the Dutch sphere of influence in the archipelago. To the Karo people,

however, it inevitably appeared to be part of a military "Christianisation" of their land and ultimately of their culture, custom and traditions.

As with

Dutch intervention in the government of the dusun area, coming of the Europeans and their government brought radical changes to Karo society. Among the more beneficial were the ending of isolation, inter-village warfare and slavery. Abortion, common in pre-colonial Karo society, was prohibited although the medically dangerous traditional practice was still being reported in the highlands in the late 1970s. Opium trading was controlled and later the

so in the highlands the

prohibited and vaccination was introduced.


Karo road, which was to change the whole economic outlook ofKaroland, was completed, from the earlier terminus in Arnhemia (Pancur Batu) through Sibolangit and Bandar Baru, up a steep, winding mountain route, over a pass of 1,400 metres between Mt Sibayak (2,170 metres) and Mt Barus (1,950 metres) and down onto the Karo plateau to Berastagi and Kabanjahe. From Kabanjahe a network of roads spread out; to the west the strategic Alasweg to Kutacane in Alasland, to the north past Lingga to Surbakti, and in an eastward direction to Seribudolok and on to Pematang-Siantar in Simalungun. This road system led to the introduction of the ox-cart on a large scale from 1909, and revolutionised the economy of the plateau by making possible the In 1909 the

marketing in Medan of products such as potatoes too bulky to be carried over the former walking tracks. With the advent of motor transport more

The Protestant Mission and the Colonial Penetration ofKaroland


perishable products could be marketed with ease in the city, sometimes 21 shipment overseas. The most traumatic of the changes brought about by the occupation of Karoland was the wholesale administrative reorganisation of all the





former Government administrator, W. Middendorp,


has described the magnitude of the problem facing Karoland' s rulers.



in other territories they preferred to exercise indirect rule,

believing that the rule of "like over like


welcome". 23 But



they faced the impossible task of entering into relations with the 250

recognised village heads each of



crucial matters, such as land 24


To complicate matters title,

presided over an autonomous further real authority in


lay not with the village (kuta) but

There were 500 wards on the plateau, each of these also a distinct entity. Each chief, whether of a ward, village or of with the ward


a union of villages (urung, of which there were fifteen on the plateau)

was joined villages


governing by his anak beru and senina advisors. Not


belonged to an urung, a union of ten to twenty neighbouring

villages all having the


village lineage



related to the


parent village.

The Netherlands



turned, however, to the existing

urung and attempted to create from them an apparatus for linking villages

and wards (which thereby

central government.

The urung

lost their traditional

urung the chief of the parent village), primus inter pares with the other chiefs ,


to the

chief (raja urung or sibayak perbapan

who in Karo eyes was at most who sat with him in the Urung

Council (Bale Urung), was transformed into a "ruler" to meet the needs of the colonial regime. Finding that fifteen such rulers were




cope with, the Dutch finally revived a vestigial remainder of Acehnese influence, the Raja Berempat or Tetrarchy. According to Karo tradition a representative of the ruler of Aceh had in former times to

recognised four particular chiefs in Karoland, and also in Gayo, Alas,

Simalungun and Tobaland, giving each a ceremonial knife (bawar)


a symbol of authority. 25 In Karoland the institution of Raja Berempat did not develop, but the tradition, and the traditional

titles held by four remained and the Government seized on




The four raja berempat, or raja sibayak came to be known, were recognised by the Government as kings;

many Karo


as a basis for indirect rule.

as they

A fifth, the raja sibayak of Kutabuluh, was added as the original four did not sufficiently cover of Lingga, Barusjahe, Sarinembah, and Suka.

The Protestant Mission and



whole Karo



the Colonial Penetration

administration then proceeded to sign the

standard Korte Verklaring, or short treaty, with 1907.


The Korte

Snouck Hurgronje in fact a

all five,

as an ideal

form of agreement with native

rulers, is

and which recognised

to the cynical realism of both the native rulers

the colonial power. Consisting of only three clauses,

Indies and

on 12 September by

Verklaring, introduced in 1898 and advocated


that the territory


concerned was

was subject


an integral part of the Netherlands

Dutch sovereignty, that the ruler could not make treaties or enter into relations with any foreign power, and that the ruler would comply with the rules enacted by the Netherlands Indies Government, the Korte Verklaring secured two things. It recognised Dutch sovereignty and it offered the ruler security of tenure along with to

a rather inflated position backed financially and in other ways by the colonial administration. Both sides were satisfied.

So far was


Karoland was concerned the whole

institution of indirect

and out of place, although the rulers were able, by acting with determination and in concert, to ensure that no foreign plantations were established in Karoland proper, where the loss of the relatively small areas of very fertile land would have caused great difficulty to the people. As a report to the 1958 Congress on Karo



Cultural History noted, this attitude benefited the

deprived the administration of a source of finance;





people but

also deprived

Karo rulers of the usual royalties is an indication that, unlike the Malay rulers, they acted not as autocrats but as guardians for their people's interests. The ease with which the sibayak were removed during the

the Social Revolution of 1946 indicates


lightly the institution sat

on Karo society. Indeed Dr Singarimbun has commented, "Without the " coming of the Dutch we would not have known the Sibayak.' 28 A further feature of the imposition of indirect rule on the Karo people was the fragmentation of Karo society. Not only did the Karonese of the highlands lose much of their participatory democracy but they were also separated administratively from fellow Karonese in the dusun, who were *

now, as they had never been before, legally subject to Malay princes, the Sultans of Deli, Serdang and Langkat. Part of Karoland was placed within the Dairi administrative area of Batakland centred on Tarutung

and under predominantly Toba Batak influence. The former AssistantResident, W. Middendorp, noted that of 120,000 Karonese in his time 29 (1920s) only 70,000 lived in the Karoland Sub-district. The remaining 50,000 became virtual minorities in areas in which they had traditionally

The Protestant Mission and the Colonial Penetration ofKaroland

lived, as these areas


were made part of predominantly non-Karonese


The Karo

heartland, the highland plateau,


the Karoland

Sub-district (onderafdee ling Karolanden) administered by a Dutch controleur based in Kabanjahe and forming part of a District (Afdeeling

Simalungun en de Karolanden) headed by an Assistant-Resident based in Pematang Siantar, in Simalungun. The first Assistant-Resident was C. J. Westenberg who had a Karonese wife (br Sinulingga) and was 30 In turn the District was part of the an early writer on Karo religion. Province of the East Coast of Sumatra (Oostkust van Sumatra) headed

by a Resident based in Medan, and after the Province was raised to a Gouvernment in 1915, by a Governor, based in the same city. The Karonese, by virtue of the Korte Verklaring signed by only five of their traditional chiefs, became colonial subjects of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Middendorp noted also the restrictions placed on the traditional Karonese judicial system, a steep increase in tax liability, and the introduction of police and prisons in the place of traditional modes of enforcement as factors, introduced by the Government, that led to what he saw as "the collapse of the old Karo community". 31 Thus the age-old device of "divide and rule", applied to the conquered Karo lands, created artificial boundaries and divisions in what had been a diverse but coherent society and placed many Karonese under the alien rule of Muslim Malay princes or subjected them to the domination of Bataks whose language and customs were different. In an area of Sumatra where ethnic and community rivalry and cultural competition have frequently given rise to stress and tension, these were not insignificant factors in Karo reaction to Dutch rule, to the religion of the Europeans which as time went by was being adopted by more and more Toba Bataks, and to Islam, the religion of bom the Malay princes and the powerful Acehnese who were their neighbours to the north.

The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942

was almost hopelessly compromised at by the circumstances in which the work began and by its financial dependence on the plantation interests. What success there was must be attributed to the quality of the Mission personnel themselves who, in spite of everything, were able to convince a few in the communities where they worked that they represented something more than the interests of the planters and of the Europeans in general. A recent study by Rita Smith Kipp has provided a sensitive and revealing picture of the missionary families who served the Karo mission during the pioneering period, 1890- 1904. Working from Mission and family archives in the Netherlands, Dr Kipp presents rounded pictures of the missionaries, Kruyt, Wijngaarden, Joustra and Guillaume, and a valuable assessment, not hitherto available, of the roles of their wives and of the Minahassan (Menadonese) teacher-evangelists and their families. Her study illustrates in a striking way the inner conflict of the European missionaries, between their role in the process of colonial domination and commercial exploitation, which was providing their entry to Karoland, and their conviction that they were, themselves, acting upon a motivation quite different from that of the planters and administrators. It is significant that the Karo mission began at a time when the Dutch missionaries and mission organisations were beginning to take more interest in scholarly and intellectual issues relating to mission: linguis2 tics, ethnology and education, fields in which the missionaries to the Karonese were to make valuable contributions. The first missionary to Karoland, H. C. Kruyt (Kruijt) was an educationist. He decided in 1890, Christian mission in Karoland the outset


after initial investigations, to

on the walking path

make his base at Buluhawar, a staging post

into the highlands,



to base his

work on


The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942




A lot has been made of Kruyt's decision to employ Minahassan


which he had worked in Northern Celebes, who would have been available at this on a lack of ecumenical spirit, decision have blamed this for the painfully slow growth of the Christian community

from the area


instead of Toba Batak evangelists, time.



and blamed


in colonial Karoland.

In fact Toba Batak teacher-evangelists were employed in 1899 as ecumenical contact between the Dutch Reformed and German Lutheran missions developed, but the basis of the criticism, that Toba Batak neigh-

bours would have more affinity with the Karonese than Indonesians

from a distant island,


without foundation. The Toba Batak and the

Karonese in fact were rivals,

in competition for land

and opportunities,5

and continue to exhibit this rivalry in a variety of ways. It would have been naive to have expected some idealistic pan6 Batak co-operation in bringing the Gospel to the Karonese, and Kruyt had no such expectation, preferring assistants he had trained himself

Kweekschool at Tomohon. In time a bond of interest and afgrew up between the Christians of Karoland and Minahassa, cemented in modern times by several marriages between clergy of the two churches, which among other things brought the first women in the


ministers to Karoland.


The death of the second missionary, J. K. Wijngaarden, on 21 September 1894 was a blow to the Mission, and also to the study of Karo culture,

had written an article on Karo name-giving and the names of days and omens, which was published that year. 8 Wijngaarden' s replacement for he

was Meint Joustra, a missionary ethnologist who was in time to lay the foundation for the study of Karo language, culture and society, as well as contributing to the study of the Batak in general and of the Minangkabau of West Sumatra. 9 His Karonese Dictionary 10 was a fundamental tool for missionaries and others until Neumann's Karo-Dutch Dictionary replaced it in 1951. While Joustra's dictionary was compiled according to the Karonese alphabet, he devised a Latin alphabet for Karonese, a step which H. C. Kruyt had been reluctant to take, fearing that a Latin alphabet would make it easier for Karo people to learn to read romanised Malay and thus be influenced by Islam. By encouraging literacy in Karo script Kruyt imagined the Karonese could be encouraged to remain "Batak". 11 After the


six baptisms in

1893 the Mission moved out, establish-

ing evangelism centres and the five schools already mentioned, staffed


The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942

by teacher-evangelists. The first service of Holy Communion for Karo Christians was held at Buluhawar in April 1896, the separation in time between adult baptisms and the celebration of the sacrament being a not unusual feature of Dutch missionary practice at the time. 12 A church was built in Buluhawar, with many contributions from nonChristian people, and dedicated at Christmas 1899. lated for the congregation,

Hymns were

some from Toba Batak. 13 On




front Joustra encouraged wet-rice cultivation along with fruit, vegetable

and flower growing,


which C.

Westenberg, the Government officer


for Batak affairs, also played an important role.


arrival of




1900 has been seen by the Karo


church as the beginning of a significant new era in the work of the Mission.


Based initially at Buluhawar Neumann later moved about ten became

kilometres west to Sibolangit, a strategic village which in time the Mission's operational base.

During the early years of the century the Mission grew increasingly anxious about the spread of Islam into the Karo lowlands (dusun) as a

Malay activity in the area. In 1901 Joustra reported Datuk of Kampung Baru and Bendahara of the Deli Sultanate, and the Datuk of Hamperan Perak were taking an increased interest in the area, the latter having begun coffee cultivation at Bandar Baru, one of the gateways into the highlands. At the same time J. H. Neumann reported from Sibolangit that, "... the rulers here are Mohammadan and the foundation of religion in the eyes of the people is politically coloured." Neumann saw an abiding danger, as he termed it, in this situation, and reported that the Mission was still resisting the introduction of romanised Karonese. However, in December 1901 Neumann baptised the pengulu of Durian Serugun, his wife and family, and celebrated Holy

result of increased that the

Communion Spirit is at


Tanjung Beringin, expressing the assurance that "God's


in this land also." Joustra also

produced teaching


sources such as the 104 Bible Stories From the Old and New Testaments

which, revised and enlarged by


H. Neumann,

catechetical tool. School text-books, prepared







by hand

were produced, including an arithmetic

Joustra left in 1906, to

government-funded Batak

who had

is still


used as a basic for printing in

text in Karonese, in

as an ethnologist with the

Neumann and E. J. van den Berg, over many of the projects he had ini-


arrived in 1903, took

While working energetically

in the usual missionary roles


The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942


evangelism, teaching, worship and administration,

be a

tireless investigator

publications on to his credit.

with a remarkable

Karo language,


Neumann proved

of over


religion, culture, history



important literature


He began the translation of the Bible into Karonese and, working book by book, had completed the New Testament by 1928 and most of the Old Testament before his death; the latter has only recently been completed. Like Luther's German Bible Neumann's translation, in a rather literary Karonese, has served to standardise the formal language, as it is used Sumatra and

in north


Karo communities

in Java

and elsewhere.


stands above the local and regional variations in idiom and usage and has

helped to resist the intrusion of Malay and other languages into formal

Karonese. The Baptist historian of Indonesian church growth, Ebbie C. Smith,




in claiming that the Bible


translated into

Karonese only in 1940, 17 and therefore in suggesting that this oversight was partly responsible for the slow growth of the Karo church. On the other hand, over-reliance on the

104 Bible

Stories, the scarcity of printed

Old Testament translation, which by the 1970s was completely out of print, have weakened the development of the church and the spiritual growth of new converts, but have probably not influenced the rate of conversion as such. Although some Karo people complain of Neumann that, "He tried to testaments and the incomplete nature of the

teach us our


language!", his linguistic



generally respected

and appreciated bom by modern Karonese 18 and by linguistic scholars. 19 While working on his translation Neumann prepared a description of Karonese grammar and a Karo-Dutch Dictionary which built on Joustra's earlier work and greatly extended it. Neumann continued to work

on his Dictionary up to his death, and it was published posthumously by the Indonesian Balai Pustaka cultural publishing house after the Revolution. 20

Neumann's method, both in his ethnological research,

in his translation




to question informants

work and

from as wide

own observations and to ensure and general applicability of his findings. All this work, recently commended by the doyen of Indonesian anthropologists, 21 is a a field as possible to supplement his the reliability

mark of Neumann's lifelong commitment to, and fascination with, the of the Karo people. In Sibolangit, Neumann worked with the local Government officer,


G. L.


K. Kok, to encourage the cultivation of coconut palm, betel nut


The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942

and western vegetables, and to initiate the opening of new market centres in the

dusun area of

the Government's


Both endeavours were successful and, with

new road into the highland plateau, contributed to the

remarkable development that has taken place in the Karo economy. Together with E.


van den Berg,

who replaced Guillaume, Neumann

worked to improve public health, opening a small hospital in Sibolangit. In Kabanjahe, van den Berg pioneered the opening of a hospital, trained a dozen men in carpentry and worked with the Government in the care of lepers. In 1906 G. Smit arrived to supervise the educational work,

opening a Teachers' Training School (Kweekschool)

at Berastagi, which was produced in Karonese for school use, more schools were opened, some of them attracting Government subsidy, and by 1909 the Mission had 28 teachers. By 1910 there were 101 baptised Karonese in the highlands and 331 in Deli and Serdang. There were 8 schools in the highlands with 708 pupils, and 17 in Deli and Serdang with 113 pupils. In view of the effort expended, and the conscientious efforts made by the missionaries to understand the Karo people and their ways, this was slow progress indeed, although many observers were still very optimistic of rapid





to Raya.


Lekkerkerker writing


that the Christianisation of the



1916 could still report, "It is expected whole Karo people is only a matter of


A variety of reasons

for this disappointing result has

been suggested.

Alleged failure to use Sumatran evangelists, and to make the Bible available in Karonese have been mentioned. Ebbie Smith, working with the criteria of the

American Church Growth Movement, predictably

icises the Mission's strategy



and the leprosy settlement, on the ground

much of


of establishing institutions such as schools, that these


the missionaries' time during this crucial period.



schools, indeed, were less than successful, for reasons to be discussed,

but the hospitals and the leprosy village

made a profound impact on

Karo perceptions of Christianity, as did the other community-related programmes, and were to lay a foundation for the long-term growth of the church. The critics do not suggest a better strategy for approaching a community largely content in the practice of its own religion. In large part, the very strong Karo resistance to "Christianisation" can be explained by the social and political circumstances surrounding the Mission's foundation and work. People were wary of the real motives not only of evangelism but also of economic development, education

The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942


and even of health care. Behind the Dutch Mission loomed the planter wanting land and labour and the colonial administration imposing taxes, regulating life and interfering in the open, participatory society to which the

Karonese had so strong a commitment. The missionaries' most and to show respect for Karo ways

sincere efforts to understand, to learn

were always subject to misunderstanding.


highland informant told

"We did not go to school because we thought the Dutch only wanted to train us to be soldiers like the Ambonese or to be labourers on their plantations." That many of the Ambonese soldiers the writer in 1977,

of the

KNIL were

Christians did not discourage this perception of the

aims of the Mission. Christianity, like the Islamic


of their Acehnese

and Malay neighbours, was seen by the Karonese to be intrusive and threatening.

An examination of the methods of teaching and evangelism employed make

clear another area of weakness. According to informants the

teaching of both European missionaries and their Indonesian assistants

was negative and


The primal


was declared pagan,


be rejected in its entirety. A radical and total break with the activities, culture and values of the old life was demanded. Converts were to put their faith in Jesus Christ and live according to the Ten Commandments. To make this possible a strict church discipline was developed, and imposed in a legalistic way. Instruction of new converts was largely based on the 104 Bible Stories, simple and pietistic stories, neither as gripping as the Bible itself nor as challenging and stimulating to those who wanted an introduction to Christian faith and doctrine. People were taught to memorise the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer, and were often taught the Short Catechism of Luther or a similar Karonese catechism based on it. 24 Neumann produced a more interesting Karonese instruction booklet in

1925, Pengelajasi Kiniteken, 25 but



fell into

disuse while

104 Bible Stories continued into the 1980s. mechanical and legalistic approach to Christian

the use of the



either to challenge or to stimulate people

who were

faith failed

content with their

traditional beliefs is easy to understand. It is less easy to understand

why missionaries who demonstrated such initiative in other areas of their work, and who worked diligently to understand Karo ways, were content with such an approach.

The potential danger embodied in a wooden

application of discipline

rather than in a contextualisation of Christian teaching




The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942

of Pa Mbelgah Purba of Kabanjahe, whose joint permit

in the case


in 1902 led to the invasion of Karoland. After Dutch was established van den Berg was able to draw a congregation together in Kabanjahe through his friendship with this chief who had helped the Mission enter the highlands, and to whom he was senina by adoption. Pa Mbelgah 's standing in the community enabled van den Berg to gather quite large numbers for discussion sessions, a popular pastime among Karo men, 26 at which religion was discussed. In the end, after considerable discussion for about a year, the chief and some of



his followers accepted baptism,

was formed. Thus

and a regular worshipping congregation

far everything

had gone


The missionary had

adopted an authentically Karonese way of approach, beginning with the establishment of a kinship relationship that could be extended to every


had been given adequate time,

contact. People

to decide together to

become Christians,

in free discussion,

thus beginning the local church

congregation with a mutually supportive community instead of a few

The missionary was not aloof but mixed freely and members of the community, offering advice, and teaching

isolated converts.

closely with

as opportunity or necessity arose.

Not long

after his baptism,

Christian, he could

however, Pa Mbelgah asked whether, as a

make use of the traditional orchestra (gendang Karo)

in his function as raja or village chief. so.


The Mission saw a pagan past that

Mbelgah and did

insisted that he

had to exercise

The Mission stood


He was


his responsibilities as chief,

firm and in the end the chief

excommunicated. 27 With the advantage of hindsight have been a

forbidden to do

music and the orchestra as belonging could have no part in the new Christian life. Pa traditional



can be seen to

failure to exercise pastoral rather than legalistic discipline,

was repeated throughout the Indies by missionaries, in Java, Bali and elsewhere as well as in Sumatra, who were not ready to accept that Indonesian Christians themselves had to find and live their faith in their own cultural context. The incident was clearly a set-back to the church in the highlands, and the treatment of Pa Mbelgah left a heritage of bitterness and misunderstanding about the real nature of the "Berita Si Meriah the Good News" of the Christians. The Netherlands Missionary Society (NZG) had grown out of European pietism, and its spiritual and theological heritage made it difficult to move away from legalism and formality, or to allow even modest contexualisation in its and one




The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942


More difficulties were to follow. Education through Mission schools had been a primary strategy from the outset but by the 1920s interest in education began to wane among Karo parents, as suspicion and resentment of the whole Dutch enterprise, the administration, the plantations, the government services and the mission agencies, increased. Small enrolments and a high level of truancy were the principal symptoms of a dramatic loss of interest in formal education.

Government had sponsored the NZG schools in Karo highlands and in the dusun areas of Deli and Serdang, rather than provide a parallel secular school system of their own. Increasingly the style of education offered and its religious framework became more and more unacceptable to the Karonese, many of whom deserted the schools and looked instead for less formal education, with more practical relevance to the kind of work opportunities opening up in commercial, transport and administration areas, and even in the administration of the once-hated plantations which required clerks, overseers and the like from the local population. Hopes that the plantation interests would continue to support the Mission schools, and the Teachers' Training School, were not realised, and the latter was closed in 1920, the teachers trained being employed as guru-agama> teacher-evangelists, in villages. Some schools were closed and the others were handed over to the Government. 29 Karonese who had persevered with their education appeared from about this time to turn to politics rather than to Christianity. It was there and not in the "Dutch religion" that they saw some hope of being able to influence their own future. 30 The closing of the schools meant that the Mission lost its most significant and extensive contact with Karo village communities, and it was not long before Mission leaders 31 regretted their decision. From the 1920s the Government began to operate more neutral, secular, schools in the region, but while these were less unpopular with the Karo they did not break down the resistance to Until the 1920s the


formal education.

The Parhudamdam Movement, which was

at its height

from 1915—

1920, symptomatic of the serious dislocation of Batak society as a whole, brought about by the more aggressive penetration of Chrisis

tian mission



and by the imposition of alien government administraautonomous societies. The Movement, which gained


among Karo and Simalungun people, claimed to a "new religion" (agama mbaru 32 ) and a cult of the Batak

particular influence





The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942

Singamangaradja dynasty, the

last priest-king

of which, Si Singa-

mangaradja XII, had been killed resisting Dutch military action



Although the "Lion King" 33 never ruled Karoland

moral authority


was recognised there long after his death, as it was in other Batak societies, and was heightened by the last Si Singamangaradja's resistance to Christian missions and to increased Dutch control in the Batak lands. After his death there was an expectation of the return of the priestking from death to bring in a rule of justice and to end the penetration of missions and civil government Some claimed that his return would herald the end of the world. In Karoland, bom the highlands and the dusun, resentment was rising, fired by a growing mistrust of Dutch motives for involvement in Karo affairs, stemming back to the Sunggal incident of 1874 and the invasion of the highland plateau in 1904. Dutch rule had brought a steep rise in taxation and labour levies, and other burdens the Karo had never known. The element of compulsion introduced too quickly was unfamiliar and deeply resented.


1914 turned

further, three-fold, increase in taxes in

some Karo

against their traditional chiefs,

were now

their rulers.

who under the Dutch system

Karoland was ready to react, and this came with the Parhudamdam Movement which arose in Tapanuli in 1915 and quickly spread through


the Batak lands.

Mission saw Parhudamdam as a movement of political but in fact even the political aspects of the movement were

Initially the 34


given religious overtones. Van den Berg reports informants saying that

God had made war on Queen Wilhelmina

"Hollanders" had done


because of what the

imposing taxes on the Bataks. 35 God,

claimed, had taught Si Singamangaradja a

death he continued to reveal







after his

tenets through guru. This revelation

came in seven stages, the first called agama pengerentes

— a pathfinding


and later stages were identified by six colours. God, it was believed, would send imminent apocalyptic destruction, in the form of a great flood and a hail of stones visited upon the unbeliev37 The Movement was ers, the piske (Christians) and the hapir (kafirs). spread by travelling guru who conducted ritual meals in which the new 38 "). Adherents were religion was "eaten" ("ipan agama mbaru enda later annointed with a sacred liquid, known as laupengurus, made from





the citrus juices used in the traditional erpangir ritual.


the bathing

place the hair was ritually washed {erpangir) and then the whole body,




The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942


while the guru recited a blessing formula beginning

Bassumillah irahim iruhim daldil




umpung tanehair umpung taneh


The Name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate, An39 cestor, Lord of Our Fatherland, Lord of Other Lands In



Next followed the ngeratip, which Neumann described as a kind of 40 While the guru chanted a tabas formula, invoking dervish dance. Dibata Mula Jadi and the name of Si Singamangaradja, the hearers began rhythmic body movements, in the end jumping up and down until they


dropped exhausted. They were then questioned to determine had entered them. Some answered "Tiger" or "Crocodile" or


"Tuhan Dibata



In Deli a man answered God's Lord God", and another "krani Dibata

"Attorney" (jaksa) or "police-agent" (oppas).

clerk". It is

interesting to note the significance of these manifestations of the

divine world; the tiger and crocodile are





creatures, respected

cases regarded as sacred, certainly powerful.



and the policeman (oppasser) all embody the mysterious new power of the state and of the western world. It is said that the man claiming to be the Lord God gained a great (kerani), the law-officer (jaksa)



The converts spoke

hudamdam was the guru

in tongues; the glossolalia, in

often heard, giving the

pronounced "Ampunl

traditional tendi rite)


The new

which the word name. Finally


— Forgiveness!", threw

rice in the air (a

and taught the disciples certain ritual and moral religion must not be told to Christians (piske) but

should be shared with the pagans. In the

commands were


name of

Si Singamangaradja

issued, through the possessed guru,

and a



Other guru were recruited to continue the mission of the new religion which promised its adherents a place in a Batak messianic kingdom. In this world the rites of the new religion secured invincibility and

Some suggested that adherents would pay only six cents tax, while others would pay six guilders, 43 a clear indication that paying



Dutch tax was a key

trigger in this


to resist cultural


political intrusion.

Inspired by the movement, many Karonese opted out of both taxes and schooling in the periodl915-1920, and were further alienated from


The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942

The movement came too late, however, to Karo society against the invader. Christian Karonese stood aloof from Parhudamdam, as did many others who, influenced by modern ideas, saw the movement as backward looking and unlikely to bring with it the progress they saw coming with Western technology and ideas. The movement came just as the Karo economy, revolutionised by roads, the new network of markets and the development of cash-crop farming, Christian ideas and people. unite




point of take-off.


Many Karonese entered into the new economic order with vigour, from now on kemajun advancement, not hankering for the past, would


their motivation.


a Dutch district officer was murdered the Government under-

took a vigorous pacification campaign and frequent armed forays soon

demoralised the Parhudamdam movement; by the early 1920s



heard of only in a few isolated places, no longer a movement of any significance.


had, however, dealt a heavy blow to the Mission, and

especially to the Mission schools, between 1916 and 1918




been at its height among the Deli and Serdang Karonese.45 While this spelled the end for Parhudamdam in Karoland it introduced another, secular- materialist, option for the Karonese, and one that has

proved more lasting and, for the religious communities, more to



After their schools were closed Karo communities by employing

the Mission sought contact with the

evangelists. In the 1920s the

elders (pertua)


the former teachers as lay teacher-

were appointed


although they were ordained to their office in the Calvinist tradition, they

were employed only in menial tasks, accompanying the missionaries in village visitation and in making local arrangements. Many were in fact vergers (koster) not spiritual leaders of the congregation.



were appointed until the 1960s. 46 Thus the work of the Mission, and the life of the congregations, revolved almost entirely around the two orders of professional ministry, 41 the ministers (pandita) and the teacher-evangelists (guru agama). This concentration of initiative and power in the hands of an elite group of leaders stifled the development of an active, responsible, enterprising laity in the

Karo church, and has had a long-term

inhibiting effect


a church that could not grow so long as responsibility was held by a small group, already over-extended by


diverse activities.




a tradition of dependency on the professional ministry which, while

The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942

not unique to Karoland,



not in keeping with the real nature of the

Reformed Church. The degree to which this state of affairs did inhibit church growth and development is highlighted by the dynamic growth of the 1960s and 1970s, by which time much of the initiative for evangelism and congregational development had been assumed by elders, other lay leaders and young people who were not afraid to experiment and to adapt established methods to local situations. It was not until Dr Hendrik Kraemer visited the area in January 1939 and advocated urgent efforts to establish an independent Karo church structure that parish councils (runggun gereja) were formed to provide the laity with a forum for discussion and local decision-making, a very late development for a society in which such decision-making processes were a part of every-day life. It was Kraemer's visit, also, that led to the first two Karonese being prepared for ordination to the ministry; two guru agama, Palem Sitepu and Thomas Sibero, were sent in 1940 to the Lutheran Theological School at Sipoholon in Tapanuli. As events were to prove, this long overdue move was made only just in time. The delay illustrates the paternalistic attitude of the Mission. Just as the Netherlands Indies


the Indies might

be selfgoverning and independent of European oversight, so too the Mission saw its role as a long-term one, in which initiative and power would remain in missionary hands for the foreseeable future. It was not in Karoadministration could not imagine a time

land alone that this attitude prevailed, nor was

who saw themselves as they had


only the missionaries

Two sayings recorded by Furnivall, sum up this and missionary to the European task in the Indies:

to serve.

attitude of official



essential in the long term to the welfare of those

[the Indonesians] are children

and we are here to help


"The villager cannot even scratch his head, unless an expert shows him how to do it and the Sub-District Officer gives him permission."48 Taken together the sayings

illustrate attitude

and outcome.

enterprise of the NZG Mission in Karoland which made an immediate and lasting impression was the Leprosarium at Lausimomo.



the Karonese


embodied a




toward an outcast

group, shunned and isolated by their society, and to

many European

The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942




was a moving symbol of what, at its

best, Christianity stood


Westenberg, with the co-operation of the local pengulu, set to work


after the occupation of the highland plateau to

do something


leprosy sufferers, hitherto forced to leave their villages and live in bush huts erected for at

them by

their villages


who from time to time left food, Some were simply driven out violently from

their families,

a safe distance, for them. left to

fend for themselves until they died. Deprived

of all social contact, and sometimes driven to desparation by hunger and loneliness, these outcasts

were feared and despised. Superstitious dread still current in the Singgamanik

surrounded them, such as the stories

area that they could call up fierce and destructive winds to devastate

crops and even destroy trees and buildings. 49


traditional belief that such affliction


the outworking of dosa,

divine retribution for wrong-doing by the sufferer or by

member, meant

some family

that the incentive to assist, to succour, or to alleviate

was not often present. Culturally, to punish by was an appropriate response to those seen to be punished by God (kedibatan). To set up an establishment for long-term care of leprosy sufferers was a radical new idea, which did not go unnoticed. It was a practical embodiment of the Christian Good News. The leprosarium was opened in a rural hamlet near Kabanjahe on 25 August 1906, at a site where a little stream disappears into an underMurmuring ground channel, giving the hamlet its name, Lausimomo Initially lived in huts and in van Waters. rough wooden 69 patients den Berg's house, but an additional dormitory and a dispensary were built during the next year, by which time there were 116 patients. In 1918 H. G. van Eelen took over management of Lausimomo and made many improvements. He removed the barbed wire fence surrounding the Cheerful settlement and turned it into a Karo village, Kuta Keriahen Village. Patients built some traditional style houses and also some attractive smaller units in adapted traditional style. Trees were planted and the grounds were kept much tidier than the average Karo village; a testimony not only to Dutch concepts of tidiness and good order but the patient's condition exile

also to the real pride van Eelen fostered


patients chose their



the villagers.

village leader {penguin),




pastures and settled their quarrels in the traditional village assembly

(runggun adat). The pengulu erected a notice, "We are all well here!", which became a village slogan. With the pengulu 's consent patients

The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942


could marry, children being cared for by relatives, or later in the Children's Home. There was a shop, and patients erected an attractive church



The leprosarium, which was a village rather than a was subsidised by the Karoland Administration, which built a

with their savings.

hospital in

51 Kabanjahe for patients requiring close supervision.

Two European visitors in the 1920s give vivid pictures of Lausimomo and enable us to gauge its impact on the local community. Louis Couperus, a distinguished Dutch writer who visited East Sumatra in 1921 in the course of a to



Haagsche Post, professed mission work, and saw real Christianity as

visit to the east for the

sympathy for

being beyond the capacity of primitive people.


At Lausimomo Couperus was deeply impressed. When he visited were 340 patients, 200 of whom had been baptised. There was no barbed wire fence as at the Labuan Leper Colony on the Deli 53 River. There was no poverty, patients having their own land. People, on being cured, asked to remain, having no fond memories of their own village and kin, and those with physical handicaps were assisted there


remain active and useful

polite, standing

in the

down- wind of

customary "Tabi!". 54


concluded, "They are

bodies, and round about their black misery

green paradise of Eden."

He found the patients and greeting them with the


the visitors,

Of the






the sunshine, the golden

he wrote, "I can only compare our

missionaries with the greatest of all Christians." 55

Professor A. described journey.




Barouw who

as "one of the

There were then,

visited the village, about

visited Lausimomo a few years later most touching experiences" of his entire around 1925 when the Governor-General



370 of


were Christians.

"Their Christianity," he noted, "is a crude childlike belief but they do understand the story of the lepers.


Such a



Man who comforted the sick and healed the to sufferers who are treated as outcasts

must appeal

own people."57

Van Eelen directed the leprosarium for twelve years, from 1918. Schoonhoven moved to Lausimomo and remained there until the war, caring for about 400 patients. A laboratory and operating facilities were provided along with general improvements. The introduction of sports and a band indicate that Lausimomo was keeping up with new social developments in Karoland. The little hospitals opened in Sibolangit and Kabanjahe were expanded by the Mission in the years before World War II. Sister J. M. In 1934 L. Jansen

The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942


Meijr began training nurses

at the

former in 1929 but a shortage of

doctors was always a problem in Karoland; those


served in the

were mainly mission, rather than public health service, doctors, some from the Netherlands, some seconded from Java, whence Dr Lim


H. and Dr Tan O.

S. came during the 1930s. Dr L. J. Kleijn undertook programmes in Karoland until the War. 58 New Mission appointments were made for village evangelism and congregational development, L. Bodaan to Kutajurung in Upper Serdang about 1909 and J. Talens to Barusjahe in 19 12. 59 Replacements were made from time to time. Overseas personnel interned by the Japanese in March 1943 were three ministers, two doctors and three nursing sisters; a minister, a doctor and a sister were to die in captivity. 60


health education

A new


in the years

immediately prior to the second world

war was the development of specific youth programmes, to cater for young people becoming much more conscious of their role in society, and the place of Karoland in the rising movement. 61 The secular option was more available to young people influenced by western education or by town life and the Mission sought to counter this by establishing boarding hostels in Kabanjahe, where the establishment evolved into a Christian high school, and in Medan. A Christian Girls' Club (Christelijke Meisjes Club Madju) was formed by Mrs G. Neumann-Bos to teach religion and the practical skills required for homemaking, and a Christian Youth Association for young men (Bond Kristen Dilaki Karo) soon followed. These organisations, with their successor, Permata, exercised an important educational and leadership training role for the Karo church and, indirectly, for the emerging nationalist movement. When finally lay people came to play a more important part in church life, not a few of them had been equipped for their new role by the youth organisations. In the 1930s and 1940s people who had received initial leadership training in the church became available as cadres for the emerging nationalist movement in North Sumatra, and the idealism of many of the younger doctors and civil servants working in Karoland in the 1960s and 1970s is likewise 62 attributable to Permata and to earlier programmes. Almost on the eve of the Japanese invasion, which ended the oldstyle missionary period in Karoland, two events took place that were to their expectations for the future


be crucial

On 23 July

to the survival of the Christian



the Karonese.

1941 a church gathering of Dutch missionaries and Karonese

teacher-evangelists (Kerapaten Geredja) took place at Sibolangit, with

The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942



van Muylwijk as chairman and Guru Agama L. Tambun as secretary. itself a synod of "Geredja Batak Karo Protes-

This meeting constituted

Karo Batak Protestant Church", with the same officers plus a Karonese treasurer. A code of Church Regulations (Kerkorde) was 63 adopted and a form of liturgy was authorised. The second event was the ordination, at this synod, of the first two Karonese ministers (pandita), Palem Karo-karo Sitepu and Thomas L. Sibero, who had recently completed training at the HKBP seminary at Sipoholon. Pdt P. Sitepu was appointed to Tiganderket as deputychairman of the Presbytery (Klasis) of Karo Gugung, centred on Kabanjahe with Missionary Neumann as chairman, and Pdt Th. Sibero was appointed to Periaria as deputy chairman of the Presbytery of Karo Jahe, tan


centred on Sibolangit with Missionary

W. G. Smit

as chairman.

The formation of a presbyterial-synodal church admission of Karonese to leadership and



and the

responsibility in the church

marked a new phase in the indigenisation of Christianity The old phase was brought to an abrupt end by the 65 Japanese invasion of Sumatra on 12 March 1942. Mission personnel were not interned immediately by the invaders. The ministers were allowed to do some work until about March 1943 when they were interned. The first chairman of Synod, J. van Muylwijk, died of malnutrition and sickness in the Aik Pemingge Camp on 22nd January 1945. 66 Dr L. J. Kleijn continued to serve village clinics on bicycle as long as he was permitted, and arranged for some elderly prisoners to be confined in the Kabanjahe Hospital. When he was finally interned he was transported to Singapore and perished at sea when his ship was torpedoed. at all levels,


the Karonese.

In 1940, after fifty years of missionary activity, there

5,000 baptised Karonese Christians, 67 served by six

and 38 Karonese teacher-evangelists. in training for ordination and, in the

Mission was beginning to plan the






Two Karonese men were wake of Kraemer's


then the

move toward formal, if not financial,

autonomy. Growth in the Christian community had been painfully slow and it was clear that Christianity had only scratched the surface of Karo life.

To most Karonese



of an alien colonial system


"Dutch religion", an

that, alike in the

integral part

lowlands and highlands,

had dismembered Karo society and imposed on people burdens and obligations they had never known before. In spite of all the advances, and the new opportunities, the Karo still saw themselves as victims, not


The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942

beneficiaries, of the colonial regime.



of the nominally Christian Europeans Coast did nothing to enhance the credibility of the Christian message, and the blatant racism of many powerful Euattitudes

who came


to the East

ropeans was deeply offensive to the indigenous Indonesian peoples. 68 All this undesirable behaviour was associated with Christianity.



been observed that Christianity came too late to Karoland, after other influences and ideologies had entered and won a place for themselves. 69 It

has been seen too


deeply compromised the Mission was, in spite

of the integrity and best efforts of the missionaries, by the circumstances surrounding the beginning of mission work in Karoland, by the Mis-

up to the 1920s on plantation finance and by the fact that was Guillaume's attempt to establish a base in Kabanjahe that gave the colonial administration the pretext it needed to invade the free Karo territories in 1904. Mission and Administration were closely identified in many Karo minds, and the Karo reaction to both was negative. The few Karonese who became Christians were those who had been able to find something in Christianity, more often in the life of Christians or of sion's reliance


the small congregations than in the formal preaching of the missionaries

and evangelists,

that transcended their

deep negative reactions and the

strong hold of adat and the primal religion.


The slowness of the NZG Mission to ordain Karonese ministers and to involve lay people in meaningful processes of decision-making further strengthened the identity of the church as a Dutch enterprise, financed and controlled by Europeans and, so far as most Karonese could tell, operated in the Europeans own interests. This paternalistic attitude, and the degree to which teaching and church discipline lagged behind the insights the missionaries showed in such fields as economic and community development, are fruits of the pietist tradition in which NZG had been founded and by which it continued to be influenced, but which '

by the 20th century had become formal and legalistic, often lacking warmth and vitality. Worship tended to be stark and plain. Instruction was often wooden and unimaginative, relying too much on rote learning and simplistic stories. All suggestion of incorporating elements of traditional culture were rejected with vigour and determination. The guru agama soon picked up from the missionaries, and in their turn over-emphasised, the rejection of all that had to do with the old ways. 71 The Rev. A. Ginting Suka, in a paper to a conference on 'The Gospel and Frontier Peoples" in Chicago, in December 1972, indicated

The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942

of the Christian church to cope with the Karo cultural

that this inability





become a major handicap

participate in the renewal of



in the church's 72

He goes

own efforts



Since the church was overwhelmingly ruled by fear


method of reaching people was negative and hence the conwere fenced by rigid laws. They were not led to a living experience of the actual presence of God's redemptive act. They were nurtured in the systematic understanding of God and Christ but had a lack of religious sensitivity. In this sense the animists have more religious sensitivity than the Christians. Because of this attitude the converts were not encouraged to become involved in any traditional rites nor verts

allowed to attend any traditional

Under lated

this style





of church discipline Christians tended to become iso-

communities, because of their inability to participate

and festivals of their kin, or to fulfil their kinship Karo society this was a disasterous mistake. Furthermore,

in the important rites

obligations. In

judging from the experience of the post-revolution church in Karoland, it

cut Christians off from their most significant opportunities for personal

evangelism; the interlocking network of kin relationships.

was only

shook itself free from and formal legalism that it was able to grasp the opportunities Karo society offered. During the missionary period Karo Christians remained an isolated minority in their own society. While It

as the post-war indigenous church

the heritage of pietism


crowds were often attracted

tion at large, as



to special services,

and the popula-

custom, assisted with the erection of some

churches and other buildings, it seems that the Christian minority lacked

power to attract large numbers of adherents or serious enquirers. Because Christianity remained the concern of a small social minority


Dr Ginting Suka has concluded



end of the colonial

between the World War II. 74

that the real confrontation

Gospel and the Karo people did not take place prior era,


however, the strongest bulwark of

the old religion, isolation, had been forever breached. In the

the colonial advance into Karoland

came towns such

wake of

as Kabanjahe, the

administration centre for the highland area, and Berastagi which, with beautiful setting resort.





and cool pleasant climate, became a European holiday

in these towns, with their dislocated populations, that the

church was to experience

its first

significant growth.

The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942


The work of the Mission had been more development spheres than this

successful in the social and

evangelism and church development, and success, with the benefits flowing from it, was to be a key factor in

changing attitudes to Christianity after the war and revolution. The


Congress on the History of Karo Culture



1958 concluded


while missionary endeavours had produced few converts the educational

and development programmes had had much wider effect, leading to the advancement of the local people. 76 In this area it seems the missionaries

had been more free

to exercise their






their not inconsiderable abilities, free of restrictive religious traditions.

European contemporaries accused the missionaries of encouraging highland communities to resist the letting of plantation concessions on the 77 plateau. Working hand in hand with enlightened administrators of the calibre of Westenberg and Botje, they were able to introduce basic medical services, initiate village health programmes, begin schooling


trade- training, develop

and extend market systems, promote the ex-

new commercial movement of Karo so-

tension of wet-rice cultivation and the introduction of crops. This ciety


work contributed considerably

static subsistance

to the

farming to dynamic, development-oriented

cash-crop farming. The goodwill arising from for the efforts

the folk-tales

made and

to record

work, appreciation

and preserve the language and

oral history of the

published in Dutch), and a



Karonese (even



most of



perception of the basic motives of the

missionaries has, in spite of the lack of initial statistical success,


on which the young Karo church could draw as it took up the task of mission to its own society. Shorn gradually of the inhibiting elements of pietism and legalism, the Karo the capital, from the missionary era,

Church has maintained and enlarged the concept of integrated mission evangelism, education and development programmes promoted which it inherited from the NZG together rather than as alternatives Mission, and this has proved to be one of its real strengths in modern,





Catholic Christianity

While Catholic Christianity came very

early to Indonesia,

before the middle of the seventh century,





Catholic involvement

Karoland was long delayed by Government regulations which prohib-

ited the overlapping of different missions in the

same region (dubbele

The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942


Under both the East India Company and the Netherlands (which announced freedom of religion in 1808) Government Indies strict control was exercised over all religious bodies. "Rust en orde" demanded that religious rivalries be kept to a minimum, and Catholic missionaries were not permitted to enter the Batak areas where Protestant missions were already at work. In the same way the integrity of the Catholic missions in Flores and south New Guinea was protected from zending).

Protestant interference.

European, Chinese and Indian Catholics living in North Sumatra were served by annual


from Batavia, and

Medan, who was not permitted region. ity in



by a resident

to contact indigenous

Bataks, however, encountered the Catholic form of Christian-

Medan, Padang and elsewhere

in their travels,

and pressure

allow freedom of entry to the Batak lands increased. Fr S.J.,


priest in

people of the

who had




learned Toba Batak in Medan, built up a strong con-

with Bataks in Batavia (Jakarta), but over


the Catholic


found the Dutch colonial administration "rather intolerant" and saw their difficulties as reflecting

"Catholicism's difficult position in Holland".

In 1911 responsibility for


Sumatra was removed from the Apostolic

Vicariate of Batavia and transferred to the

Dutch Capuchins based


Padang, and in 1918 Sumatra was elevated to the status of Apostolic Prefecture, with

Mgr Liberatus

Cluts as Apostolic Prefect.


As Catholic Batak congregations were formed in Batavia, Medan and Padang, and as Catholic schools in those places attracted pupils from a

wide area, pressure to relax the comity regulations was further increased, little by little the government gave way, allowing limited work at


Sibolga in Tobaland in 1929, Pematang Siantar in Simalungun in 1931



Balige in Tobaland in 1934, by which time formal permission

was given in north

to the Catholic mission to

work among indigenous people

Sumatra, and to Protestant missionaries to enter south


Guinea. Catholic work progressed rapidly, leading to what has been

termed a "theology of conflict" in the Batak lands, a war of pamphlets and sermons reflecting the confessional conflicts of Europe, into which the Batak adherents entered with gusto. 82

In 1932 the Apostolic Prefecture

was raised

in status to

Mgr Matias

an Apostolic

who had succeeded Mgr Cluts in 1921, was consecrated bishop. In 1941 the Vicar Apostolic moved from Padang to Medan, demonstrating that the church

Vicariate and in 1933 the Vicar Apostolic,

saw Batakland



primary area of activity. 83


The Christian Mission In Karoland 1890-1942


Pre-war Catholic contact with Karoland was limited but some out-

were established. 84 The expansion of the Catholic Mission Simalungun led to the opening of stations in Seribudolok, and in

stations in

P. Hamers, in 1938. From these bases Karo people in the border areas. The Catholic mission to Karoland proper was interrupted by the Japanese occupation when all overseas staff, apart from some German sisters, were interned. Because almost all of the priests were Dutch it was not possible to return to the task during the Revolution and the Catholic Batak community during this period had to rely on lay catechists and the occasional visit of a Javanese priest. Only after 1947 could a real

Sidikalang in Dairi, served by Fr

some approach was made


beginning be made in Karoland, as part of a rapid expansion of Catholic 85 mission work.

Old and new

style highland houses,

Kuta Galuh, 1977.


loos, village

meeting house, Sarinembah, Karo highlands.

Village Sunday school, Kuta Galuh, 1977.



Gelora Kasih Children's Home, Suka Mukmur, 1977.

River crossing, Langkat 1975. 110

Religion and Social





Many Indonesians remember vividly the end of the colonial era in North Sumatra. After occupying Penang on 19 December 1941 the Japanese

paused before invading North Sumatra, having more urgent concerns in Java and elsewhere. The Allies withdrew from Sumatra leaving the 1

Dutch to oppose the final invasion assisted only by their colonial troops. During the period of waiting, radio propaganda from Penang and fifth-column activities within Sumatra helped prepare Sumatrans for the

coming of their new

rulers, with

promises of Indonesian independence

from colonial oppression and the right to fly the red and white nationalist flag.



Thursday 2 March 1942 the Dutch withdrew from Medan,

city. Troop convoys and armoured cars moved toward Pematang Siantar in Simalungun and Kabanjahe in Karoland. Railway, oil and other strategic facilities in the city were destroyed. On 10 March the oil refineries at Pangkalan Berandan were set on fire, creating a spectacular "mountain of flame" visible as far away as the Karo plateau, and the port facilities at Belawan and Pangkalan Susu, and Polonia Airport at Medan, were destroyed. Early in the morning of Friday 13 March Japanese troops on bicycles entered Medan without encountering resistance and set up positions near the Sultan* s Mosque, where they were welcomed as liberators by crowds shouting "Banzai!". 3 Prisoners of the old regime were released, looting was controlled by the swift execution of several offenders and all political parties and publications were banned. None of the promises of independence was honoured; Indonesia was to serve the Japanese war effort, if not freely then by compulsion. The Sumatran historian Tengku




an open

Sinar has captured vividly the broken Indonesian of the




Religion and Social Change in Karoland



ara meting-meting, tira ara poritik.


bindera Hinomaru saja na! Raing-raing bindera


there are to be


1940-1950 Naiku



no more meetings, no more political Hinomaru flag! No other flags are

activity. Just hoist the


Informants in Karoland recall what seemed to them to be the useless destruction wrought by the retreating colonial forces, such as the lition


of a beautiful suspension bridge near Kandibata, on the road from




Clashes took place in the Karo highlands when elements of the

army under Major-General R.


and forced



to Kutacane.


Overakker were out-flanked

Tigabinanga and Kutabuluh were

captured on 24 March and Kutacane on 27th. 5 Informants, thirty years after these events,


spoke with horror of the magnitude and ferocity

of the fighting, the loss of


and destruction of property and the

horrible aftermath; forced labour parties gathering the Japanese dead for honourable burial and the bodies of the colonial soldiers for disposal




While observers have commented on the frequency of village and conflict in pre-colonial Karo society, warfare was limited, casualties rarely great (and often negligible) and destruction of trees and other long-term resources was forbidden. In this clash between two colonial powers a new era of violence came to Karoland and was to remain part of the Karo experience until both war and revolution had run their course and the last of the bandit gangs left by these traumatic events was rounded up. urung

The Japanese quickly tration of East


colonial adminis-

Sumatra was kept intact and the feudal

rulers maintained,

in position if not in

the old.

asserted their authority.

power, to serve the new regime as they had served

Few Japanese were

appointed to the

civil administration


was divided into three sections, a civil service, a police force and an economic section, staffed by Indonesians, but the military administration kept a firm control on all affairs, in line with the Empire's overall strategy.

Sumatra was separated from the


of the Indies and united with

Malaya, under the control of the 25th Army, with Singapore until

were seen as


1943 and


later in Bukittinggi.


headquarters in

Malaya and Sumatra

and productive areas forming "a nuclear zone

Religion and Social



Karoland 1940-1950


of the Empire's plans for the southern area", which included a "future They were to be developed as a centre

reversion of these areas to Japan".

7 of communication and industry to serve the Empire.

and economic importance of Sumatra the

In the light of the strategic

military administration was instructed to promote peace, maintain public

win the support of the indigenous population insofar as this was possible within the over-riding demands of the war effort. "Native religious beliefs and customs shall be respected as much as possible, and interference shall be avoided". No encouragement was to order,

and seek


8 be given, however, to native ideas of independence. The situation called for prudent handling of customs, religions, and

relations with the heads of



and the avoidance of

indiscriminate revision of, or interference with, these matters.

aim of

this policy, as the

Navy was

told with regard to




area of

administration in eastern Indonesia, was to maintain the status quo, "in

order to reassure and win the hearts of the local inhabitants,"

whom Muslims

were seen




occupy a specially important place.


Religious Affairs Office (Shumuhan) consisting of two Muslims, two

one Japanese was set up for East Sumatra in July 1944 to implement this policy after the Japanese, aware of the impending

Christians and better

collapse of their war-effort, began to prepare Indonesia for nominal

independence within the Japanese sphere of influence. 11 In effect Japanese policy


that traditional religions, including

Islam, were protected, and the social customs arising from

them sup-

ported so long as they were compatible with the needs of the Empire.

Indeed Islam was actively encouraged, and a group of Muslim leaders from Serdang, Langkat and Deli was sent to Singapore in mid-March

1943 for an "All Sumatra and Malaya Islamic Conference", where they

Nippon which Muslims of South-East Asia from western colonialism." In East Sumatra there was struggle between Hamka's reformist Muhammadiyah faction and the more conservative Muslim groups sympathetic to Malay interests and to the traditional rulers, but as yet Karoland was unaffected by the internal struggles of its Muslim issued a statement expressing "a salute and thanks to Dai

had helped to


liberate the


Protestant Christianity


treated as hostile, a foreign religion

pathetic to the former rulers, although



Catholic Christianity

enjoyed some measure of protection because of the Central Government's sensitivity to the Catholic community in Japan. The preaching



Religion and Social Change in Karoland


of sermons was officially banned, although the ban seems not to have

been enforced widely, but the

liturgical worship of the Catholic Church was allowed. All clergy and mission personnel of hostile nations were interned (the Dutch having already interned most of the Germans) and no increase in "third power" mission personnel was allowed. In some cases even remaining Axis nationals were replaced with Indonesians more sympathetic to Japan's vision for "East Asia". 13 For the Karo Church the Japanese invasion, coming so soon after the first steps had been taken toward autonomy, was a severe crisis. With only 5,000 members, and only two ordained ministers, the church had to confront daunting problems. The Mission owned a number of schools, re-opened in the years preceding the war, two hospitals (with a total bed capacity of 350) and a leprosarium as well as the various churches and houses built and maintained with Mission funds. The Japanese invasion meant not only that the European missionaries were no longer available to manage these facilities but also that the funding for their up-keep was suddenly cut off. The church was severely over-committed financially and institutionally, in terms of its small membership, and fifty years of reliance on generous outside financial support had done nothing to foster any sense of self-reliance among the members of the church for even their local programmes. Taking over the institutions owned by the Mission was clearly beyond the church's resources. The neglect of the laity in the pre-war church meant, also, that there were no trained people able to take over from the Mission administrators, or from the many guru agama who were forced to return to secular 14 occupations because of lack of support. The Karo Church would pay, for a long time to come, for the institutional paternalism of the mission era.

two new Karo ministers fell the full responsibility for the spiritual life and indeed for the survival of the Church. A disastrous leadership vacuum following the internment of the Dutch missionaries was averted when Pdt Thomas Sibero, on his own initiative, left his post and moved to the Presbytery centre, Sibolangit, where he took over leadership of the church. From this time until he was appointed a military chaplain in 1952, Thomas Sibero's role was to be crucial, in guiding GBKP through both the occupation and the freedom struggle that followed World War II. During this period he was three times elected Chairman of Synod) of GBKP, the first Moderator (Keiua Synode Karonese to hold this office and one whose wisdom, perseverence and


the shoulders of the


and Social Change

courage gave to



Karoland 1940-1950

the high status

Thomas Sibero was born


it still



enjoys in Karo society.


in Juhar, a large village

on the

Karo plateau, and was educated at mission schools there, completing the five-year Zending Vervolgschool course in 1924. Choosing a traditional Karonese craft, Sibero apprenticed himself to the craftsman (pande mas) Jangenam Ginting in Tigabinanga, 1925-1928, and qualified as a goldsmith, working in Tigalingga and,


Tigabinanga. In

during his apprenticeship, he was confirmed by E.







van den Berg, and

time was a keen reader of mission publications.

On 24 August set




1929 Thomas Sibero entered the Evangelists' School 1924 by J. H. Neumann, a move which did not have

his parents' approval.


Graduating in July 1932, he married Gungun br

first appointment as Guru Agama at Silindek in Bangun Purba area in the same year. After several transfers he was chosen, with Guru Agama Palem Sitepu, to study for ordination at the HKBP Seminary in Sipoholon, 1939-1941. Both were ordained on 23

Barus and took up his


July 1941 in Sibolangit during the gathering that led to the formation of the

synod of GBKP.

Returning to Sibolangit in 1943, Sibero recalled the members of the 1941 synod for a meeting on 29 September, which lasted for a day and a night, to deal with the emergency situation brought about by

and by disagreements that had arisen in the leadership vacuum. This emergency synod was attended by the two Karo ministers, by the secretary, Guru Agama Ng Munte, the treasurer, Pa Murmur, an elder (Pertua) and two other lay members. The Kerkorde adopted by the the occupation


synod was translated without change into Indonesian, because the

Japanese had forbidden the use of the Dutch language. 17 Officially the Japanese regarded the Protestant church as

pro-Dutch and an element in Dutch colonial rule, a viewpoint shared at the time by many Karonese. While no Christians were persecuted or lost their lives on account of their faith during the Japanese occupation of Karoland, 18

was not generally sympathetic to Christian activities on one or two more sympathetic contacts among the Japanese, some of them themselves Christian, for travel permits and an arm -band identity that allowed him to gather congregations when other meetings of three or more were illegal. Sunday worship, officially without sermon, and the instruction of new converts, were the only the administration

and Sibero


formal activities tolerated. 19


fact that Christianity

was only beginning

to take tentative root

Religion and Social Change in Karoland 1 940 - 1 950






that the church



leaders faced a constant

challenge in guiding and sustaining the congregations. The Japanese

were generally opposed programmes aimed at winning converts from the "native religion". 20 The Karonese, for their part, were not slow to observe similarities between perbegu practices and the religious practices of the Japanese, authorities, for the policy reasons already noted, to

such as the leaving of cigarettes, sweets and food delicacies as offerings on the graves of Japanese war dead. 21 One problem of conscience facing Karo Christians was the command to honour the Japanese Emperor at sunrise, which some saw simply as showing honour to their new ruler, others as offering worship (nembah) to a human ruler. In the towns there was not much opportunity to avoid such ceremonies but in the villages some Christians made their their fields well before sunrise to




avoid the ceremony.

were only eight guru employment, along with the two ministers.

the end of the Japanese occupation there

agama still The severe

in full-time

shortage of pastors and teachers no doubt contributed to membership of GBKP during the 1941-1945 period. Some vacant places were taken by elders and other non-stipendiary church workers but the Mission's tardiness in appointing and training elders, and the low expectation it seemed to have of them, meant that few were prepared, in terms of either instruction or development of practical the static

skills, to


take the place of either the missionaries or the guru agama.

congregations declined, and with open evangelism programmes

new members baptised during the occupation had been on an individual basis, by church members or by the strong impression made on many by the supportive fellowship the church exhibited in the face of suffering, which grew worse as the Japanese position worsened. There were many deaths during the occupation but the addition of new members was sufficient to hold the membership at forbidden, most


5,000 in 1945, as


had been

the occupation they had

in 1942. Christians recall that


always lived in fear of a worsening of attitude

on the part of an occupying power which

in a


few short years earned a

reputation for cold-blooded ferocity and savage reprisal for which the years of European rule had not prepared the people.

The sudden separation of the Karo church from its Dutch mission, and the political ordeal brought about by the occupation, in spite of their hardships, their


brought a new opportunity for the Christians to discover

identity. It


at this

time that the church began to integrate


and Social Change


Karoland 1940-1950



Karo society, cautiously at first because its leaders had all and had worked, in a system that had promoted separation been and emphasised differences. Now, however, it was possible for people to begin to see the real nature of the church, once it was forced by changing circumstances to move away from its European colonial image. The hardship of the war years hardened the small Christian communities for itself into


suffering to come. It was by finding a new identity with Karo society during the occupation that the church was able to stand firmly, and without compromise, on the side of the Republic during the revolution and the subsequent attempts by the Dutch to reassert control in East Sumatra by means of military action, in 1947 and 1949. In Karoland affairs were anything but calm during the war. Land conflict continued in the dusun areas of the sultanates, with Karo farmers still resentful of the encroachment on their customary land rights. Irrigation in some highland districts had led to the accumulation of wet-rice land in the hands of a few Karo chiefs in the Batukarang and

much worse

Tiganderket areas. Since the 1930s there had been protests about the 40ha of land controlled by the Raja Urung of Batukarang, and the Karo communities in Sunggal, now officially called Serbanyaman, protested regularly against the diminishing of customary rights of access to fallow plantation land.


non-political Karonese farmers' union,


Serikat Tani

Indonesia (Indonesian Farmers' Union), set up in the 1930s, was suppressed by the government in 1938 and went underground. All this


a bitter legacy of grievance against the colonial system and the feudal rulers

and chiefs

who were



and often


agents. This

when the early Karo would be deposed was not fulfilled. 23

bitterness erupted during the Japanese occupation,

expectation that the feudal rulers

Taking the name "Aron", a traditional co-operative group of people

who joined

their labour together

harvest, groups took the

on a temporary basis for ploughing or

law into their own hands and

illegally cultivated

the Raja Urung's land at Batukarang; they also initiated

mass protests Langkat and around Pancur Batu, in the Sunggal area of Deli. Many were killed in clashes before the Japanese suppressed the movement, executing many of the "Aron" leaders. This abortive attempt to bring Karo communal solidarity to bear during the power-vacuum that at Bulilir in

arose between Dutch-Malay and Japanese-Malay rule



be revived

during the Social Revolution of 1946.


the Japanese side, defence against Allied counter-attack


Religion and Social Change in Karoland



of increasing importance as the war situation changed. Military setbacks in

1943 and the urgent need for more military power led the Japanese Heiho (auxiliary soldiers) for guard duties and

to enrol Indonesians as

general non-combatant tasks and as Giyugun (volunteers) to defend


soil in the

event of an Allied counter-invasion. The volunteer

troops had Indonesian officers, up to the rank of captain; and the officer candidates, chosen from educated groups and those with experience in

community organisations, tended to be strongly nationalist in sympathy. They supported these moves, seeing military training and access to military hardware as long-term nationalist goals. The Japanese Talapeta programme, which combined training in agricultural development with military, espionage

and guerilla training, and hard physical

training, also

produced cadres indoctrinated with a spirit of dedication, sacrifice and national idealism, which the Karo trainees translated from a Japanese to an Indonesian to

good use

model without difficulty. 24 This

training, also,

in the revolutionary struggle in East Sumatra.

was put



Japanese surrendered in 1945 the soldiers from the auxiliary and volun-

formed the nucleus of the Indonesian army. from the talapeta programme and the various indepen-

teer forces, with stolen arms,



dent units (pasukan) they participated in the struggle for independence,

1945-1949. The Giyugun


formed the nucleus of an Indonesian

officer corps.

Social conditions under the Japanese deteriorated after mid-1943


Allied submarine activity in the Malacca Straits brought a virtual

Rubber tapping stopped, trees were cut down and estates were forced to grow rice to feed both the local population and the army of occupation. Textiles, even for essential doming, were scarce and black market activities escalated. Japanese money became worthless and people reverted to barter- trading. By the end of the war the system had grown as oppressive as the nineteenth-century forced cultivation halt to exports.



When 1945

the Japanese began to prepare Indonesia for independence in

strategists at first

considered Sumatra insufficiently developed for

self-government and proposed keeping in Java, but in the



was decided



separate from developments

keep Indonesia as a whole

and to prepare it for a pro- Japanese independence within a Greater East Asia, which would include Burma and the Philippines. In July 1945 a Sumatran Council was called at Bukittinggi and preparations were begun for independence. The sultans grew alarmed and asked the

Religion and Social



Karoland 1940-1950


Japanese to restore to them the sovereign rights they had enjoyed prior to 1892. Their pleas went unheeded. Organisations and pressure groups

were formed representing the various


of the East Coast's very

diverse population, but the sudden surrender of Japan

on 14 August

1945 put an abrupt end to these Japanese-sponsored moves toward independence.


The events surrounding the birth of the new Indonesian nation have been widely discussed and need not be examined in detail here. Following the Declaration of Independence by Soekarno and Hatta in Jakarta on 17 August 1945 Sumatra became a province of the Republic of Indonesia, with as Governor.







Mr Teuku Mohammad Hasan

The main challenge to the Province was to keep an power as the Japanese occupation came to an end

orderly balance of

and as the Allies attempted to re-occupy the former Dutch colony. Communications with Jakarta were slow in the extreme, and the intentions of the


Political leaders in

Republic's central government were not clear.

Sumatra appear to have held back, waiting for clear


Meanwhile Indonesian


Japan's surrender, regrouped and in military units or guerilla bands.

and volunteers, disbanded


many places seized arms and formed

The Japanese, charged by

the Allies

with keeping the peace until the change of administration could be

completed, agreed not to interfere with the Republic, and


to issue decrees as

Mr Hasan

governor on 3 October 1945, a week before

a brigade of the 26th Indian Division, under Brigadier T. E. D. Kelly,

landed at Belawan and set up bases there, at Binjai and Berastagi and a headquarters in Medan.


In order to protect





assume power, but set about the urgent task of relieving the Japanese and freeing the very large number of prisoners and internees in Japanese hands, whose lives were in danger both through malnutrition and deprivation and through the ever-present danger of violence in the uncertain situation. With a small force and limited facilities the British commander had to rely on the co-operation of both the Japanese and the Republicans. Governor Hasan was willing to co-operate with these Allied endeavours but resisted any suggestion of a return of Dutch sovereignty. Tension mounted when a small Dutch NICA (Netherlands Indies British did not proclaim or

Civil Administration) detachment returned to East

orders and began to reassume authority, and

Sumatra under Allied


released internees

Religion and Social Change in Karoland


and the nervous native


began agitating for a return to the pre-

war situation. Westerling's notorious out with Christian



"anti-terrorist" activities,


soldiers of the



further embittered

and the Christian influence

the nationalists against both the Allies


Indonesia they represented. These irregular activities were curtailed by the British

commander, and Dutch forces available were not

allowed to land in Sumatra and Java for fear of worsening the




Brigadier Kelly met with Republican representatives and recognised the Republican least

mayor of Medan, Mr Luat

de facto recognition of the new regime, as

on taking up his appointment 32 Indies, 29 September 1945.

The formation of a

as Allied


TKR and renamed in January by former Giyugun

retired to

military supplies.



Netherlands East



— — TRI),

The first Karoland took place when a Berastagi was attacked on 25

touched Karoland

small unit on detachment to a post in



army {Tentara Keamanan Rakjat

significant clash with Allied forces in

three times as

commanding officer, earlier in

1946 Tentara Republik Indonesia


November by Republican


had done

Lieut. General Sir Philip Christison,


Siregar, thus affording at


and forced to withdraw. Attacked two men and a quantity of

the unit lost

The British then withdrew area, making

and patrolled only the Medan

the Berastagi detachment the Japanese once


responsible for civil government outside the three cities occupied by the Allies,

in the

Medan, Padang and Palembang.

"Medan Area"34

as the

and against the Japanese


Bitter clashes against the British

defended zone was known to both sides,


centres, notably Tebing Tinggi


were bloody reprisals, mark this period of instability. Governor Hasan appointed Ngeradjai Meliala, the Raja Urung XVII


Kuta, as the Republic's representative (Wakil Pemerintah) in Karoland,

a role he had exercised as fukubunshucho under the Japanese. replaced by Rakuta

He was

Sembiring of the PNI/Partindo faction after the

Social Revolution of 1946. Jacob Siregar and the Japanese Captain



who chose to join his Talapeta graduates rather than be repatri-

Wild Tiger Corps (Barisan Harimau Liar), originally a Kenkoku Teisintai (National Guard) with designated responsibilities in Karo, Toba and Simalungun, to resist the re-establishment of the old order. This group came into conflict with ated, rebuilt the

section of the Talapeta-related

Ng. Meliala and with the TKR/TRI. At yet another level the revolutionary youths' cry "100% Freedom!" was carried to Karoland with


and Social Change


Karoland 1940-1950


the formation there of a "Struggle Force" {Persatuan Perdjuangan),

by Tama Ginting and representing all the armed youth groups. The leader of Harimau Liar in Karoland, Pajung Bangun of Batukarang, was arrested by Ng. Meliala and soldiers of TRI, and on 3 March 1946 the Persatuan Perdjuangan, supported by soldiers under Selamat Ginting, arrested 17 of the sibayak and raja urung at a meeting 36 sending them for internment in Aceh. in Berastagi, Much of the long-disputed irrigated land was seized from the chiefs; but there was no bloodshed at this time, because Meliala had already arrested the Barisan Harimau leaders who were most violently opposed to the old order and also because Karo kinship, shared by the youths, the soldiers and the arrested chiefs, served to restrain the violence and prevent the pillage of houses and property that occurred elsewhere in East Sumatra. The Kerajaan (Kerajan in Karonese), or "native states" were abolished in Karoland by decree on 8 March 1946, thus ending the Dutch fiction of "native rule" (inlandse bestuur), and mass rallies of Persatuan Perdjuangan at this time opposed any Republican negotiations with returning Dutch interests. The removal of the traditional rulers had litde effect on Karo social structure; nor was it so much a break with the past as a return to it, to a world without "rulers" who had been created by the Netherland Indies administration to serve its own needs. The Karo people embraced with enthusiasm the democracy reemerging in their society; even the pisang raja (king banana, a wellknown variety) became for a time pisang demokrasil But many of the changes were traumatic. Political and social life became chaotic as various armed factions struggled for supremacy. The whole of East Sumatra was bitterly divided between warring parties, undisciplined young leaders and their followers, and a violent leadership struggle led in Karoland

broke out in Karoland. In late April

1946 a localised civil war broke out in the Sidikalang area

of Dairi, between Karo and Toba immigrant groups,

who had

long vied

with each other, and with the local Dairi Bataks, for land in the area.

Anthony Reid estimates that 300 may have been killed in this bitter which some Acehnese and truck-loads of Persatuan Perdjuangan youth from Karoland became involved, before the conflict was terminated by the intervention of the Tapanuli Division, TRI. 37 ethnic conflict, in


the wider front, the British refused to

nial conflict with the

become involved

Republic and restricted their

the Japanese, releasing internees

activities to


a colo-


and keeping law and order within the


Religion and Social Change in Karoland


limited areas under their control. Reoccupation of the Indies to the Netherlands,

and the





history indicates that Britain,

wanting no part in the strongly repressive measures threatened by the Dutch commander-in-chief designate, General S. H. Spoor, determined

withdraw before the new administration took over, and to take no Dutch rule. 38 British consideration for the feelings of India, whose soldiers were involved in Sumatran operations, was a not-insignificant factor in their policy of insisting that to

part in the reassertion of

there be negotiations with the Republicans, recall the

sympathy individual Indian


and Indonesian informants


showed to the Republican

cause. In the event, military action by the Netherlands to re-occupy Java and Sumatra was ruled out of the question in 1946 as the required troop concentration would have taken at least a year. The islands of Bangka, Billiton and Riau off the coast of Sumatra, however, were occupied without much resistance in early 1946, and the Dutch began landing troops at Belawan on 26 October, to replace British and Indian troops holding the Medan Area, who handed over on 21 November 1946 and completed their withdrawal by the 26th. 40 The Dutch managed to erect a State of Eastern Indonesia in 1946, 41 as part of a proposed federal structure, but pressure from Britain, which wanted its troops out of Indonesia by the end of that year, forced the Dutch to accept a negotiated compromise with the Republicans, reached at Linggajati in West Java on 12 November 1946. The Linggajati Agreement, which had been preceded by a successful cease-fire on all fronts from 14 October, embodied a de facto recognition of Republican authority in Java, Sumatra and Madura, including the former Allied

enclaves in which the Dutch had re-established their authority. The

Republic, for its part, agreed to cooperate with the Netherlands in setting

up a federal state, of which


would be one component, by the beginning

of 1949. The United States of Indonesia (Republik Indonesia Serikat or R.I.S.) comprising the Republic of Indonesia, Borneo, and the State

of Eastern Indonesia, would enter into an equal partnership with the

Kingdom of the Netherlands, united in allegience to the Dutch crown. 42 By the end of November the British withdrawal was complete and Dutch 43 troops controlled the Medan Area. The Linggajati Agreement, which was subjected to qualifications imposed by the Netherlands, such as the exclusion of Dutch Guinea from the new state, was not finally signed until 25 March





and Social Change




Karoland 1940-1950


time the Republic had begun to act as a sovereign

signing treaties with Egypt and Syria, and the Dutch had




explore the "military alternative" to honouring the Agreement. This alternative

became more and more

up of troops

in the

them as their buildJava and Sumatra gained

attractive to

former Allied enclaves in

momentum. 44 In East Sumatra the long-standing tensions between Malay, Karo and Simalungun, the three indigenous ethnic groups {prang asli) of the area,

had become somewhat overshadowed by a sharper tension between the orang asli as a whole and the more recent immigrant groups: the

(who as former plantation numerous but had little political or social consequence in the eyes of the dominant groups), the Chinese and the Indians. In 1947 a faction was formed of Malay and, to a much lesser degree, Simalungun and Karo feudal aristocrats and chiefs who had survived the Social Revolution, and the vulnerable Chinese and Eurasian communities, who all saw in restored Dutch influence the only hope of retaining their pre-war positions, to stand against the Republican "extremists" led by Javanese and Batak nationalists. These groups looked to a proposed East Sumatra State to secure autonomy, under Dutch protection, for the orang confident, assertive Toba Bataks, the Javanese

labourers were



In July 1947 the Republic strengthened its forces around the Medan Area perimeter and, aware of Dutch intentions, made a concerted at-

tempt to enter the city on the 20th. 46



morning of the


simultaneously with well-prepared break-outs from Jakarta, Surabaya

and Bandung in Java, the Dutch forces in Sumatra moved out of the

Medan Area

in a major offensive against Republican positions, which were quickly overwhelmed. The important towns of East Sumatra were soon in Dutch hands. 47 The Dutch portrayed their resort to military

force as a "police action" {Politioneel Actie) and assured the Allies that

they had limited goals and were dealing with disorder the Republicans

were unable to control. They professed to be supporting the Linggajati Agreement. The Republican side saw the action as naked aggression and pointed to the Dutch pattern of provocation followed by armed reaction that

had become characteristic of the Medan Area

after the British





objective of the Dutch action in East Sumatra

control of the rich plantation lands, but there can be that at least a

group of


planned to use the

was to gain no doubt now




Religion and Social Change in Karoland

as a base


from which to crush the Republican forces, rather than

enforce the provisions of the Linggajati Agreement the "Police Action"

or at least discredit

would destroy


the Republic in


was hoped that Java and Sumatra, It

leadership, but the spirited resistance put up, the

scorched earth policy employed, and strategic withdrawals to positions

be defended, proved that this was an idle dream, and that Dutch were facing a competent, disciplined military force which enjoyed widespread popular support. Much of Karoland was devastated by the retreating Republicans and by the inhabitants of the evacuated that could




many of the latter choosing exile with the Republican forces rather under renewed colonial rule. One factor in the evacuation of the


towns was popular fear of aerial bombing, the sighting of a single scout plane being enough to cause panic in some places.48 The drama and


tragedy of the mass evacuation


vividly recalled in a traditional

kateneng-kateneng song,"Lagu Mengungsi", presented in Karonese and English by Terbit Sembiring during the 1981

Symposium on North Sumatra. 49 Beside text of

74 stanzas





historical detail, this long

performance lasting about 90 minutes)


a rich

source of traditional and poetic expressions, for example of birth (ingan

pusungna ndabuh, "the place where one's umbilical cord fell" is one's birthplace), and of death (melala me lawes kesahna ku angin, lawes dareh kulau ... tulangna ku batu ... the breaths of many returned to the wind, blood to water, their bones to stone ... is said of a place where Karo soldiers were ambushed and killed). In Karoland the force at Berastagi commanded by Lieut. Colonel Djamin Gintings was involved in combat at Kabanjahe, Sukanalu, Suka, Barusjahe, Sarinembah, Tigabinanga and elsewhere before established


headquarters at


in Alas, in



September 1947,

maintaining a forward defensive position in Karoland near Kutabuluhberteng where, using the same ideal natural features, the Dutch had


a stand against the Japanese in 1942. This position was not able to be

forced during the First Conflict.


Pressure in the United Nations brought a ceasefire on 4 August, by

which time the Dutch had secured their objectives. As in the invasion of 1904, the troops defending Karoland had little chance of success in frontal warfare with a modern army, on this occasion supported by light armour and air power. Very few Republican soldiers were captured, however, and most were able to withdraw, assisted by the Karo population, many of whom accepted the destruction of their homes and


and Social Change


Karoland 1940-1950



and shared suffering with the evacuated army. Some of these later returned to their villages and in significant ways prepared for



the Republican re-occupation of Karoland.


United Nations involvement led to the signing of the Renville Agreement, on the USS Renville anchored in Jakarta Bay, in January 1948.

The Republican government, under strong pressure from the United States, signed this agreement although it meant accepting the "Van Mook Line", drawn by the Dutch, joining their most forward positions but having no regard for Republican positions held behind the line. For the force in Karoland this meant that the important villages of Laubalang, Perbulan and Mardinding, which had not been captured in the First Conflict, had to be evacuated, leaving the Dutch in occupation of Karoland almost to the border with Aceh.


the Renville


Agreement the Kingdom of

the Netherlands


to retain sovereignty over all Indonesia until the united federal state

could be brought to independence in an equal union with the Netherlands

under the Dutch crown. The Republic was to be one state within


(Negara Indonesia Serikat). 54 While the colonial power diminish the ultimate status of the Republic within the union,

federal union tried to

Republican leaders had their


long-term plans for the future, which

did not include permanent subordination to a federal state.

had marked these traumatic changes in East Sumatra. Harimau Liar embarked on an orgy of killings, with perhaps 2,000 victims in Karoland. It was this unofficial force that in some places turned against Christian Karonese, accusing them of being Bitter conflict

In July 1947 the


some Christians were killed, along with many other innocent some supporters of the Republic seeking refuge from

people, including the Dutch.


Many of the Sumatran aristocrats and chiefs detained in the

1946 Social Revolution were murdered after they were released. This violence, and the general political chaos, led many who might otherwise have been pro-republican to seek refuge with the faction

working for an East Sumatran State (Negara Sumatera Timur) within the federation. This state was formed on Christmas Day 1947, with Dr Tengku Mansur as head of state (Wali Negara) but with Dutch nationals

already appointed as district heads (assistant residents) in Langkat, Deli, Serdang,

Asahan, Simalungun and Karoland, to set up regional

new state. Negara Sumatera Timur, alone of the by the Dutch, had its own armed force, the Barisan Pengawal, whose officers were Dutch. 56 administrations for the client states created

Religion and Social Change in Karoland



Karo support for Negara Sumatera Timur came mainly from those who had benefited from the earlier colonial order and from those who were disillusioned with the disorder and violence of the Revolution, and who saw the state as an institution to protect the orang asli of the 57 east coast against a seeming flood of immigrants. Benefits offered by the new state were very largely outweighed by continuing MalayKaro tension over land rights and access to former plantation lands, where many Malays had taken possession as squatters. Over-reactions, and periodic eviction and return, destroyed any image Karo farmers may have had of an orang asli state that would protect their rights and advance their opportunities. Increasingly the Karo and Simalungun communities on the coast were open to the Republican case. Land conflict also seriously undermined the Dutch strategy of reactivating the plantations to provide an economic base for the East Sumatra State and security for European investors. 58 One achievement of Negara Sumatera Timur, however, was the final, legal, termination of the governing powers of the "native rulers" of the east coast on 19 July 1948, which prepared the way for East Sumatra, ultimately, to enter a 59 unitary and fully sovereign state. A conservative turn in Dutch politics in December 1948 brought a less flexible attitude to Indonesian affairs, and by the end of the year it was being suggested that the Republic might be excluded altogether from the proposed federal state unless it agreed to accept a very minor role, equal 60 The reality, however, was to that of the client states set up by the Dutch. that even in these states initiative was slipping out of Dutch hands and, at midnight on 18 December, the Dutch defied world opinion (and the United Nations Good Offices Commission which was still in Indonesia) and launched another "police action". The airport of the Republican capital, Jogjakarta, was bombed and the city attacked with paratroops. President Soekarno, Vice-President Hatta, Prime Minister Sjahrir and those cabinet ministers present in Jogjakarta allowed themselves to

be captured, looking for victory through international diplomacy now, rather than by armed resistance. At the same time General Sudirman called the army to guerilla action, scorched earth tactics and the execution of well-prepared plans which saw large units of the Republican


forces penetrate the Renville Status

spectacular of these operations



the long

Line. Perhaps the most

march of

the Siliwangi

Division into West Java. In Java the

Dutch realised all of their military objectives within a week


and Social Change


or so but were unable to bring

Hamengku Buwono IX

Karoland 1940-1950


down the Republican government.


of Jogjakarta, one of the four great princes of

Java, morally secure in the kraton, declared for the Republic


he had supported since the declaration of independence in 1945, and refused to negotiate with a delegation of Dutch officers seeking the surrender of the city. His firmness dashed any hope of erecting a client

Without his active support Jogjakarta could not be ruled, and before the struggle was over the Sultan was to hold important Re61 publican cabinet portfolios for internal security and defence. President state in Java.

Soekarno, H. A. Salim and the Prime Minister, Sutan Sjahrir, were exiled to Berastagi in

Karoland, and the Vice-President and other Republican

ministers to Bangka, having delegated

of their internment to

government powers for the period

Mr Sjafrudin Prawiranegara, minister for welfare,

be visiting Sumatra when the Second Conflict broke out An emergency government was formed. In Sumatra an Acehnese civilian leader T. Daud Beureueh had been

who happened



appointed Military Governor of the Republican territory, with the titular

rank of major-general, and Djamin Gintings took steps to secure the route to Kutacane against invasion. After an unsuccessful attack


Mardinding, which was driven off by Dutch armour, Gintings resolved to carry the struggle

back into Karoland, 63 where the

local population

on the plateau, and in the upper lowlands (dusun) of Deli, Serdang and Langkat, at considerable risk, gave support in providing refuge and

and above all else in keeping silent on all guerilla operations. This campaign was successful to the point where the Dutch began to lose control outside their armed posts, as guerilla formations and returning refugees won more and more of the population over to the Republican cause. supplies, in the propagation of confusing disinformation,

was outraged at the new conflict. A demanded a restoration of the Republican government in Jogjakarta and the formation of the interim federal government, as outlined in the Linggajati and Renville agreements, before 15 March 1949. The United Nations undertook to supervise the transfer of full sovereignty to the federal state by 1 July 1950. The return of the Republican government to Jogjakarta was a spectacular and moving event, General Sudirman, critically ill, being

The United Nations,




Security Council resolution of 28 January 1948

carried into the city in an improvised sedan chair,

and the president

entering in a triumphal motorcade, in July 1949. 64

On 4 April

1949 Lieut. Colonel A. W. Kawilarang, the deputy military


Religion and Social Change in Karoland


governor, had established a temporary military administration (Pemer-

intahan Pertadbiran Militer) for Karoland in Kutacane, in Aceh, with Rakuta Sembiring, the former Republican Wakil Pemerintah, in charge, to prepare for the restoration of civilian government as soon as this was possible. Civilians were appointed to all levels of government to grapple with the immense task of restoring an orderly administration and the establishment of representative institutions. 65

As soon as the guerilla advances allowed, the administration was transferred to Tiganderket in Karo highlands, where it remained until the final ceasefire. 66 On 3 August 1949 Soekarno and Hatta issued a cease-hostilities



der to take effect in Java at midnight 10/11 August and in Sumatra at

midnight 13/14 August. Both sides remained active hostilities ceased

on 10 August. 67

Netherlands transferred sovereignty over

alert in

Karoland although

On all

27 December 1949 the of the former Netherlands

East Indies except West New Guinea to the Federal Republic of Indonesia

(Republik Indonesia Serikat).

By March

of the next year most of

the state legislatures had voted to dissolve their powers within a unitary state.

Dissolution of the State of East Sumatra (NST), however, was


by those who feared


power and influence of

the large


ever-growing body of immigrants, or the "extremist" policies of the Republicans, returned victorious from their guerilla struggle. Against

NST were lined up all to a



era for




many Karonese among them, who looked new openings and a new life. To


represented the old order, Dutch and feudal, that had so

long frustrated their aspirations. The magic of Soekarno's oratory, the prestige of an internationally-acknowledged central government and the

won many Karo drew support for the unitary state. Mass meetings and demonstrations were held in Karoland, where the Action for People's Demands (Aksi Tuntutan Rakjat) organisation was particularly strong. In February 1950 the East Sumatra State cabinet recognised the growing threat of internal disunity and by May the state had authorised the federal government to represent its interests in negotiations for the 68 formation of a unitary state, which it agreed to join on 13 August. On 17 August 1950, five years after the Proclamation of Independence, the unitary Republic of Indonesia was re-formed, with the abolition of the client states and realising the ambition of the Indonesian nationalists who, in 1945 and against great odds, had declared Indonesia a sovereign state with one government representing all its diverse peoples. Within philosophy of the Nationalist Party (PNI), which had adherents,



and Social Change


Karoland 1940-1950

the republic North Sumatra, including Aceh,


formed one of the three

Sumatran provinces. The former Dutch province of East Sumatra ceased to exist.

While 1950 saw the


end of the Indonesian Revolution



not mark the end of all violence and disorder in North Sumatra, and for a

time the countryside was troubled by bands of guerillas unable to adapt to peace, or turned bandit or terrorist.

Indeed the need to demobilise

the colourful variety of private armies, unify the

armed forces and


and regional attempts to disrupt the fledgling nation's political and geographical integrity was to be one of the factors behind the development of the Indonesian armed forces (ABRI) as guarantor of the new state, exercising a twin function in defence and social order that private

has had


significance in Karoland as elsewhere.

The years of revolutionary pendence were, for


struggle for national identity

like the years of occupation, a time

and inde-

of self-discovery

Christians; a time for uncovering their identity as Indonesian

Christians, with loyalties to the nationalist ideals.


nation and to the realisation of


was, even more than the occupation, also a time of

ever-present danger, for this as clear to those


who saw

new emerging


was by no means embodiment of

Protestant Christianity as an

the colonial presence, the ideological

arm of the colonial administration.

Tragically the history of the Mission, the circumstances surrounding


beginnings in 1890 and the events that set in motion the Dutch invasion of the highland plateau in 1904, reinforced these feelings.

During the Social Revolution of 1946 some Christians suffered along with others accused of having been pillars of the colonial regime.

Agama Simatupang were seized with others in Lingga and murdered by members of the Barisan Harimau Liar who, during July 1946, conducted an orgy of killings in Karoland. 69 Guru

Pdt Pasaribu and Guru

Agama Pa

Rita Tarigan was murdered by night in Kabanjahe, having

been accused of being pro-Dutch. 70


other Christians suffered

violence or detention as alleged supporters of the colonial regime, or

of the East Coast puppet



At the same time stories began to circulate throughout Karoland of narrow escapes and of what perbegu and Christian alike could explain only as divine intervention in situations of acute danger. For example, a young guru agama, Pa Gabriel of Kabanjahe, was seized and taken to the river to be killed. Asking only time to pray he calmly prepared himself to die, expressing no hatred of those who were at the point of

Religion and Social Change in Karoland


taking his


The freedom-fighters, taken aback by his calm and gende

of the by


almost legendary Muslim

in earlier times

tance. It


Such Christians were seen by the population having the spiritual power, and personal spiritual qualities,

bearing, released him. at large as


was a

had met death


spiritual quality

sufi teachers

from Aceh

Karoland without complaint or



perbegu adherents could identify and


When the Dutch army entered the Karo highlands

in July

1947, during the First Conflict, the leadership of


and August refused to

acknowledge the right of the former colonial power to reassert its rule in Karoland, and refused permission to a military chaplain to preach in GBKP churches although he was a former missionary and spoke Karonese. 73 While the synod made no formal statement the leadership of the church, and Christians in the congregations, assumed a prorepublican position, and prayers were offered at Sunday worship for the republican struggle, in which many church members were actively involved. It is likely that the pro-colonial image of the church urged some of its members to vigorous and visible involvement with the revolutionary struggle.


During the Dutch military occupation of Karoland, from September left their homes The majority of the inhabitants of

1947 until March 1948, very large numbers of Karonese to take refuge in republican-held areas.

Karo towns, Berastagi and Kabanjahe, took this course, in many cases setting fire to their homes before leaving. Many villages, like Surbakti, were almost totally destroyed by their fleeing inhabitants and had to be rebuilt after the revolution. 75 In the conflagration that broke out in Kabanjahe as most of the population of 20,000 tried to evacuate in 76 one night, the principal church in Karoland was burned down. Many townspeople joined relatives in isolated villages, although no area was altogether safe, and later some refugees moved into the rain forest, living in small huts, where some were joined later by local villagers as the the principal

situation worsened.


After the Renville Agreement more people withdrew from the villages the

TNI was

forced to hand over to Dutch control,

formation of the East Sumatra State


guerilla regions to rebuild their devastated


but following the

refugees returned from the

homes and

villages, being

unable to support themselves any longer in exile. Their return was not hindered by Republican forces, civilian groups,


who saw


could no longer support large

the advantages of having sympathetic


and Social Change

Karoland 1940-1950



contacts and supporters in the local population once the decision


of North Sumatra.



to carry the guerilla struggle back into the NST-controlled areas



these were extremely hazardous and difficult times. For the

community the shared danger and suffering of these momentous years brought them closer than ever had been the case before to the mass of Karo society, in situations where they enjoyed small Christian

no advantages and were

in fact

exposed to additional dangers from

those republican elements suspicious of the church. The revolutionary

was much more a people's struggle than was the

struggle in Karoland

case elsewhere in Indonesia where urban, intellectual and westernised

elements took the decisive roles; the participation of Karo Christians in the

mass evacuations,

in the

armed struggle and

in resistance to the

reimposition of colonial rule was in fact a participation in the renewal

of Karo society and the rediscovery of the values and ideals undermined

by the intrusion of western capitalism and colonial government. After 1950 it could never be claimed again that Christianity was a European religion. GBKP had made a clear statement about its identity. It was a church of Karonese Christians. At the same time many observers had been genuinely impressed by the bearing of Christians during the struggle. Christians of all tribal

backgrounds were seen to exhibit a solidarity that appealed to Karo values of mutual support, equality and reliance on one's own kin and on the extended classifactory kinship system, of which the Christians

had produced a new perceptions of






The Karo

mind was open to and was impressed by


in people's lives,

and perseverance of the Christians who maintained orderly worship and other church activities, to which their neighbours were the faith

invited, in their exile. Individual stories,

Gabriel, spread quickly in Karoland,


seemed at times to enjoy

seriously about the claims they

compassionate God.


The elder responsible for Karo church took them to

such as the deliverance of Pa

and accounts of the way



special protection led people to think



know and worship a powerful,

such story concerns the village of Surbakti.

and hymn books belonging to the own village, Surbakti, and buried them in a shallow hole under his house before he left in the evacuation. When the village was burned down his house alone escaped and on his return the Bibles his

he found the Bibles and books unharmed. 81 In keeping with the new national Pancasila philosophy,

many of the

Religion and Social Change in Karoland


direct provision for religious instruction

and minis-





Djamin Gintings' Regiment




1947 had two

responsible for the religious instruction of his soldiers,

belonged to the primal religion; Lieut. M.

staff officers

many of whom

by Hamid) provided Islamic teaching and support for Muslim and Lieut. M. Peranginangin, who later became a GBKP minSjarif (later replaced

Lieut. Imran soldiers, ister,

gave Christian instruction and ministry. As part of their military Karo soldiers were introduced to the first of the Five Principles


(Pancasila) of the Republic, "Belief in one supreme God", within the

context of either Islam or Christianity. 82



whole period


functioned as a kind of church

without walls; the very circumstances of contact with the


the congregations lives within the

freedom. teaching


no choice but


brought people into close

work out

wider Karo community,

in the

their faith

midst of



live their

struggle for

Many Karo people were attracted to the church and to Christian


at this time,

many others simply would later come to fruition.

some becoming

forming a favourable impression that in


of the small congregations, and gave



The Roman Catholic Church, deprived of all clerical leadership Karoland since the Japanese occupation, made no organisational

progress until the bitterness against Dutch nationals subsided and the missionaries could resume their work. Since 1942 Catholic congregations in all the

Batak lands had been supported by lay catechists of

limited training, and iar

by occasional


from Javanese priests unfamil-

with the Batak languages. Pre-war Catholic work in Karoland had

been limited to the border areas, where Karo people could be reached from existing mission stations, and it was not until a base was established in Karoland after the Revolution that real progress began. That this progress,



came, was of significant depth and extent suggests had also experienced something of

that the small core of Karo Catholics

a rediscovery of identity and renewal of purpose in the years of struggle,

and was ready for new evangelism.

initiatives, in

a society more open to Christian


opened some new Muslim religious activity among Karo people, years 1942-1950 saw no real breaking down of Karonese

The events of

the occupation and Revolution

opportunities also for

but the

resistance to Islam. In particular, the

mass evacuation and, for those

involved, the formation of military units and bands of freedom-fighters,

provided opportunities for Karo people to meet, live and work with

and Social Change



Karoland 1940-1950


Muslim neighbours, in a common struggle that transcended old ethnic and ethno-religious suspicions. The hospitality of the Muslim people of Alas to the TNI forces, and to the large body of civilian evacuees from Karoland which

at times equalled in

numbers the indigenous population

of Kutacane, was deeply appreciated and


New in a


and cooperation.


a lasting impression of


opportunity existed in Alas for Karo villagers to see Islam

normal and not-unfamiliar context, many Karo soldiers were led officers or n.c.o's, and many Karo officers had Muslim

by Muslim

subordinates and soldiers within their units. Furthermore, the leaders

of the Republic, and those leading the freedom struggle in Java, were

known to be Muslim. All this began to present Islam to the Karo people in a new light, as the religion of people like themselves, and the religion of patriots who shared their nationalist goals and ideals. It was the beginning of a slow change in perception, for people Islam as strongly as they had

seeing both as the religions of powerful people




that as

who had resisted

resisted Christianity, if not




intervention in

could only be disruptive and threatening. it

may, the documents presented to the Congress on Karo

Cultural History held in Kabanjahe in 1958



clear that well

was seen by Karo leaders as disruptive of Karo life and social values, and a source of tension in families with Muslim 86 While portraying itself as untainted by colonialism, which of relatives. course was true of the general Muslim population, and as the inspiration of nationalist struggle in the past, Islam was still associated by many Karonese with powerful Aceh and with the Malay states of the East Coast and, in the latter case, was seen as a willing agent of colonial capitalism. In spite of the hospitality of the Alas people, the Karo were aware that taken as a whole Aceh still represented a threat to their independence and cultural integrity. Stories of the fanaticism of the Padri Wars in which, from 1816, many southern Batak communities had into the 1950s Islam

been forcibly Islamicised made many Karo conscious that their powerful

Muslim neighbour

to the north could extend its "holy war" (perang European unbelievers to the Bataks as well. There can be no doubt also that continuing conflict between Karo farmers and Malay authorities and squatters on the East Coast further

sabil) against the

prejudiced the Karo against Islam, as they elite


had been


they had to deal, and

their rulers.


saw it embodied in

who under

after the Social



the colonial system







Religion and Social Change in Karoland 1 940 - 1 950

was kept in power, for a time, by the Negara Sumatera Timur, and later by the power of custom and tradition and the established hold Malay leaders had on East Coast society. The democratic Karo had long resented the excessive deference demanded by the Malay rulers, the princelings and minor rulers and chiefs as much as the sultans. The essentially democratic and egalitarian nature of Islam, which recognises the equality of all before God, was hidden from them until, like post-war Christianity, Islam came to them in Karo dress.

8 Post

War Developments, 1950-1965

The 1950s were for the Karo years



to savour the fruit of

struggle. Violence did not subside at once, after the final recognition

Indonesian sovereignty, for it


many groups accustomed

to struggle



or impossible, to return to the conditions of peace and order.

Dissatisfaction with the government,

and with the rationalisation of the

armed forces, led some former freedom-fighters to return to their guerilla which were at their worst in North Sumatra 1950-1954, making many villages insecure and inter-village

areas as bandit gangs (gerombolan),

travel in places very dangerous. In the period



1956-7 gangs of bandits

forcing vehicles to travel in convoy between Pancur Batu and




was not until the coming of Suharto's "New Order" after coup that it became possible to travel freely and alone

the 1965 abortive in all parts

of North Sumatra.

The Karo highlands were not disrupted by the PRRI rebellion of the mid-1950s, although Karo troops and several well-known Karo figures were involved in the alarums and strategems arising from the declaration of separation and military law by the Christian Batak military com-

mander of North Sumatra, Colonel Maludin Simbolon, on 22 December 1956.


This whole episode arose out of the decline of civilian political

and the resultant power vacuum and increased military Simbolon, who declared his willingness

authority in the central government,

which gave rise in


turn to revived regionalism

participation in government.


government if a "good cabinet" up4 was replaced by his chief of staff, Lieut. Colonel Djamin Gintings, and units from Karoland were used to occupy strategic centres inMedan. to return allegiance to the central




Post War Developments, 1950-1965


Karl Pelzer has drawn attention to the degree of ethnic rivalry high-

by Karo and Simalungun reaction to Simbolon' s rebellion. Deeply suspicious of growing Toba Batak influence on the East Coast, Karo, Simalungun and Javanese army leaders opposed the rebellion and lighted

forced Simbolon and his followers to withdraw to Tapanuli. 5 With


concerned to avoid a real clash, the revolt was brought to a discreet conclusion, and Simbolon was eventually rehabilitated.


was a period of economic expansion, new opportunities for Karoland. The pre-colonial economy of the Karo highlands has been described as one of very low productivity, as being static and self-sufficient with neither hope nor expectation of improvement Rice, the major crop, was barely sufficient for subsistence needs and the only cash crop was pepper, grown only on a small scale in the highlands. Buffalo, cattle and horses were sold and maize, coconut, citrus fruits, and cotton were grown for local consumption. Karo people were frugal and self-reliant, and while some external trading went on it was not encouraged. Even the 6 foot-tracks were not maintained. The observations of John Anderson in 1823 indicate a greater degree of vigour and enterprise by the lowland Karonese, and by individuals in the highlands, than Penny and Singarimbun seem to allow. Karl Pelzer In spite of unrest the 1950s

which brought with


a range of

has emphasised the pioneering role of lowland Karonese in introducing the perennial crop, pepper, and in organising their

encroaching colonial regime, producing a with


marketing, sometimes in

own boats, to Penang. This lowland enterprise was little

Two tones.


for initiative.




by the



aspects of the primal religion have important economic over-

The primal community saw nature as

uncertain and unreliable.


punishment, through the magical intervention of an enemy or through blind fate, nature might withhold


bounty, crops might



might die or disaster might strike. These insecurities both gave force and purpose to the primal rites and led to a frugal life-style which emphasised saving


and the investing of wind-fall benefits against future needs,

perhaps by buying a buffalo or clearing more land.

must be made rich and strong in this life if it is to enjoy prosperity (and thus be able to bring blessing on its kin) in the next world. The tendi cult encouraged material

The second aspect


the belief that the tendi

success and has been to a large degree responsible for the driving enterprise of the

modern Batak communities. Once new opportunities


War Developments, 1950-1965


presented themselves this motivating factor impelled the Karo people to

economic environment. was indicating that "The Karo farmers are now the most development-minded and go-ahead* of 9 Opportunity, readiness to change all the farmers of North Sumatra". break out of their



the early 1960s data from field studies


economic circumstances, often brought civil servant bought a car in two years from a half-share in a nine acre farm. A man, forced by bankruptcy to leave his village, earned enough after eight years on a four acre farm cut out of the scrub in his new area to send two children and hard work,

in favourable

quite incredible results.


wife of a

buy a half-share in a small soft-drink bottling Even in isolated villages, with no road access, crops that would plant. repay the cost of transportation were grown: onions, tobacco, and citrus fruits. In short, the surveys indicated that "Throughout Karoland men 11 choosing crops and varieties think and act like commercial farmers"; for best economic return, using fertilisers and insecticides, seeking to university




investment opportunities for

profits. Tractors

appeared in Karoland as

farmers, sometimes acting together, mechanised in order to increase their production.

Commercial farming gave

rise to




opportunities in

Karoland. Mechanical workshops, welding, light manufacture (such as the manufacture of light

pack spray

units in

Kabanjahe) and a massive

work and income opportunities, most of which were retained in Karo hands. Credit was indigenous, 12 and few of the social values of the Karo people were changed during increase in transportation all provided


period by the dramatic emergence of commercial, cash-crop farming



many flow-on benefits and new


There can be no doubt that this remarkable process was set in motion

who saw the which Karo people could make natural skills and of the opportunities their

during the colonial era by the officials and missionaries, potential for a


more dynamic

greater use of their

society in

environment and geographical location afforded. This more positive contribution of the colonial era is now more widely recognised and acknowleged. Another major advantage of the highland Karo was that their plateau had not been part of the "cultivation system" which, in the lowlands,

had displaced peasant farming and cropping with

multinational enterprises producing in bulk for major western markets.

Loss of land, and destruction of natural enterprise, among the lowland Karo people around Delitua and elsewhere, has made it much more

Post War Developments, 1950-1965


difficult for




part of the

new development



The role of missionaries such as Joustra and Neumann, and of officials such as Westenberg, has already been noted, in extending crop range,

developing market networks and encouraging community enterprises.


of the modern crops came to Karoland

sponsored Bataksch the opening of the the world


through the mission-


and Karo road system from 1912 linked Karoland to Instituut's experimental gardens at Berastagi,

economy, the


cool- weather vegetables being exported in


During the colonial era these changes affected only the farmers near Kabanjahe and Berastagi. 14 After 1950, however, reconstruction of

economy of Karoland led to an era of unparalleled progress. By when Professor M. A. Jaspan visited Karoland, this


the mid-1950s,

expansion was already evident There was plentiful meat,

fish, fruit


vegetables to be had, and a growing market for Karo produce. Citrus

was expanding, as was the export of pigs to Singapore and Penang, and locally to Medan. 15 There was also some evidence of a greater importation of consumer goods such cultivation, particularly tangerines,

as watches, transistor radios,

the Karo's



later cassette players,

newfound wealth went

much of

into investment in agriculture


education. It


this latter

development which was

changes in Karo religion. After the

to bring with



of mission sponsored

initial rejection

education in the colonial era some Karonese, in small numbers, did

seek schooling in the 1930s, and some mission schools were opened in the years leading



World War

II. It


after the Revolution,

however, that the Karo in large numbers sought expanded educational opportunities.

and for system.

their 16



they could have education on their

ends, without fear of being

Education became

the Toba Batak, the door to

now new


for the Karo, as


opportunity and to

not only for the educated but also for their kin.



into the colonial

had long been for


social status,


From 1950 the Karo began to build schools, and to pay the teachers, from the new income available from farming. Parents could build a private school with the aim, ultimately, of becoming "aided", "subsidised" or integrated into the state system.


Education became a priority


vestment for the whole of Indonesia during the 1956-1965 period 19 which saw an extraordinary growth in schools and universities. Fees


War Developments, 1950-1965


accommodation away from home and transport costs beyond Elementary School (Sekolah Dasar or S.D.) was available only to those who could raise the necessary finance. The way in which Karo families met these costs for schooling,



that during this period education

is illustrated

a series of interviews undertaken by University of In-


donesia students in three Karo villages,

Suka, in August 1972.



Kabanjahe, for example, was raising "at least support three children at school in Jakarta, child in

Kabanjahe, Lingga and

A widow of 65, br Peranginangin,

Medan was boarding




50,000 a month" to

Bandung and Medan. 21 The

with an uncle and the one in Jakarta had

some help from a nephew. Apart from a little incidental help from others she was responsible for the remainder each month; "A little sickness and I am lost!" she told her interviewers. By this means a whole generation of Karo young people was given the opportunity not only to go to school but also to university and into the professions. Once finance was secured, entry to secondary and tertiary education, and advancement within


were based on merit. Even into the 1970s many of the Karo graduates

came from

families where parents had had little formal education and were often, unlike the pre-colonial Bataks, unable to read or write. 22 The statistics

demonstrate clearly



Karo responded

to the post-war

education revolution.



end of the decade,

in 1961,


of children between six

and twelve years attended school in the Karo Sub-province (Kabupatan Karo) compared with


bouring Simalungun Batak region,







Langkat and

in the neigh-


in Deli-


With the highest percentage of any region in North Sumatra the Karonese had clearly lost their suspicion of schooling. Serdang.

was only one full masters graduate (sarjana lengkap) from the whole Karo community, a medical practitioner, Dr Bena Sitepu In 1948 there

Pandebesi, and


was not until 1958


he was joined by Roga Ginting

S.H., a graduate of the law faculty of the University of North Sumatra.

In addition three or four Karonese, in the pre-war years, had undertaken

what would later be recognised as bachelor level but for a variety of reasons had been unable to continue. 24 By 1974, however, there were over 1,000 known Karonese with masters or higher level tertiary study to

degrees in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, engineering, agriculture, law, theology,


estimated 2,000 sarjana that

and science subjects, as well as an muda (candidaat) graduates,25 an indication arts

many, including an unknown number of unsuccessful students, had

Post War Developments, 1950-1965


gone through primary, secondary and tertiary education in the intervening years. Some had in fact begun their education during the Revolution 26 in the tentara-pelajar or "student army" units.

Even those who did not achieve the goals to which they aspired were profoundly changed by their education, seeing new horizons, gaining unheard-of knowledge and a new perspective on life and the world around them, and being made party to an international body of progressive thought, skill and insight. All this was to have a profound impact on Karo religion.



and most obvious area







in the

undermining of the primal world-view that began as soon as a child entered school, regardless of whether the school in question was a religious or a secular institution. Alternative views of the nature of the

world, knowledge about other regions and their peoples, beliefs and

customs and the general philosophy of education, that life can be shaped

and the world made to yield its wealth and benefits by the employment of rational knowledge and scientific techniques: all undermined the inherited view of a capricious world in which human life was in the hands of fate (nasip) 21 and where a host of supernatural beings and powers determined weal and woe. "Knowledge is power!" became the slogan of Karo students in the 1950s who saw the new world, a more solid and real world, beckoning and were quick to respond. The influence of the old religion, as will be seen, did not fade quickly, or completely, and many folk-beliefs continue strongly to influence young Karo Christians and Muslims, as they influence their less sophisticated elders.

Some religion

informants indicate that their changing attitude to the primal

began quite early

in life,

and can

recall incidents that indicate

hold on them, often adding "went through with" traditional rites to give their parents peace of mind. While many Karo Christians and Muslims retain a fear of spirits and of sites associated with the old religion or with evil events in the past that even as children, the old faith had lost


that they

long after their conversion, their convictions about the credibility of the

primal religion or the efficacy of its


and practices seem


have been

eroded long before they were confronted by any specifically Christian

Muslim propaganda. This

no doubt part of the explanation for the in Karoland in the late 1970s was the "secularised perbegu" who had lost faith in the old religion but had not or

fact that the largest religious






War Developments, 1950-1965


Indonesian state education was not neutral with regard to religion. The Pancasila philosophy, enunciated by Soekarno during the constitutional debates that preceded the Proclamation of Independence and subsequently adopted as the basic national philosophy, embraces belief in One God (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa). As had been the case in the


revolutionary army, so

in the schools, belief in the

Lordship of the

One God was set over against the tribal religions and their varied systems of belief in gods and spiritual beings. Taught in the context of a general education that was opening exciting

new vistas of knowlege and offering One God" came

hitherto unheard-of possibilities for progress, "Belief in

quickly to be seen as a

more progressive viewpoint than

To have authentic

belief in


in the eyes

the old religion.

of the interpreters

of Pancasila, one had to enter a religion {agama) that upheld this belief: in practice for the


either Christianity or Islam. Before

long propagandists for both religions were appealing to the Karo desire for progress with slogans such as,


religion is

Many young in their school

"Majun agama asang kiniteken

more advanced than

the primal belief."


people indicate that they were attracted to Christianity

days not because they were "evangelised" by Christians

but because Christianity was able to offer a culturally acceptable and

seemingly more rational alternative to the old religion, once the


Those who became Christians in their student days began a process of net- work evangelism in their family and wider kinship circles, and by the 1960s were having considerable influence in congregations, local communities and in their schools and colleges. Christianity from the 1950s became associated with "western" knowledge and technical skill, progressive thought and new insights, all of which was a positive advantage now it was no longer associated with had

lost its credibility.

western colonialism.

Other social changes in post-revolution Karoland also had their effect

on the primal


The growth of towns had been a

feature of the

pre-war East Coast, but after 1949 very large numbers of Karonese


two highland towns of Kabanjahe and Berastagi, and to of Medan and Binjai, and further away to Pematang Siantar, in Simalungun, to Jakarta and elsewhere. The burning of Karo villages during the Revolution meant a loss of livelihood for many, and the hastily rebuilt villages, often minus the majestic old adat houses which could never be rebuilt, were unattractive, in competition with the rumoured attractions of town and city. Large numbers opted for the new the

to the



Post War Developments, 1950-1965



and in service industries, rather Farming and cropping continued

as traders, small business operatives

than making a


start in rural areas.

to enjoy high status



the Karo, particularly as the benefits of the

be felt, but there was considerable rural insecurity during this period, and land was limited in the highlands where population increase meant that an adequate holding in one generation might be inadequate to support a whole family in the next The continuing gerombolan problem in the 1950s led many Karo to cash-crop farming



people to desert the more insecure areas and erect


villages nearer

where security could be guaranteed. The the vicinity of Medan, Binjai, Delitua and

large centres of population large

Karo settlements



arose in this way.



availability of

former plantation

land in Deli, Serdang and Langkat, where there were already

some very

old Karo villages, led to considerable rural migration in the post-war

Karo people who moved to the coast, or into towns and cities, had new opportunities, and in some cases greater security, while still being in close geographical contact with the highlands, and with their home villages, to which they returned regularly for family and


the advantage of

village celebrations.

These large movements of population gave rise to considerable social The ties of custom (adat) were loosened by migration, 30 no matter how much the migrants might want to maintain their Karo traditions. While family weddings, funerals and other celebrations, and the village kerja tahun, or annual festival, brought people back to their villages of origin, where sometimes they retained ownership or


an interest in land, life

people had




strangers, distant

inevitable that the closely integrated social

in their




from significant kin, and thrown on

among own resources home villages, the




more than they had been accustomed to in their migrants began looking for some new kind of association which would meet their needs yet not conflict with Karo custom; some new basis on which to rebuild the community they had lost in leaving the home districts.

was not felt that Islam, the religion of the majority of their new neighbours, would fill this need. The old negative connotations of masuk Melayu (going over to the Malay For reasons

that will

be discussed,

world) remained strong for

many who


settled in the

former sultanates,

and were now in even more intense competition with local Malay and immigrant Javanese Muslims for land and opportunities.


War Developments, 1950-1965


The Karo Church, which had well-established congregations

in the

urban areas, was able to provide a new form of association which was 31 in which those elements clearly and uncompromisingly Karonese, of custom relevant to the firmed and even, as


of the

in the case

ecclesiastical sanctions.

new Karo communities were

The Church's

struggle for a Karonese identity

during the years of occupation and revolution was as people



as an element of their

intrusive element within

the Christian



community offered

tection to migrant





of prohibited marriages, supported by



bearing fruit

society, not as

certain rights

and a measure of pro-

Karonese entering a strongly Muslim community.

example of this



centres such as Binjai, in Langkat,

the expression "Kristen kuburen


cemetery Christian" for a nominal Christian; in Binjai only those belonging to a government recognised religion (agama) could be buried in the city cemetery.

It is

grants' rights could



however, of the way in which mi-

be enhanced by entering into a recognised, existing

group. Existing and newly established congregations could also provide

a warmly supportive fellowship, the basis for various kinds of cooperation including revolving loans and temporary economic security,

support in times of bereavement, sickness or trouble and the security of

belonging to an extended community, for in their




of which Karo people looked

Within such congregations

many became

and 1960s. 32 Many others claimed to be Christian although they had not been baptised and were not involved in church activities. These were the so-called census Christians (Kristen sensus); Christians for government registration purposes alone. Christians in the 1950s

Other social institutions that tended to open Karo society to Christian

were the civil and military services. The civil serwhich included the teaching profession, offered wide employment opportunities to young Karonese who had been involved in the freedom influence after 1949 vice,




of their



later to others leaving

school or graduating from tertiary

Here, as on military service, they could be posted out areas,

and frequently mixed with Muslim and Christian

way they experienced the life of other communities and learned to appreciate the diversity of Indonesian life. Within the service they were exposed to the state philosophy of "Belief in One God", and found it necessary to identify with one of the colleagues and superiors. In this

recognised religions to indicate their acceptance of this pillar of the

Post War Developments, 1950-1965



Government documents frequently require a statement of and while vagueness may be overlooked in

the individual's religion,

communities it is not acceptable in the city and hardly at all in the government service. "I could hardly write perbegu on my identity card in Java! " a Karo Muslim lecturer told the writer in 1975. This person found rural

identification with the rather tolerant Javanese Islam an acceptable way around the problem, without becoming involved in Muslim religious activities, and many Karonese have adopted Christianity in the same

way, and for the same reason, either as students or before taking up a

government appointment.

Karo men with opportunities, and with pressures, to adopt a recognised religion. It was natural that after the Revolution many should either continue in or enter upon military service. The TNI had an honoured reputation in Karoland and military Similarly, military service faced

service a high status, as continuing the struggle for self-determination

and "to give content to Liberty" (mengisi Kerne rdekaan); to secure the newly won independence and to make it relevant and worthwhile for present and future generations.

The Air Force and

to a lesser degree the

Navy offered other opportunities. The Police and other law enforcement agencies were also attractive. During this period many Karonese received officer training in the armed forces, in which once again the state philosophy, including belief in

One God, was emphasised, as

basic formation of officers, as also of other ranks. identify with a recognised


part of the

was important

"agama" and most Karonese,


in the political

situation of the 1950s, opted for Christianity.

Karo soldiers had been involved in the 1950s in suppressing Muslim and extremist movements in Sulawesi (Celebes) and in Aceh. In Sulawesi they met and protected local Christians who had suffered fierce Muslim persecution and in Aceh, their neighbour to the north, they were involved in struggle against a Muslim movement for the separation of Aceh from the Republic. The central government had condemned both movements and had employed the armed forces to safeguard the territorial integrity of the state and to restore the rule of law. Such encounters further strengthened the Karo perception of Islam as an uncertain influence, capable of militant extremism and, in South Sulawesi,

of brutal


some sympathy


fate of law-abiding citizens in

for Christianity, seen




not as an arm of European

colonialism but as an unjustly persecuted segment of Indonesian society. It

was against



that about


of a battalion of


War Developments, 1950-1965


Karo TNI troops, made up of former freedom-fighters of the Napindowere baptised, along with their commanding officer and 34 Bataljon 114 (Jon families in Kutaraja (Banda Aceh) in Aceh, in 1953. when it posted to Sulawesi was until Kabanjahe 1950, 114) was based at

Halilintar force,

one and a half years to assist in putting down a regional revolt led, or inspired, by Muslim extremists. On return to Sumatra in early 1952 the battalion was stationed in Kutaraja in Aceh, with units detached to garrison other smaller posts, at Calang, Meulaboh, Belang Pidie and for



Eighty percent of Jon 114 were Karonese, ten percent from Tapan-

and the remainder were Javanese from the Padang region. Of the Karonese eighty-five percent were perbegu adherents, mainly from uli

where Christianity was still strongly resisted. As former freedom-fighters many still associated Christianity with colonial domination before going to Sulawesi where they saw Christianity in a different situation. When they returned to Sumatra it was clear that some the highlands

early perceptions

had changed.

begin religious instruction in Jon 114 was taken by Commander, Colonel Simbolon, a Batak Christian, in accordance with the national and army policy of instructing all Indonesians


initiative to

the Territorial

in the

Pancasila philosophy. This task he committed to the Protestant

Section of the


Chaplaincy Corps, and 2nd Lieut. Martin Perang-

who had seen service as a chaplain with Djamin Gintings' TNI Regiment IV during the conflict in North Sumatra,36 was posted from Medan to Kutaraja to begin the task, in March 1952. In this task Peranginangin encountered considerable difficulty. The inangin,


Muslim, Acehnese population resented the arrival of a Christian propagandist and might have physically hampered his work had he not received timely warning not to cycle about alone from a Muslim Karonese sergeant. Many of the soldiers were initially indifferent local, staunchly

and 2nd Lieut. Peranginangin found catechising above him in rank a severe embarrassment. In these latter difficulties Peranginangin was assisted by the wives of several senior officers, Nande Timur br Ginting, the wife of the battalion commander, Captain U. Sitepu, and Nande Rasmi br Ginting, the wife of Ndj. Purba, who were able to take initiatives not open to a junior officer and to rally to the religious issues

officers well

support for his classes

among officers, soldiers and families. In the event

Nande Timur became Peranginangin' s assistant in both and the conduct of his teaching.

the organisation

Post War Developments, 1950-1965


From March 1952

gave twice- weekly instrucKota Alem barracks in Kutaraja, and to officers and families in the commanding officer's home. He travelled also to instruct members of the detached companies at Lho' Nga and Meulaboh, and the section posted to Calang. With no materials provided he found it necessary to duplicate what he needed: simple catechetical material based on the Ten Commandments, and the 104 Bible Stories. He was able to introduce some Karonese hymns. Besides formal instruction the catechumens were introduced to church life with the formation of a Karo congregation (perpulungen) attached for organisational purposes tion to soldiers

to the




and worshipping

in the

building in Kutaraja, the former Stad Kerk of the colonial

shared also at


Lieut. Peranginangin

n.c.o.'s in the

Batang Serangan parish

GPIB church era,



time by a

HKBP congregation.

was considered that sufficient basic instruction had been imparted. The possibility of transfers disrupting the groups the

end of 1952


under instruction led to the decision to baptise together those wishing to

make a

Christian profession of faith.



point further problems

arose. Considerable pressure was put on Lieut. Peranginangin to perform

the baptisms himself, but he steadfastly declined. Although designated

pendeta tentara, or military chaplain, by the


Army he was in fact a Guru

not an ordained minister authorised by the church to administer

the sacraments,

and he refused


go beyond what


church would

authorise, even under pressure from his military superiors.

In the the

end an


was extended to Pdt J. Berahmana, minister of

GBKP Batang Serangan parish, Medan, and to the senior Protestant

chaplain of the North Sumatra Military District, Pdt Kapten K. L.

Sihombing, a minister of the Lutheran HKBP,



to officiate.

have gone astray and when the day

celebration, 3

December 1952,

arrived there

The invitation

set for the service






minister available, to everyone's intense disappointment.

Sunday 17 December 1952, 480 persons were baptised in Kutaraja by Pdt Berahmana and Captain Sihombing, after which a festive celebration was held in the Kota Alem barracks. The following day the Lho' Nga company of 180 was baptised. In the following year the initial instruction to the other detached units was completed and on 14 July 1953, 48 from the section based in Calang were baptised, followed by 198 in Meulaboh the next day and 8 children in Kota Alem on the ministers' return journey. Thus a total of 914 officers, soldiers and family members of Jon 1 14 were baptised, an event that quickly became Finally on


War Developments, 1950-1965


known throughout the Indonesian churches, although the details have only recently become generally available, at least to readers of Karonese, in the

published recollections of Pdt Martin Peranginangin,

now a senior

minister of GBKP.

The baptism of Jon 1 14 has found a secure place in Indonesian church 37 as a dramatic example of the growth in response to Christianity in post-independence Karoland, and of the armed forces as an early focus for this response. Besides the actual numbers involved, many of the individuals baptised were to have distinguished military careers, and to play important roles as Christian officers in modern Indonesian history,

affairs. It


was not only


economic matters and

in education that the


people experienced an expansion of opportunity in the years following the

end of

hostilities in late 1949.

This was also a period of cultural

renewal. Indonesian-medium education did nothing to diminish the love

of the Karonese for their

and written, of


language and for

stories, legends,

publication in the years following the




rich literature, oral

songs and sayings. The possibility of

war encouraged the recording work begun by the and other Europeans during the

valuable material, carrying forward the

and Neumann40 colonial period. The government education curriculum ensured missionaries Joustra


that as

well as learning the national language (Bahasa Indonesia) Karo children

received the at


three or four years of their schooling in Karonese, and

both primary and secondary school were taught Karonese, as children

in other regions

The Karo

were taught

their regional vernaculars.

begun among those who had been young during the war and revolution, has been continued by

cultural renewal,

men and women

younger generation, educated

in the post-war world, and also more by representatives of the older generation who have used their retirement to gather and edit material.



Dr Masri Singarimbun, now a

distinguished anthropologist and de-

mographer, had his schooling interrupted by the Japanese occupation and spent the war and revolution in a succession of occupations, trading in

tobacco and cattle and as a butcher before becoming a refugee and a smuggler of medical supplies and Republican currency between


and Dutch-controlled regions of Norm Sumatra. He tells how he discovered the folk-lore of his own people and from oral sources compiled his 1000 Perumpaman Karo, a collection in Karonese, with the Republican

notes and explanations, of 1000

Karo proverbs selected from over 1500

Post War Developments, 1950-1965


such sayings collected 1954-1955, before going to Jogjakarta to take up university studies. 41 This work of a young man between his high school and university years has been very popular among those seeking again their cultural roots in a post-war world.


almost spontaneous

emergence was a sign of the vigour of Karo culture in the 1950s and of the Karo people's sense of identity, and of the appropriateness of then-


custom and the wisdom of their elders. Karo writing in this period was the emergence of an impressive group of Karo poets in the 1950s and 1960s, publishing in the magazine Suara Pemuda (Voice of Youth)



further indication of the vigour of

which, sadly, shared the fate of many such cultural publications around

no way commensurate with its importance. One of the poets concerned, Dr H. G. Tarigan, now Professor of Indonethe world: a short life in

sian language



IKIP Bandung, has edited a selection of

these poems, along with several unpublished works, and an Indonesian 42

translation of each,

a valuable inventory of Karo writing in

and of the concerns of young




The volume demonstrates


vigour of contemporary Karo expression, the ability of the language,

and the poets, to span traditional and modern sentiments and concerns, and the way in which Karonese poets were addressing the problems and experiences of young people everywhere: love and parting, sentiment for home and family, leaving the familiar, questions of meaning and purpose, expression of ideals, the questions without answers. Religious

concerns are not prominent in the collection, although there are poems

and confusion in the face of the new religious "Begu" by "R. G. Perbegu", as well as more conventional religious poems, such as "Himne Kalak Katolik" (A Catholic Hymn) by the Protestant H. G. Tarigan, and poems that unconsciously use Christian terminology, indicating that even at this point it was accepted and understood in these circles, as of course was the reluctance of "R. G. Perbegu" to go along with either Christian or Muslim teachers

that express frustration

pluralism, such as

and their orthodoxies. 43 Henry Guntur Tarigan has also collected and edited Karo songs, 44 and traditional and contemporary, being sung in the 1950s and 1960s also a collection of the classical courting dialogues that, in traditional situations, take place

when a young man

ture or verandah of the traditional house.

calls to court a girl 45

on the

Tarigan had introduced a

course in Karonese language and literature at master's level at IKIP

Bandung in 1963, and later in the Arts Faculty of Padjadjaran University,

Post War Developments, 1950-1965


Bandung, preparing materials for these courses himself, with the active 46 A magazine Tugas (Task) assistance of the Bandung Karo community. 47 was published 1959-1967, edited by Drs Tridah Bangun, and Terbit Sembiring published a number of short stories in the publication Siasat, 48 which gained critical acclaim. This very literate group, of men and women, can be taken as a kind of cultural barometer for the whole Karo society as


shared in the

emergence of Indonesia as a sovereign nation. Their writing, collecting is a clear indication that Karo culture was in good heart,

and editing

responding to it


opportunities for expression and development, as

has continued to do up to the present time. With regard to religious


it is


be noted

remarkable growth in Karo response

that the

when Karo

to Christianity began at a time


was secure and

when Karo people were confident of their own

developing, and


and of the contribution they could make to a united Indonesia. Turning to


religious expressions


cultural insecurity and, indeed,


a consequence of

not, in this case,


be claimed




values played a considerable part, during this period, in setting the preferred direction of this change, toward Christianity rather than toward Islam.

Within the Karo Church


many developments took place during

their effect also on the process, the and the direction of religious change among the Karo people. The first of these was the clear emergence of a Karo, rather than a European, identity and style in GBKP. At the end of World War II the Dutch Mission wished to resume its work among the Karo people and the veteran missionary J. H. Neumann and his wife remained in East Sumatra, in the Negara Sumatera Timur,

the period under review that


nature, the extent

active in church


where she died in




died 16


in ill-health, returned to the Netherlands a


few months

Mrs later,

Other missionaries released from internment 1945 returned to Europe; and so the passing of the Neumanns after in 1950.

work in Karoland was, symbol and reality, the end of the missionary era so far as was concerned. While some post-war workers continued to

a life-time of outstanding and many-faceted in both


be designated "missionaries" by

were from that of the pre-war missionary, and never again would Europeans have the decisive voice in GBKP affairs. That had been the reality since 1942, but it was

received by


their supporting bodies, they

for roles quite different

Post War Developments, 1950-1965


new agreements were made and new forms

formalised in the 1950s as

of co-operation developed between the church and the overseas mission

boards and organisations.

During the Second Clash H. Vuurmans, D. Solinger and H. der returned to the Dutch-controlled Karo

Roolvink-Fransen and





J. de Ridand Dr M. V.

attempted to rehabilitate the

medical work of the Mission. Dr Roolvink-Fransen was able to demonconflict, and won and appreciation of at least one Republican officer, for her care both of his family and of the many refugees in Karoland. 49 It quickly

a humanitarian concern for both sides during the


the admiration



again where


however, that the Mission could not take up



had been interrupted by the Japanese, and formal negoti-

were undertaken between GBKP and NZG on 21 -22 September 1948 in Kabanjahe, in which the independence of GBKP since 1942



fully recognised



leadership acknowledged.

schools, houses, land and buildings belonging to transferred to



The churches,

NZG in Karoland were

and polyclinics operated by the

Mission became the property of GBKP, but because of the church's lack of resources have been operated by the government up to the present time. In

November 1948

the third

Synod of



held, the first

time such a gathering of church representatives had been possible since 1943. Pdt Th. Sibero was re-elected Moderator (Ketua Synode),

Guru The

Agama Ng Munte


Synod determined

to begin training ministers in Kabanjahe, with

Solinger and Pdt H.



facilities in 50

and Elder Albert Tarigan

de Ridder as 1949 and

lecturers; the

later in



work beginning


conjunction with a school for

guru agama.

In 1951 three former guru agama, on completing further training, were ordained to the ministry: Pdt Ng Munte, Pdt J. Berahmana and Pdt M. Barus who died in 1962. Two years later twelve guru agama graduated, including two women, considerably strengthening the capacity of GBKP to serve its scattered congregations, and to channel the growth 51 Each of these developments already apparent in the post-war period. underlined the change that had taken place; increasingly, from this time,

GBKP came to be seen as an integral part of Karo society, the church in Karoland, serving Karo people, and led by Karo people



ways readily acceptable in Karo society. As Karoland became more actively integrated into the life and

their leadership in



War Developments, 1950-1965

of the

new Republic




became more conscious of



with other churches, and of the mission the Indonesian churches had in common. GBKP played an important role in the formation of the

Indonesian Council of Churches

(Dewan Gereja-Gereja di Indonesia

52 1950 and has played an active role in the Council ever since. Pdt Thomas Sibero, Moderator of GBKP, attended planning conferences in Bogor and Jakarta leading to the formation of the Council



of Churches in 1948, 1949 and 1950, his travel in difficult times emphasizing the importance the young church placed on developing an


role, alongside its ministry within


society. It

was not

long before participation in an ecumenical network of churches began to influence

GBKP policy and development.

churches in Indonesia

In the colonial era emerging

had been separated by their allegiance to differing

mission boards or societies overseas, with their different nationalities,

denominational traditions and styles of church


DGI and

the Re-

gional Councils of Churches provided a new Indonesia- wide perspective

and identity, just as the determining influence of the mission boards was being removed. While denominational identity has remained, and the

independent churches have linked with the world confessional families

from which

their missionaries

came,53 the competitive and sometimes

antagonistic spirit has increasingly given


to an

ecumenical co-

operation in which churches are identified largely by the languages used

by the people



they minister rather than by confessional or

denominational distinctions. 54 Inevitably,


has in turn widened the

perspective of Karo society as a whole, encouraging a sense of belonging to Indonesia



to the

to service the spiritual


DGI was


the appointment of military chaplains

needs of Indonesia's armed forces and police,

the seriousness of GBKP's commitment ecumenical mission in Indonesia was the releasing of Thomas Sibero

and to

world while affirming a Karo

early initiative of

their families.

mark of

up an army chaplaincy in 1963, at a time when the church had He was replaced as Moderator by his contemporary, Pdt Palem Sitepu. During the first years of his appointment Pdt Sibero had postings in North Sumatra which enabled him to engage in part-time ministry in GBKP congregations but in September 1962 he was posted to take

only five ministers.



in East Indonesia.


In this new ecumenical environment it was also agreed that GBKP would not maintain its own training programme for ministers, although some courses for up-grading existing staff were continued. Instead

Post War Developments, 1950-1965


from 1953




candidates to the existing theological colleges

Makassar (now called Ujung Pandang) and Here Karo candidates for the ministry received a

in Jakarta, Yogyakarta,



university-level course of theological, linguistic and other studies lead-

ing either to the sarjana


(bachelor of theology) or the sarjana

theologia (bachelor of divinity) degree, the latter being a longer and

more academic

course. In these colleges they studied in an ecumeni-

cal setting, often a long way, geographically

home towns





or villages, taught by a combination of Indonesian teachers

with overseas experience and overseas teachers serving in Indonesia.

These students were given not only a much more comprehensive and academically sound education but also an opportunity for considerable life, cultures and traditions, and of the ecumenical church. It did not always make settling back to rural ministry in Karoland easy for those who had spent five to seven years as students in large cities and who, in consequence, tended to be less than patient with the rural and conservative attitudes found in many

broadening of their experience of Indonesian




into the metropolitan

velopment for Karo

academic world was a major de-

society, given the role of educator, motivator,

enabler exercised by Karo ministers within their developing nities.



Karo church worker, Pa Samel, had been baptised by

Joustra at Buluhawar, then trained as an apprentice with

Sibolangit for two years before becoming a guru

procedure had been followed lists

was opened

had been trained



Raya by


at the



later at the




possible the

two ministers

Sipoholon Seminary,

course opened in Kabanjahe.



in 1904. This

1924 when the School for Evange-

H. Neumann. The


in this school,

and several others training set





employment of specialist

teachers with internationally recognised qualifications and set training

on a stable basis. For a small church this was an immense advantage which it could never have achieved alone, or for ordained ministry


in limited regional co-operation.

One result of having



trained ecumenically, and outside Karoland, has been that while is


Reformed in polity and doctrine it has not been narrowly Calvinistic or

rigidly confessional in outlook,

and has over the years accepted people

from a wide range of backgrounds



membership and



The first of the post-war generation of younger ministers was Pdt Anggapen Ginting Suka, born 1930 at Batu Penjemuren, who graduated


War Developments, 1950-1965


from the Jakarta Theological College in 1958, after which he worked with Pdt N.W. van der Bent in the School for Guru Agama opened in 1957. General Secretary of GBKP in his early thirties, and after a period of post-graduate study at Yale 1962-1965, Ginting Suka exercised leadership roles not only in


Regional Council of Churches

but also in the North Sumatra


— Dewan Gereja-Gereja

DGI. 58 He was Moderator of GBKP Wilaya Sumatera Utara) and from 1966 to 1989, after which he completed his doctorate and took up a lectureship in Pematang Siantar. Educated during the Revolution (he recalls an exchange of mortar fire over the roof of his school) Ginting Suka is typical of many Indonesian church leaders of the 1960s and 1970s; called to positions of responsibility while still young, they brought into their work the insights and experiences afforded by new educational opportunities, by the national perspective gained from living and studying outside Karoland, by increased ecumenical contact and in many cases by overseas travel and study. If the older ministers, often trained as guru agama during the missionary era, brought mature experience and a solid grounding in in

their church's tradition, the


generation of ministers brought vigour,

confidence and the energy needed to cope with a growing church and scattered congregations, together with the intellectual formation neces-

sary to guide the continuing process of indigenising the Christian faith in



GBKP had grown from the 15,000 members end of the Revolution to approximately 20,000, in about 100 congregations, and the existing staff could not cope. Relations between Indonesia and the Netherlands had worsened in 1959 and By

the early 1960s

registered at the

missionary van der Bent, along with most Dutch citizens in the country,

was forced to leave, followed in 1960 by Dr P. E. mission doctor to work with


Treffers, the last


church was forced to look

elsewhere for overseas workers to assist with


growing constituency,

while maintaining a "partner-church" relationship with the Netherlands

Reformed Church (NHK). In March 1962 Martin F. Goldsmith M.A. and his wife Elizabeth were invited to Karoland, to work with GBKP. They were members of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF), an evangelical missionary society that had grown out of the China Inland Mission after that body had

An Englishman, Martin Goldsmith had a background of university education and naval service and was a

been forced to leave mainland China.


Post War Developments, 1950-1965


qualified Russian interpreter. Like his bride, he had a background of

Bible College training.

Together the Goldsmiths worked from a base in Kabanjahe, visiting villages


and encouraging leadership

initiatives in local congregations.

for all the post-war "missionaries" working with


their role

was very different from that of the pre-war NZG missionaries who in their day had been the real leaders of the church. One of the reasons OMF had been favoured when GBKP was looking for overseas workers was that it encouraged a relationship in which its workers undertook specific tasks, usually in evangelism, spiritual

growth and leadership


without seeking to exercise authority or attempting to become part of the

decision-making processes of the indigenous church. This policy suited

GBKP, which saw decision-making in

the importance of keeping policy-formation its


own hands, and it suited OMF, which preferred its

it saw to be the central tasks in mission, and not to become involved in administration and church government The Goldsmiths proved adept at motivating and guiding Karo lay

workers to concentrate on what

people in evangelism and congregational development; they exercised

an effective youth ministry, distributed a large amount of Christian

and sold many Bibles in Karoland where, in the wake of the new educational opportunities, many were looking for reading material. They also taught religious instruction classes in the Kabanjahe high schools, making contact with many more families through the high literature

school students they befriended. The movement, which they fostered,

of lay people forming evangelistic teams to work in villages where they had established contacts, was to play a strategic role in the rapid growth of the Karo church, which began before the Goldsmiths came

and reached



after they left.

ministers, the Goldsmiths



Not being themselves ordained

the strategic role of lay people in the

church, and in Christian evangelism, and reinforced this element of the

church polity and programmes


an important time. Coming, on the

other hand, from a missionary society rather than from a church mission in sympathy with the GBKP leadership which saw mission in a much broader context and which was much more traditionally Reformed in its organisation and operations. In 1963 Rev. Michael Dunn, a former Merchant Navy officer and as yet unmarried, joined the Goldsmiths. He and his wife, Dr Diana Dunn, have remained with GBKP, working as minister and doctor, up to the present time, and

board they were not always



responsibility also for

OMF administration in Indonesia. 60



War Developments, 1950-1965


Also in 1963 the Rheinsche Mission Gesellschaft (RMG) appointed Pdt Werner Grothaus and family to Berastagi, from where they exercised 61 a very effective ministry during a period of growth. Grothaus found in 1963 a membership of 23,000 and a yearly rate of increase of 1,500 members in GBKP, 62 with 120 weekly preaching places, 8 ministers and 22 guru agama. Because of the lack of trained personnel, he noted ". in 75 percent of the preaching places laymen conduct the services .


63 and preach." It is to be noted, firstly, that this rapid growth in GBKP membership began well before the attempted coup in 1965 and its aftermath, which is often credited with driving people to find refuge in religion; in





a time when, as will be seen, the church was being

challenged directly by

Communism which provided an alternative hope,

and an alternative organisational support, for the Karonese. Secondly, the growth in membership broke the clerical domination of the church

which had been one of the least positive heritages of the pre-war mission.

As Grothaus observed,

lay people simply

trained or not, for the life

Lay elders


to take responsibility,

and teaching of local congregations.

(pertua), a characteristic feature of the Reformed churches

had been appointed in Karoland only since the 1920s and even then

were limited to menial, supporting functions. 64 In such a system elders could find


to do, although an elder in

Tigabinanga told the writer in

1978 that some elders were preaching there about 1936, but not from the

When war came suddenly to Karoland the experience gained in accompanying the missionaries as they went about their work proved


invaluable, as elders took

up the

tasks of the missionaries

and guru

agama no longer available. It had not been until about 1940, after Hendrik Kraemer's epochmaking visit to Indonesia on the eve of the war, that parish councils were formed, giving elders a forum for discussion and participation


decision-making. Although disgruntled





ferred to their church as a domineeskerk (a church that belonged to the ministers) during the 1970s, tions that

by 1963


it is


from Grothaus' observa-

was already moving toward becoming an which lay leaders, trained and encour-

"elders' church", a church in

aged by

their teachers

and ministers, took substantial responsibility for

evangelism, the conduct of worship, regular teaching in the congregations and the catechetical instruction of new members. This was not a change brought about by considerations of policy or by theological

Post War Developments, 1950-1965


reflection but


by the pressure of increasing membership, and increasing and post-baptismal guidance and

for pre-baptismal instruction


Many of these lay leaders were not actually elders, although in most places the parish council (runggun gereja) comprising elders, deacons (diakon,


appointed in the 1960s 65 ), and the minister or

guru agama where one was appointed, supervised activities within the congregation and co-ordinated evangelism programmes in surrounding areas: programmes that tended to move from village to village along the principal roads, and inland from the roads, village


village, along the

walking tracks.

Two key called

organisations in this period were the

MOR1A 66

Women's Fellowship,

and the Youth Fellowship, PERMATA, which were

both intensively involved in evangelism, the


in the circle of


and family, the second most effectively among school and university students and young graduates.



congregations in the Sumatran

Berandan, and in the university



town of Pangkalan

of Jakarta, Bandung and Yo-

67 gyakarta in Java, began with Permata initiatives. The development of

the Pangkalan Berandan congregation has been carefully





a clear example of the dynamics of church growth during 68


The first Karo Christian, Surja Ginting Djawak, arrived in 1952

and joined the Batak Lutheran Church, HKBP, and assisted Other Karo were converted and joined HKBP.




was formed, the first GBKP organisation and formed organisational links with Medan and other branches. Most of the Permata members were school pupils, especially pupils of the Technical High School, many of whom later sought emIn 1979 a Permata branch

in the town,

ployment in the refineries and in other technical fields. Study groups and house-church services (perpulungen jabujabu) were initiated, still under the umbrella of HKBP until, out of these Permata activities, a GBKP congregation (perpulungen) was formed in 1963, with 67 adult

members and 66 the


GBKP Binjai, this congregation met for worship in HKBP church on Sunday afternoons. Because of the distance from


initially to

Binjai a congregational teacher,

Guru M. Sinulingga, was appointed

Pangkalan Berandan by the Binjai parish council. The first baptisms in GBKP Pangkalan Berandan, of 45 persons, were performed on 18 March 1963, the previous Karo baptisms having been in HKBP; to





War Developments, 1950-1965

in the following six years


69 a further hundred people were baptised.

The Permata branch was also responsible for initiating and organising a Sunday School and general children's programmes. They were the real founders of the


vigorous parish with


important off-shoots in

Pangkalan Susu and elsewhere. for dividing from HKBP was not theological or denomLutheran/Reformed difference has never loomed large in Sumatran church affairs. The reason was even more basic: an effort to attract Karo people to a Christian community in which Karo language,

The reason

inational; the

Karo custom and even Karo food were

to the fore.

Evangelism was

based on the appropriateness of Karo ways, and the GBKP congregation provided a

new community

world of a coastal


Bandung a




Karo people boarding or

similar process took place, with

seeking fellowship in the local


young Karo students

parish in 1962, forming a Permata

branch and eventually evolving into a

Permata members were,

settling in the



congregation. Here the

and campus contacts and acthe development of the congregation.

initially, students,


played a significant role in


Sembiring invited the University Chaplain, Pdt Ian



with guidance and teaching in the congregation.

many Karo


Cairns, to

From 1963 - 1967

students followed an ecumenical course of instruction in

by the chaplain, who also preached regularly Karo congregation and joined an evangelism team from GBKP 70 that visited Karoland in 1966. Through its contact with Pdt Cairns GBKP formed an ecumenical relationship with the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, from which he came, which has developed modestly Christian faith provided for the

but significantly in following years.


further ecumenical link

Rev. R. E.

Brown of

was made by



1964 when the

the Evangelical United Brethren (U.S.A.)


appointed to Binjai to assist the church in Langkat while working

appointment in the Gereja Methodist Indonesia-GMI, 71 a Sumatran church established by the American Methodist mission, which

in a dual

entered Indonesia in 1904. Since the union of the United Brethren with

Church in the U.S.A., GBKP has developed a North American partnership which brought a further new dimension into its the Methodist

ecumenical experience, although the close working relationship with the Methodist Church of Indonesia in the Langkat region in the 1960s and 1970s was for a time put under considerable strain direct church extension




Karoland proper. 72



Post War Developments, 1950-1965


The Roman Catholic Mission (Archdiocese



1950-1965 By 1950 Dutch

Catholic clergy were able to re-enter North Sumatra, to

attempt to draw together the strands of the work they had begun before the war.

The dramatic

North Sumatra

decline in the

after the

number of European Catholics

Revolution freed the priests for work



and in 1952 the Capuchins were freed from Padang to concentrate on North Sumatra and Nias. Bishop Petrus Grimm, with fellow Rhineland Capuchins ejected from China, was given responsibility for the island of Nias in 1955, and the Medan apostolic vicariate became, in effect, a mission to the Bataks, led from 1955 by Mgr Dr F. A. H. van den Hurk, who became Archbishop of Medan and Metropolitan when a Catholic hierarchy was formed in the indigenous peoples,

responsibility for

Indonesia in 1961.

Returning to areas that had been without priests for nearly a decade,

many problems but, bearing in mind that almost were Dutch, they were not as subject to prejudice as some had 73 feared. In Karoland only the border population had been contacted before the war, along with some Karo people living, or studying, in the towns, and no permanent stations had been established in the Karo highlands. The post-war work of the Catholic Church among the Karo the missionaries faced all

represents, in all practical respects, a




social condi-

meant that the population was ready new work in a way that was to ensure that, following rapid growth in the years from 1965, the Catholic Church would have a permanent place in Karo society. tions in Karoland, discussed above,


new initiatives, and responded

Because of the long delay brought about by


in Catholic entry into the Bataklands,

the colonial comity regulations, and the disruptions

of war and revolution which the Catholic

to this

left the

Church was much

area with only lay leadership,

later in

winning recognition as an indigenous

ordaining Batak clergy and institution.


To a consider-

able degree this was compensated for by the greater openness of the

Catholic Church to indigenisation of the liturgy and the incorporation of traditional elements in Christian art


and architecture.

GBKP the Catholic Church has


respect for

Karo custom

and has attempted to work in an authentically Karonese environment. Being much smaller than the Protestant Church, and more dependent on the ministry of ordained clergy, the Catholic Church has and



War Developments, 1950-1965


been unable to establish a wide network of parishes in Karoland, but has been able to reach people from otherwise inaccessible villages through its schools, which are recognised in North Sumatra for their high quality

and orderly administration. As well as village schools the church has primary, junior and senior high schools and a home economics school in Kabanjahe, as well as schools in Medan, Pematang Siantar and other centres of Karo dispersion.

More fortunate in their timing than NZG, the won a warm response from Karonese

Catholic mission schools quickly

seeking opportunities for education.

Centred on towns and



cities, the

many Karonese who,


work was

also effective

in the aftermath of the revolution or to

moved to towns and cities Some found in the Catholic had found in GBKP, a new kind of corporate life, and

escape the continuing disorder in some areas, in search

of security or

Church, as others a



new community of support. The more symbolic and



of Catholic worship attracted some, and the more "Indonesian", as

opposed to ethnic and

local, nature

of Catholic congregations appealed

some who deliberately sought a wider identity in the cities. 75 Quickly established during this period, the Catholic Church in Karoland was to

ready to respond to the greater openness to Christianity in the period following 1965. 76

Islam Karo reservations about Islam have already been noted. Karo people,


spite of positive experiences, continued to see Islam in ethnic terms, as

Malay and Acehnese neighbours. Muslim extremism and the separatist movement in Aceh had come uncomfortably close to Karoland and served to reinforce Karo uncertainty about the religion of their powerful

and intentions of Islam within the new Republic. from the events surrounding the establishment and decline of the Negara Sumatera Timur client state that Malay Islam, the the nature It is

clear also

religion of the sultans, to a large degree inherited the colonialist

image from Christianity. In competition with the Malays and Muslim Javanese for land, opportunity, political and social recognition and in some cases even for basic human rights, the Karo were unlikely to look favourably on

their religion or to accept


as a real option for themselves. Like

Muslim Malays now appeared to the Karonese to belong to the "other side" (pihak sand). the Christians before the war, the

Post War Developments, 1950-1965


clear however that there were other points of resistance to Islam Karo society, most important among them the conflict between Islam and Karo custom or adat. While the claim made by one Javanese Christian theologian, that many Karonese chose Christianity in preference to Islam because they would still be able to eat pork, 77 can be rejected as superficial, if not ridiculous, there were areas of sharp and serious conflict between Muslim law and Karo custom. They were not in areas such as dietary regulations, where Muslim missionaries have generally extended de facto toleration to converts from primal religions, but in areas where the converts new Muslim identity had jural consequences, or where Muslim Karo were encouraged to break, or were allowed to It is



neglect, important adat prohibitions.

The primary aim of Muslim mission (dakwah), among the Karonese was to secure the confession of the "two sentences" of fundamental Islamic faith. It was in the new identity that that confession conferred and in what followed on from it that the difficulties arose. The papers prepared for the Congress on Karo Cultural History in 1958 offer clear examples of the viewpoint held by adat leaders that agama (religion) was felt to be a challenge or defiance {tantangan) to Karo custom 1 {adat)? That Islam is primarily in view is made clear by the statement offered in the same context that, 'There are also differences that we experience between Christian Religion {Agama Kristen) and Customary

Law {Hukum Adat) {hebat)."

The case in

but they are not experienced as particularly striking

19 is

cited, for

example, of a Karonese Muslim

Tanjung Sena. Because he had no Muslim heirs

distributed according to Islamic law as



was wakaf or property donated for his property

designated religious purposes, but his position as penguin or head of

Karo community passed to a younger brother who was not Muslim and who could not inherit any part of the wakaf. According to Karo customary law both property and position should have passed to the same person, so that he would have the wealth necessary to support the inherited office. The deceased pengulu, by conversion, came under Muslim law, and the result was, in Karo eyes, an injustice to his heir and to their community, and an interference in the orderly management of 80 their communal life. Another case, in which a Muslim judge {kadi) officiated at the marriage of a Muslim man to a woman who was still party to an adat marriage with a third person was cited as an example of the way in which the local


War Developments, 1950-1965

Muslim indifference

to customary


law could give

rise to situations that

were unacceptable in Karo society. Further "differences in principle" were noted by the Congress; Muslim lack of concern about the marriage of two persons of the same merga (perkawinan semerga), Muslim law being concerned only about the actual relationship between the two

which divorce can be achieved under Islamic law, whereas in Karo society even death does not, of itself (in the case of a husband), sever the marriage bond and divorce

parties to the marriage; the ease with


greatly deplored in all but the

most extreme cases such


one party

contracting a severe incurable disease or insanity, adultery (erlua-lua),

or failure to produce a male child;

Muslim, or

someone who

of a Muslim, which

is in


in the prohibition against

a non-

has renounced Islam, inheriting the property

conflict with

Karo laws of inheritance

that are

of central importance in maintaining family property for the welfare of


descendents regardless of religion; in the Muslim provision for

daughters and


to receive a share of the father's or


Karo custom where the rights and their needs of daughters (and husbands) and widows are secured in other




is in

conflict with


Most problems Islam (which


arose, the Congress asserted, with people entering

referred to as "the social group just mentioned"

83 )

from the Karo traditional community (golongan Adat), rather than with

Muslim or

Christian people returning to the primal religion and thus

automatically, in the view of the adat leaders, to the golongan Adat.*


Those preparing the preadvis or preliminary papers for the 1958 Congress drew attention to the situation in Minangkabau where Islam

and Islamic law were firmly recognised alongside a form of customary law (the matriarchate) which was theoretically incompatible with Islam. Problems such as marriage within the same merga, it was suggested, could be solved in Tapanuli and East Sumatra in the same way, by the recognition on the part of Islamic leaders of the more important adat provisions and prohibitions. In principle,

it was stated, religion (agama) and custom (adat) should be able to be harmonised (dapat sejalan) and in fact were in the Karo regency (kabupatan) where the problems did not seem to arise because adat was in a much stronger position than the

and scattered Muslim community. 85 It was in areas such as Langkat and Deli-Serdang (administered as one regency after independence) where Karo Muslims were part of a predominantly Malay community and where Karo adat was much weaker as yet quite small

Post War Developments, 1950-1965


than in the highlands, that such problems arose.


was recognised


problems such as marriage within the same merga the fault lay not with the religious officials who legitimised such unions but with the parties themselves who were seeking a religious blessing of their that in

marriage as a way of gaining respectability in a situation


that, in

terms of

and unacceptable. That it was essentially a social rather than religious problem was demonstrated by the fact that not all who entered such unions, and sought Islamic legitimisation,also entered adat,



The recommendation of the 1958 Congress was not to seek sanctions

who broke the customary law but to ensure that a good working relationship between adat and agama could be built up, so that

against those

adat was not simply pushed aside (dikesampingkan) in the religious and social changes taking place

The concerns expressed

Karo people of East Sumatra. 86 moderate and polite terms by the com-

among in


mittee that drafted the preadvis for the Congress clearly existed, as

much more

Karo community at large, where the pressures on Karo adat were greatest, but also in the highlands where people were always aware of, and often affected by, what happened to their kin on the coast The Karo Church (GBKP) clearly affirmed the central principles of adat, seeing them as part of the basic framework of Karo life and society. Together with the fact that its worship and scriptures were in Karonese and not in a difficult foreign language, this was to the advantage of the Christian community during the period of rapid expansion after the war. It was only as it was able to work toward a better relationship with adat leaders, and as it was able to present itself as an Indonesian, as opposed to a Malay or Acehnese, religion that Islam was able to make any extensive appeal to the Karo people. strongly held prejudices, in the

particularly in the former sultanates


The New Indonesia 1965-

Indonesian affairs took a sudden new direction on 1 October 1965 when word broke of an attempted coup d'etat in Jakarta in which a number of leading military figures had been murdered and a revolutionary council

proclaimed. units

The coup, which was quickly brought under control by army

under Major-General Suharto, was increasingly identified with the

Communist Party and communist groups which had gained


under President Soekarno's rule of "Guided Democracy". Soekarno had attempted to weld the powerful and conflicting forces of nationalism,

communism and

Islamic religion into a working relationship which he


— nasionalis-agama-komunis, but

the factions most were the armed forces and the communists. While Soekarno lived, and ruled as President-for-life, the communists


likely to clash

were reasonably secure, but in the mid-1960s uncertain and a topic of public speculation.

his health was increasingly The army expected a com-

munist move to anticipate Soekarno's departure from the political scene, but the events of 30 September 1965 appear to have taken


surprise, both in their




suddenness and in their ferocity.

emerged of the way in which six generals, and met their deaths, a popular reaction set in, in which many communists and sympathisers, and many others caught up in communist-sponsored organisations, became victims of communal the details

other innocent parties, had

violence and, in


unrelated scores.


reaction and

cases, of people

innocent people

one observer estimates

and groups



settling old


wave of violent 1966 perhaps more

victim to a

by early

than 300,000 people had died. 1

Although much has been written about the coup the role of President Soekarno remains unclear, as do the real motives of the conspirators. 163



In to The

New Indonesia 1 965 -

The Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) itself appears to have been taken by surprise, caught between a policy of seeking power by peaceful and legitimate,


political situation


opportunistic, exploitation of the developing national

and reaction against a clearly perceived

and social

forces, religion



and the military high among them.

The party was implicated in the attempted coup, and banned. Some conspirators were brought to trial and many of those allegedly involved or implicated in communist-related organisations were detained or suffered loss of


civil rights.

President Soekarno was gradually eased out of power, to be replaced

by General Suharto, first as Acting President and then as elected head of state. The events surrounding G30S, as the coup came to be called (Ger30th September Movement) cannot be treated in akan 30 September this context, but their aftermath in Karoland was profound, as was the


impact of President Suharto's


Order (Orde Baru).

As has been noted, Karo people turned to political activity in the years War in an attempt to have some influence in

before the Second World

shaping their own futures, and the intensity of Karo involvement in landrights

movements such




Awn movement

have been

became Emerging from the struggle for freedom as convinced republican nationalists, the Karonese gave their support overwhelmingly to the Indonesian National Party (PNI) which had been Soekarno 's original power base, and here also GBKP members mixed with Karo Muslims and followers of the primal 3 religion. The ideology of the National Party was able to focus Karo

noted. After the Revolution, it has been claimed, political parties the focus of Karonese aspirations for the future.

hopes and aspirations for

their region


their vision for the future

the nation they had struggled to bring into being.

1950s and early 1960s seemed to affirm with PNI, and the status of





prosperity of the

this identification

of their future

leaders such as Selamat Ginting



people confidence in the party.

The Communist


PKI, however, was also active, and increas-

ingly so, both through the open activities of the legally recognised

and through the underground Biro Penghubung, or Comit was to win support among the suppos5 edly non-political elements of society such as the armed forces (ABRI).

political party

munications Office, whose task


While a number of GBKP members were attracted to the PKI, because of its humanitarian and reformist programmes, the church was subjected to increasing communist propaganda attack, from PKI itself and from



New Indonesia 1965 -


communist mass organisation such as the Pemuda Rakjat Union of Indonesian Students (Ikatan Pemuda Peladjar Indonesia). This propaganda aimed at undermining the church's place in Karo society by suggesting that it had weakened the revolutionseveral of the

(People's Youth) and the

ary struggle and that


had favoured separatism,

in the formation

of the

Negara Sumatera Timur. President Soekarno's declaration, at the 5th General the Indonesian Council of

objectives of the church


in Jakarta,


Assembly of

1964, that the

and of the Christian religion were the same which he saw as a continuing

(sejajar) as those of the Revolution,

process, relieved



ill-prepared for

some of this


ideological pressure, although the pietist

youth and students had experienced

even modified ideological debate.




One victim of the ideological debate prior to 1965 was Martin Goldwho was forced to leave Indonesia hurriedly just before the coup,


with threatened legal action pending, after giving a critical Christian analysis of


in the



church, where the

deputy-chairman of PKI in North Sumatra was, unkown to Goldsmith, a

member of the parish council. Under NASAKOM it was illegal for such made on a legally recognised organisation such as PKI,

an attack to be

and the Goldsmiths were advised to leave rather than face prosecution,

would make communism and bring NASAKOM to an end. 8 PKI had widely infiltrated Karo society, directly and through front organisations, and had penetrated many non-political organisations including GBKP, one of whose congregations was later found to have had 50% of its membership involved in PKI. 9 Communist activity reached shortly before the political turn-around that


even isolated villages, and

its appeal to the rhetoric of revolution and to and democratic values of Karo society, over against what as capitalist, were strongly attractive. Concern for the un-

the egalitarian it


employed, small farmers and youth were strong features of communist activity and the party was even able, under NASAKOM, to use religious instruction time in schools for political indoctrination.

When the coup was investigated in North Sumatra, caches of hidden weapons were found, along with communist flags and lists of people to be eliminated. According to Pdt Werner Grothaus, who was in Karoland at the time, there were over 3,000 names on the Karoland lists, including all

pastors, evangelists, elders

Muslim and Buddhist

and church functionaries, as well as two places mass graves had been

leaders. In






New Indonesia 1 965 -


As elsewhere

in Indonesia there

was a violent reaction


volved people





against communists, suspected communists, and against



victim to popular violence or to their

enemies. The military attempted to restore order, curfews were imposed,

and communist sympathisers were sytematically sought out and interned or identified in such a activities, including



that their participation in social

church committees, could be



wake of G30S some remarkable changes occurred in Indonesian The political and economic excesses of the Soekarno era were

In the life.

ended, Indonesia rejoined the United Nations and ended Confrontation with Malaysia, a programme which had lost the Karo cash-crop farmers

markets in Malaysia and Singapore. More practical economic measures replaced the "continuing revolution" rhetoric of Soekarno and




closer to the western political bloc while retaining

ties with communist nations were severed and Indonesia became more and more bound into western models of economic development and progress. The "New Order" government of General Suharto attempted to increase food production, stabilise food prices, reduce inflation and enforce internal security throughout Indonesia. Planned parenthood and community development programmes, rather than highly visible status developments in the cities, were highlighted. 12 People were made aware of the economic chaos to which the nation had been reduced. The failure not only of PKI, which was now banned, but also of the other political parties under the "Old Order", meant that they were now largely discredited in the eyes of many Karo people. A whole programme of seeking security, development and progress through participation in political parties, and in the mass organisations associated with them, suddenly lost its relevance and purpose. Even


unaligned foreign policy. Diplomatic

Karo pride

in the revolutionary struggle

result of the attempted

coup and


was now




violent aftermath in Karoland

a widespread disillusionment with political activism, and even to extent with service in the armed forces. in things that

had appeared

revolutionary society,





be permanent and central

in the post-

people confused, dispirited and pessimistic

in this situation that the process of

already well under


A vacuum, a loss of confidence

about the future, as well as disillusioned about the recent It



in the


1950- 1965



membership of

period, reached quite



New Indonesia

1 965 -


staggering proportions, and the growth in Catholic


membership became

that reaction to At the same in this process. the attempted coup was the sole determining factor The Karo mission reported a church membership of 5,000 in 1940, after 50 years' work, a rate of growth of 1,000 per decade. After the war and revolution its membership was the same, new members balancing those lost during these years of danger and hardship, and the severe reduction in church personnel. Between 1950 and 1962 membership had grown from 5,000 to 20,000 and in the following year




must not be supposed

had reached 23,000. At the time of the 75th Jubilee Celebrations in 13 1965, before the attempted coup, membership had reached 35,000, an increase of 30,000 in fifteen years, or 20,000 per decade.

very significant

growth was a feature of

coup upset the old order of things,



It is

clear that

before the attempted

the brief fifteen years since the

recognition of Independence can be so termed, in Karoland.

Other internal features of church to the




life in this

period gave

membership. The celebration


momentum Medan,


1965, of the 75th Anniversary of the beginning of the mission in

Karoland in April 1890 had been a happy and impressive occasion;

much of the

credit for


organisation went to a very active committee

of Karo people prominent in government and local affairs, and people

who had

benefited from post-war educational opportunities. After the


were over some of

make a renewed effort


group of lay people determined to

to evangelise their families in rural villages. This

renewal of a pattern of outreach from established larger congregations to unevangelised villages built

lay leaders

on the church's experience

in the early

more effective now because of the standing of the involved. Their energy and commitment gave impetus to the

1960s, and was



outreach programme; and

GBKP cites

the use of people of local origin

as an important factor in church growth in Tigabinanga, Munte, Naman,


Bangun Purba,



Namo Ukur. One of the sons

the last Sibayak of Kutabuluh, a judge in the


played an important role in the evangelisation of his


District Court,




Another important outcome of the 75th Anniversary celebrations was the de facto recognition by GBKP of Karo traditional music. Both the

Karo church workers trained by them believed any use of the Karo orchestra (gendang Karo) or Karo traditional music was a dangerous compromise with paganism, and particularly with the worship of spirits who were summoned by certain kinds of missionaries and the that



The New Indonesia 1 965 -

no distinction was made between social, recreational and ritual music and dancing, or in respect to the context in which the music was used. In the Jubilee celebrations gendang music was used spontaneously, without any prior decision on the principle involved, and its use was hailed by Karo people as a new recognition of the indigenous culture. There was some sharp debate in the 1966 Synod

playing. In effect

but there the decision was


Karo music in was assumed that in church programmes the parish council would ensure that pagan elements and music closely associated with rites of the primal religion would not be introduced. In many ways this decision broke down the last barrier separating the Christian community from Karo society as a whole: the church's reserve about important elements of Karo culture. Without any doubt it also broke down the reserve many felt about joining the church, and must be recorded as one of the reasons for the accelerated rate of growth in membership from 1965. As Pdt A. Ginting Suka later recorded of this 16 decision, "GBKP was no longer labelled an enemy of [Karo] culture." Encouraged thus far, Christians were soon participating much more openly in various customary ceremonies and by the 1970s the gendang had replaced the brass bands introduced as an alternative by the 17 missionaries. Church people began drawing their own conclusions as to where culture ended and ritual began. Having noted these internal developments within GBKP, it must now be acknowledged that external factors also influenced many to enter the church after 1965. It would be difficult to exaggerate the blow to Karo hopes and aspirations that came with the collapse of the political parties, and in particular the decline of PNI. Pessimism, lack of direction, a vacuum where once there had been the solidarity of a common cause, passivity where once there had been vigorous social involvement, and perhaps most of all the need to re-think many things that had recently seemed clear and straightforward: all tended to open to recognise the use of

church programmes other than formal public worship. 15

the possibility for religious change.



politics, the


primal religion,

the security of status attained through social, commercial, agricultural or

educational success were


suddenly, less than adequate. Commercial

prosperity had suffered a severe blow in the loss of markets in Penang

and Singapore during Confrontation with Malaysia, and was slow to recover. The attempted coup, and its bloody aftermath, gave rise to feelings of bom horror and insecurity in Karoland. Karo people began



to look

New Indonesia 1965-

elsewhere for a


direction for their lives,


and a more secure

foundation for their hopes and aspirations. In this atmosphere response

evangelism became more lively. Another factor was the effect of education on religious belief. In the 1960s Karo graduates came to play a key role in society as agents of change in many areas of life, as a new leadership elite. Young people to Christian

where they had become Christians or began to use lineage and kinship relationships to share their new religious faith with people who were more and more open to receive what was offered. Finally the government, shaken by its close encounter with communism, became directly involved in the spread of both Christianity and returning from towns and cities

Muslims, and town people on


Islam in primal communities: a not unmixed blessing, for while




sincere officials brought leadership skills developed in the

or in the civil service to the task of evangelism and teaching, undue

pressure and inappropriate methods also led to large scale nominalism,

which became apparent when the immediate emergency passed. Almost overnight religion became an earnest talking point in Karoland. Aware of this, GBKP intensified its efforts and then sought help from sister churches and ecumenical agencies. In


1966 pro-

grammes of mass evangelism, with brass bands, choirs and visiting speakers, were mounted in Tigabinanga, a former stronghold of PKI, Kabanjahe and Tiganderket; and evangelisation committees, led by laymen, were set up in Medan for Langkat and Deli-Serdang. Requests up from villages seeking Christian instruction and help was secured from two neighbouring Batak Lutheran churches, HKBP and HKI, and


from the Medan branch of the Indonesian Student Christian Move-

ment (GMKI). Most congregations became involved in more intensive evangelism and church extension in their own areas, 18 and teams of Karo students from Bandung, accompanied by the University chaplain and several Indonesian evangelists, spent time in North Sumatra participating in evangelism programmes. As a result of this intensified activity large numbers of people were baptised. On 19 June 1966, 57 ministers from five North Sumatran churches baptised 1703 Karonese in a gathering of something like 20,000 people, in the market-place of Tiga Lingga, 19 and there were further baptisms in the Dairi area in following weeks. 20 Mass baptisms

were held



(1,000), Tiganderket (1,100), Tigabinanga (700),

Tigajumpa (450), Tigajuhar (1,100), Bangun Purba (595), Cintarakyat

— 170



New Indonesia 1965-

Namo Ukur (1,000), Gunung Meriah (1,000) and elsewhere in 1966-1969 period. 21 By 1967 GBKP reported a baptised membership of 75,000 (including baptised children), with 15,000 more under 22 instruction for baptism. By 1970, when the intensity of the growth had eased, GBKP had a membership of 85,000 out of an estimated Karo population of 300,000. There were 264 GBKP congregations, 23 ordained ministers, 13 ministers seconded from other churches, 48 guru agama, and 69 theological students in training, with a further 17 training 23 for service as guru agama. Some GBKP leaders see a pattern of group decision-making in modern Karo history: for example in the decision not to accept western religion or education before the Second World War, and in the commitment of Karo society to the Revolution, in the enthusiasm for education from about 1947 onwards, in the large numbers who entered the armed (559),


forces in the 1950s and early 1960s, in the adoption of new crops and new farming methods as Karoland moved into cash crop farming. Embracing religion, it is suggested, may have been such a movement,

made only when a substantial group

in Karo society came to the concluwas no longer viable and that Christianity, coming now in Karo dress, was an authentic Karo option. 24 Such group decisions were facilitated by lineage and kinship connections and by the practice of those taking instruction for baptism, which often lasted several months, encouraging relatives to join in. Such communal decision-making, which may be much closer to the pattern of New Testament church growth than the uncompromising individualism of the western church and its missions, does not destroy the integrity of the individual decision, but provides a context for it; a context which modern sociology suggests may have a decisive influence for those who once decide to become part of it. 25 Thus the basic decision is the decision to become part of the instruction group, to accept that one will be influenced and shaped by a new pattern of belief and practice.

sion that the primal religion

In the 1960s

many Karonese, about 40% of

were prepared

the the total population,

to take that step with regard to Christianity.

According to

the Department of Religious Affairs office in Kabanjahe, in 1968

of Karo people were Muslim, "other"




Catholic and

10% 50%

By 1975 the 13% and "other"

perbegu, secularised perbegu and some Hindu.

proportions were: Islam

20%, Protestant 40%, Catholic

27 %. 26

Rapid growth of

this nature


many problems

to the




The New Indonesia 1965 -


some of which


new developments. The

in turn led to positive

of manpower in GBKP led to an even greater ecumenical openness during and after the period of expansion. Paul B. Pedersen, a Lutheran crisis

church historian, comments, "Seldom have 'Lutheran' churches been so zealous in securing members for a neighbouring 'Reformed* sister 27

Toba Batak Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (HKBP) and Huria Kristen Indonesia (HKI) joined church."

The two churches concerned,


with other North Sumatran churches to form a Regional Council of DGW-Sumut) Churches {Dewan Gereja Wilayah Sumatera Utara 28 The involvement of this body in co-ordination of Karo in 1965.

and the importance of its role, in North Sumatran church circles, and enhanced Karo appreciation an important development of the value of the ecumenical movement for an ethnic church which, left to itself, could easily have become evangelism programmes quickly established


ethnocentric and exclusive. Prior to

1965 the Indonesian Council of Churches (DGI) had

been represented in North Sumatra by an individual, but in that year

Army, the Nias (BNKP), Karo (GBKP), Simalungun (GKPS), Toba Batak (HKBP and HKI), Bethel (GBIS), Gereformeerd, Methodist (GMI) churches, and the Protestant Church of Western Indonesia (GPIB), formed the Regional Council, with Pdt A. Ginting Suka of GBKP as its founding chairman and Pdt M. A. Simanjuntak the Salvation



as general


evangelism programme,



Besides assisting with the joint

has provided opportunity for

to participate in joint social action such as disaster relief


and the

establishment of a Christian hospital in Medan, and for participation in local inter-faith dialogue with Islamic leaders, to reduce tensions between the two religious communities in the region. 30

Another ecumenical development stimulated by the need for more was the "Abdi Sabda" School for Church Workers founded in 1967 by GBKP, the Nias, Simalungun and Gereformeerd full-time church staff

Churches, to train teachers for congregational work and as teachers of religion in public schools. The first graduates in 1969 included eleven

GBKP candidates. 31

As well

as accepting ecumenically trained

ministers and congregational workers



welcomed among

overseas workers in recent years, besides Presbyterians from




Reformed tradition, Congregational, Anglican and Methodist ministers, from Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States of America and New Zealand, adding further to the church's ecumenical




New Indonesia 1 965 -

experience. Internally, the Protestant churches of Minahassa and Ambon

have provided ministers to assist GBKP, in the first case renewing the link formed when H. C. Kruyt introduced Minahassan workers to Karoland and in the second forming a new link with an East Indonesian church established during the colonial period.

With the rapid growth of membership and congregations the role GBKP was further expanded. Often

of elders and other lay leaders in

lacking funds or co-ordination, lay people took responsibility for contin-

uing evangelism, for worship and preaching, for Christian social work, for guiding


congregations and for

much of

the regular ministry

of the church. The eldership, which had been ignored or down-graded during most of the missionary period,

now came


own, and the


importance of the diaconate in co-ordinating the social service ministries of the church was at In villages where

last recognised.



was well-established, the

offices of elder

(pertua) and deacon (diakeri) began to acquire social status and prestige, at

a time


mass organi-

the social function of political and other

Where GBKP was weak, as for example where a congregation was made up of marginal people in a village or sations




in sharp decline.

was held by people who were unpopular,

The increased responsibility given to extend further the church's


to lay people within

was not so. 33

GBKP served

openness to Karo culture and to

move the

church toward a more contextual encounter between Christian theology

Lay preachers, for example, appear much more able to make use of the wisdom and the wealth of illustrative material contained in Karo proverbs than are the new generation of ministers whose general and theological education has been very largely western in orientation, although many of the latter are very concerned to develop and the primal


a genuine theologia in loco out of the inherited theology (theologia

warisan) of the theological colleges.

An example



this rather different



afforded by an elder

who was asked at a church gathering, "If we come to church will you tell us that we must give up going to the (traditional) guruT He replied, "No! If you come to church and learn the Christian way you can continue to go to the guru if you want to. You can make your own decision about that!" Later he explained, "They have just begun coming to church. How can we put in Langkat, a school-teacher in daily life,

such a prohibition on them? will not


to consult the

If these enquirers

guru any more.





Christians they

their decision."




The New Indonesia 1965


contrast with the confrontational, either-or, approach of and of the church workers trained before the war, and still common in the 1970s, would be difficult to imagine. In some localities group seminars called "Sermon" are held in which

more complete the mission

a minister or experienced elders go through the material set in the GBKP Agenda for Sunday preaching in the coming week, as well as the material

prepared for Christian education programmes. ful exegesis, theological insights,

illustrations are all


In these sessions care-

knowledge of local


and apt

brought to bear on the passages to be discussed. Less

experienced elders and lay preachers are encouraged, and theological inter-react, which is of benefit to even most experienced ministers and teachers. Unfortunately "Sermon" programmes are generally available only near the larger centres and in the villages little help is given. Sermon notes, of varying quality and usefulness, are circulated for lay preachers, but the comment of one Singgamanik elder to the writer is all too typical, "Often we just open the Bible before we go to church to preach." The Reformed Church polity, in which ministers and elders, and

and practical insights are able to the


some churches

other orders of full-time church workers such as

teacher-evangelists and deaconesses, can

meet and relate as colleagues and work together in teams, is ideally suited to both the needs of the expanding Karo church and the values of Karo society and culture, in which differences in function (kalimbubu-anak beru-senina) exist within a fundamentally egalitarian, democratic social context. In the Parish Council

(Runggun Gereja)


by the congregation by secret ballot after calling for nominations for several weeks. The practice followed in some congregations of appointing those who get most votes to the eldership, and the next group as deacons, the numbers required elected


having been previously determined, emphasises that the distinction is seen as one of function; a person suited to one office being regarded as equally suited to the other.




appointed as both elders

and deacons, and often participate informally in church bodies to which their husbands have been elected, following a familiar Karo pattern in the de facto role of

era has clearly


become an

in society.

The domineeskerk? 6 of

the old

elders' church, although the staff of full-time

ministers and teacher-evangelists


now much more adequate

than was

the case in the 1960s.

The growth of GBKP tacular

in the 1960s, and the continuing if less specgrowth since then, has given the Christian community greater





and influence





New Indonesia 1 965 -

and within North Sumatra as a

whole. There have, however, been set-backs and some negative results

from the mass evangelism of the 1960s. GBKP, emerging from the occupation and revolution and struggling to maintain


work with minimal made on its

mission assistance, was not prepared for the sudden demands

resources in the 1960s. Catechetical materials were gravely inadequate,

both in their style and content and in their availability. At best teachers

and leaders had only the 104 Turi-turin, a simple collection of Bible stories with no real doctrinal content, and a translation of Luther's Short

Catechism? 1 for use in instruction. Even the Bible was in short supply, and by the 1970s the Karo Old Testament had entered the rare book 38 category. For some inexplicable reason Neumann's useful Pengelajasi

An elder in Medan made his own translation of a Dutch manual of doctrine, Dr J. Koopmans De Nederlandse Geloofsbelijdenis for use in instruction, but most

Kiniteken (1925) was not reprinted until the 1970s.



resorted to the pre-war style of instruction the Lord's Prayer and the Ten

by rote in


the Apostles' Creed,

or used independently

published fundamentalist materials, thus reinforcing the rather abstract, pietist-legalist

approach of the mission



Inadequate materials in short supply, inadequate methods of instruction,

and the pressure

to shorten the pre-baptismal instruction period

during the mass evangelism programmes, meant that bers had


received into the church.

Had the church been able to follow up the mass

baptisms adequately, and quickly, set-back but


many new memwhen they were

or no understanding of the Christian faith

GBKP simply

this possible


might not have been a serious

did not have the trained staff at the time to

and many new members never became integrated

into congregations, never


familiar with basic Christian teach-

ing or comfortable with Christian worship.

As a

result neither


congregations nor congregational giving increased in proportion to the



GBKP membership. 40 Some members

lapsed while retaining

a "Christian" identity for Government registration purposes, joining in effect if not in

name the large group of "secularised perbegu", 41


by GBKP to form 50% of Karo society in 1972. that they were not making progress, or disappointed with the ministry provided by GBKP, returned openly to the primal religion, entered Islam

Other converts, feeling

or transferred to other Christian churches, Catholic, Pentecostal or sectarian,

such as Jehovah's Witnesses.

but never became active.



simply remained Christian



New Indonesia 1965 -


Interviews with such people in the 1970s, in Langkat and in the

was a major

that "shyness"

Karo highlands, indicated

factor in non-

participation. After instruction and baptism people were often



the ritual



own way


traditions of the church,

by some

left to

in the Christian community. Unfamiliar with

local leaders,

Christians themselves,

and perhaps treated

who might have been

less than


many new members were actually afraid to Holy Communion, or even in some

participate in worship, particularly in


cases to pray. In the primal religion mistakes in ritual, using the in religious ceremonies, or


even accidental "bad behaviour" in

a ritual context could have serious repercussions. Without personal

guidance into the world of Christian worship and



and safer, to stay at a distance. Many converts responded to enquiries as to why they did not take an active part in worship, or sometimes even in home prayers, with such expressions as "tidak berani" (not brave enough) "mbiar aku" found





afraid), "takut saja"



just that




Some who

do attend worship leave before the celebration of Holy Communion (Lakon Persadan Sibadia) and when questioned gave similar reasons; all words are invested with power and both the primal viewpoint and the legalistic "guarding" of the sacrament taught by the missionaries have led to a belief that the communicant, and even the non-communicating participant in the service,

without any fault)



must be "holy" (badia, interpreted



not to be harmed by exposure to the words and


Where adequate pastoral education and encouragement is given, these and misunderstandings are able to be overcome. That was not possible, and that GBKP had placed great emphasis on evangelism and relatively less on pastoral care and the integration of new members, are both consequences of the unprecedented and unexpected growth in membership at a time when GBKP had only twelve ministers and thirty-four teacher-evangelists and quite inadequate financial resources. In making the most of one opportunity other important matters initial anxieties


were, for a time, allowed to take second place.

Important lessons were learned from redesigned


administration to bring



experience and

three departments: Service (including Diakonia, lay



work under training, women's

aspects of


health, the Children's Home, literature and development), Theology and Witness (including youth and children's programmes,




New Indonesia 1965-

leadership training, theological and doctrinal issues,44 material for lay preachers, evangelism and Christian education in parishes) and General Education (including the Christian Schools Council and the Women's

Training Centre.)


Important changes were



methods of evangelism

in the early

1970s in response to reactions against high profile mass evangelism

programmes. Instead of bands, loudspeakers and the intrusion of large numbers of supporters, much smaller teams now visit villages, chat with people in the coffee shops and in homes, establish kinship relationships

have not met before, join in evening activities

(ertutur) with people they

such as communal bathing and accept hospitality for the evening meal in people's


9:00 p.m., the team


programmes begin, about members are wellknown to many of the villagers; the time the church

they are accepted because they themselves accepted the village

and the hospitality of



people, and because they respected the adat

requirement to establish their kinship relations with village people. It is

now that some of the excesses of the mass evangelism many Karo people, and that a Karo rather than a western style



of evangelism

is essential.


In the 1970s further insight into the relationship between rural and

community development programmes and Christian evangelism, arising in part from the work of J. J. Tomasoa, a Protestant lay agriculturalist who was invited to lecture to Catholic seminarians, and later to Protestant theological students, in North Sumatra, on the role of the

clergy in

community development, 47

which evangelism,

health, educational



and development issues were


led to integrated

way Christianity was presented not as something abstract or alien but as a new context in which problems and opportunities of the new life people were experiencing could be discussed,

by a range of speakers. In


grappled with; a faith which gave a hope that people could take hold of their lives

and re-shape them, no longer prisoners of fate or of capricious,

unseen powers. In the 1970s a

new generation of ministers began

to link the evangeli-

message of new life with a new quality of human life in communities, in the home, in accepting responsibility for the land and even for one's own health. 'The humanisation of humankind" (memanusiakan manusia) a theme hardly yet recognised in world theological circles, was cal


already being propounded in Karoland in 1975 as a theology of evangelism, not as a secular theology

which neglected personal



— Into

The New Indonesia 1 965 -


and development but as a rounded theology of salvation that embraced the whole context of human life. A typical Karo church programme in the late 1970s could see a doctor speaking about "responsible family life" centring

on family planning and the mother's health, a local govern-


giving information about population control programmes


or afforestation to avoid erosion, an agricultural scientist from the uni-

new seed varieties or crop spraying, and a minister, elder or guru agama speaking about the Christian Gospel versity speaking about soil care,

(Berita Si Meriah).


With Karonese having no concept of sin that came near that held Christianity, preaching also had to be more imaginative than the

traditional sin-repentance-forgiveness gelists

around the

way — Yesus

model favoured by popular evan-

world. Themes such

"new humanity", "Jesus

as the

Yesus si mada dalin", "Jesus who is to be followed man ikuteri\ became important bridges to the conceptual world of the Karonese, although many preachers continued to rely on the old pietist the


categories, not realising that they often passed over their hearers' heads,

not understood.

Close co-operation between



people with special expertise gave rise to a





new kind of evangelism


from poverty and ignorance was replaced by a positive emphasis on community development and the enhancement of village life.


Personal initiative was encouraged, to

sible of

environmental possibilities,

technology and the talents and


most use pos-

scientific agriculture, appropriate


of the local community. While

the eschatological dimension of the Christian

strong attraction for the Karonese, as



message had a new and

has for other Indonesian primal

and while the hope of salvation remains an important theme Karo Christian spirituality, a strong emphasis has developed on the present actuality of life and the central importance of enhancing its opportunities and fulfilling its responsibilities. A vigorous new theology and spirituality are emerging as two post-war generations of ministers continue to work seriously at the indigenisation of the Christian faith within Karo society and culture. The contribution of lay theology has also been important. Diaken (Deacon) P. Sinuraya, a Medan businessman whose education, disrupted by war and revolution, had to be completed at night schools after his marriage, has proved adept at combining the insights of theology and the societies,


social sciences with his

own practical experience. The resulting practical



The New Indonesia 1965 -

GBKP's social programmes, which he has led since 1969, but also has contributed to the development of an authentic Karonese expression of Christian ideas. theology has not only undergirded

During the developed


late 1960s the social service (diakonia) work of GBKP programmes through a synod-presbytery-parish network

that paralleled the presbyterial-synodal structure of the church itself. Its

emphasis was on local community-based programmes, sharing


sources and offering mutual support. Informal credit unions emerged in

some places and "diakonia funds" enabled people to overcome setbacks move into new enterprises. Led by business people the programmes




and low-keyed,


and capitalised on the

values of the Karo communities: self-help, mutual support, sharing

of resources in informal partnerships and energy for new, promising, enterprises.

One quite different enterprise in social service is the "Gelora Kasih" Home, established in December 1963 by a group of GBKP members working at the Lausimomo Leprosarium, which since the war


has been operated by the government health service. Concerned for the

welfare of the children of leprosy sufferers, they established a

where they could be cared danger of infection. withdrawn, G.Ag.



for in a situation that


assistance given


would minimise the by World Vision was

K. Barus, chairman of the Lau



22 children in care, supporting them for four months at his own expense. Being unable to sustain such care, he was forced to return most of the children to the care of their parents, but continued to care for six in his own home. At the same time he approached GBKP for assistance and, after discussion, the "Gelora Kasih" Children's Home was opened at Lausimomo on 16 July 1967. GBKP accepted responsibility for the home and G.Ag. J. K. Barus

council, took personal responsibility for the

became director. The church sought to secure congregational support for the home, through contributions of rice on a presbytery basis, but this did

An institution of this kind, even of modest dimensions, was something quite new to a society which met its social needs on a family and local community basis and had initial difficulty with the idea of institutional care of children. Once again G.Ag. Barus was forced to accept personal responsibility for some of the children and return others to parents who, very often, were themselves in need of economic not prove easy.


To overcome these difficulties a board was


up with

Ir T.

Pandia, a


The New Indonesia 1965 -

soil scientist, as


chairman and Drs Santa Sinisuka, a university


Mrs Roga Ginting, a church member who has given strong leadership to church and community social activities, became an active treasurer and other board members were drawn from local academic and

as secretary.

public service circles in an attempt to give the



a higher profile in


A new complex

was built at Suka Makmur, on the road from Medan and on 16 March 1969, 28 children moved in, occupying temporary quarters for several months until the new buildings were completed. "Gelora Kasih" secured support from the central funds of to Berastagi,

GBKP, and

also from the Indonesian Christian Service Foundation

(LEPKI) in Malang, Java. The Social Welfare Service of the Provincial Government also provided financial support and LEPKI arranged inservice training in Malang for the director. By 1972 there were 77 children in care and a new board was appointed under the chairmanship of police Assistant Superintendent karo Sitepu, a leading elder of church, Pdt J.

GBKP. The General

Sibero, the head of Diakonia, Diaken


Ag. Barus were




Secretary of the


Sinuraya, and G.

appointed ex officio members of the board. Upgrad-

ing of buildings began in 1972, and the 2 ha property

made possible


introduction of citrus, coffee and flower cultivation, animal husbandry,

poultry and fish rearing, and instruction in trades and handicrafts, which

provided some income for the

home and gave wide

children to learn useful skills for later In

more recent times

opportunity for the


children have


into care for a variety of

reasons including loss of parents, poverty or neglect, and the original

purpose of the


has been extended to meet needs that have arisen

money economy,


have eroded Karo society. "Gelora Kasih", in a rural setting, has not removed the children from the environment of village farming to which most will return, but has tried through its various enterprises to provide them with the resources to make the most of the opportunities that will be available to them as the rural community diversifies its cash-crop and animal husbandry programmes.

as the


alien life-styles

the traditional structures of caring that existed in

Children are supported at school to the extent that they are able to benefit

from education and some have gone on to tertiary education in

the ministry of

to nursing

and midwifery, others

Medan and Jakarta. One of the latter has



"Gelora Kasih"


the largest institution erected

and managed by





New Indonesia 1 965 -

GBKP since Independence. The difficulties experienced in gaining congregational support, in providing adequate

of service, reflect the

management and


difficulties implicit in attempting to introduce


and new models of social service, into a society which, traditionally, had no Karo-wide institutions or organisations, beyond the


and urung democracies, and the extended kin-group and home has been successful, and that it has been able to extend and renew its facilities and to meet new needs, is largely due to the persistent efforts of G. Ag. J. K. Barus and his successor Pdt local village

lineage systems. That the


S. Meliala, to the efforts


GBKP leaders who have never had

development of church institutions, and to the support of influential lay members of the church who were able to win both church and community support for the home as it developed and became better known. 48 sufficient financial resources for the

The Roman Catholic Church The

years from 1965

in Karoland,



saw a rapid increase

may be assumed

lay behind this growth.

also in the Catholic


many of

The Catholic community



Church factors

benefited from the

by the 1960s Christianity had won a place in Karo society, and the quality of the work of the Catholic schools in particular, and also of the church's social and development programmes, won support fact that

among the Karonese, and the respect of many whose religious allegiance lay elsewhere. The Catholic Church benefited also from the movement to adopt a religion (gerakan


The Catholic mission of a

masuk agama) following

the attempted



much wider church

Karoland had the advantage of being part

body, the Archdiocese of Medan, and was

able to call on the resources and support of an international Christian



the other



was not

until Pastor Elias


was ordained on 17 July 1977 that the Catholic Church had a Karonese 50 and the work of the church in Karoland is still very much under European leadership. Celibacy is not easily accepted by Karo people and will continue to limit the numbers offering for priesthood, for even where individuals feel a vocation they can expect considerable family priest,


Some Karonese find Catholic worship more satisfying than the formal and rather stark liturgy of GBKP, and Catholic flexibility in pastoral


The New Indonesia 1965-

situations has


won the sympathy of some Karonese. For example, GBKP

does not recognise the practice of baptism in articulo mortis and some Karonese, fearing the death of a child, have sought help from a priest.



perceived in such a situation


not the theological points at

most readily respond to the GBKP member, told the writer that the question of who baptised his dying child was immaterial, so long as it was done ("asal iliturgiken saja"). issue but the question of felt

needs of the family.

While such matters

which church



such father, formerly a

as celibacy

and the

ecclesiastical hierarchy ap-

peared strange to Karo people, the Catholic

priests, sisters

and lay

European and Indonesian, are held in high regard by the community at large, and are respected both because of their function and for their personal integrity and helpfulness. Like post-war Protestant church workers from overseas, many Indonesian and European priests have


accepted adoption into Karo families, and hence into clans and lineage groups, have learned Karonese and have tried to live in keeping with at least the spirit

of Karo adat. Karo people today are quite relaxed in re-

and quickly accept those who genuinely is dynamic in nature, and able to 51 tolerate differences in both racial origin and religious affiliation this has allowed Indonesian and European priests a ready entry into Karo lationships with foreign people

seek to respect Karo ways. Karo adat



and has made possible the emergence of a community.

tolerant, pluralistic


Because of the multi-ethnic nature of the Archdiocese of Medan, and of the Catholic Church in Indonesia as a whole,

it is

not possible to obtain

Karo Catholics, many of whom worship in general parishes in Medan, where territorial parishes replaced ethnic pastorates in 1956, in Jakarta and elsewhere, or in mixed Batak congregations in total figures for

North Sumatra. 52 Figures for Karoland as a whole, however, the increase:

Stations (Stasi cabang)

Members (umat Katolik) Catechumens Baptisms

To these













800 603

900 699

4736 3332

46 7085 2987 2622

45 10122 473 940


totals must be added the unknown number of Karonese have entered the Catholic Church outside Karoland proper.





New Indonesia 1 965 -

In 1963 Swiss, Indian, Indonesian and Australian Capuchins joined

1968-9 they were joined by Italian Conventual Franciscans who took responsibility for some of the more estabished work in Kabanjahe and Medan. In 1972 only 18 of their

Dutch colleagues





priests in the

was not

in the diocese,



Archdiocese of Medan were Indonesian nationals 54

until four years later that the first

of Medan was elected, Dr A. G.


Indonesian Archbishop

Datubara, the son of a veteran Batak

lay catechist and one of the first graduates of the Catholic Seminary in Pematang Siantar. 55 The archdiocese has followed the Vatican II call to renewal with

the establishment of a Council of Priests to advise the archbishop,

commissions on the

liturgy, social

problems, education, ecumenism,

youth, catechetics and religious communities, and in the use of regional

languages, as well as Indonesian, in worship.


In Indonesian Catholicism as a whole the post- Vatican



saw a greater emphasis on the "Service of the Divine Word", led by a layman when priests were not available, which often replaced traditional services in


honour of the eucharist such as Benediction. worship became more biblically, rather than

at eucharistic

dogmatically, orientated,

many ceremonies were


consciousness was fostered of the importance of personal

and a new 57 These


reforms gave greater opportunity to lay leaders, particularly in the small village congregations in Karoland, which could not enjoy regular priestly ministration, in a situation



1972 82

serve 777 such "stations" throughout the archdiocese.


had to

As opportunity

for lay leadership increased, the lay catechist (katekis) of the mission era

has largely been replaced by the congregational leader (porhanger) and his assistants,


are responsible for local congregations, for leading

non-eucharistic worship and for




Catholic congregations in Karoland are small and suffer the

same problems experienced by

Protestant congregations in the mis-

sionary era: minority status in the community, dependence on clerical leadership from a distance supplemented by local leadership with limited authority, latter is



and association with foreign leadership, although this disadvantage for modern Catholics than was

less acute a

Dutch connection

and 1930s. The erecon the other hand, has provided opportunity for

for Protestants in the 1920s

tion of the archdiocese,

in the wider work of the church in education 1977 Karonese were reported as treasurer (Drs M. M.

Karonese lay participation

and other fields;



The New Indonesia 1965-


Sitepu) and assistant treasure (A. Tarigan) of the important

Foundation for Catholic Education.

Some cese of

very basic agreements exist between




GBKP and the

for mutual recognition of baptism,


and both churches was op-

profess an ecumenical concern. In the late 1970s neither side timistic,


however, and the historian of the archdiocese has observed:


for the

Ecumenical Movement cannot complain of a

lack of problems because the situation in North Sumatra in is difficult





Suspicion, rather than friendship,

this respect



of both churches, the Catholics lamenting the presence of

Protestants in

what might have been a


mission field for them

(and as a universal church not accepting in theory or practice any limit

on their own freedom to enter areas of Protestant strength) and the Karo Protestants tending to blame the foreign priests, and in particular the Italians, for a negative attitude to ecumenism. However the days when hostile tracts and pamphlets were distributed outside the doors of opposing churches have mercifully passed and it will be of interest to note whether the election of a Batak archbishop will bring the two major Christian confessions in Karoland closer.

Islam Islam also has shown

some advance in Karoland in

the years since 1965,

now becoming

an acceptable option

sufficiently so to indicate that

it is

within the emerging religious pluralism of Karo society. Because there

no system of enrolment parallel to Christian registration of baptism it is difficult to obtain even general statistics to document this change, but the Department of Religious Affairs office in Kabanjahe indicated that in Karoland (Kabupatan Karo), in 1968, 10% of the population was Muslim, and that by 1975 this proportion had doubled, standing at 20%, by which time the total Karo population was about 370,000. 60 There were reported to be a further 1,000 Karo Muslims in Jakarta in 1977, 61 and smaller numbers, maintaining their Karo identity, in other cities. It is is

impossible to estimate the number of Karonese

who became Muslim

Deli-Serdang and Langkat in the post-coup period; what

no longer on entering Islam.

that such people


felt that it

was necessary

Like Christian baptismal figures, the Muslim those

who made the simple profession of Islam


to reject their



significant is


account for

without examining their




orthodoxy or persistence in the


That aside,

many more Karonese. As with there were many reasons for this change.

appealing to

The New Indonesia 1965 -

it is

clear that Islam


the growth of Christianity,

Karo people more widely within Indonesia and became more familiar with the rich diversity of their nation; they became more open to new insights of various kinds. Among these were a new appreciation of the real In the period following Indonesian independence in 1949


nature of Indonesian nationalism, and an acquaintance with other than the

Acehnese and Malay embodiments of Islam.

A growing awareness that Islam had been one of the most consistent forces of resistance to western imperialism during the colonial era,



Muslims made up


of the population of the Republic of

Indonesia, enabled Karonese to see Islam from a


perspective, as a

great national and international religion, rather than as the tribal religion

of their powerful and threatening neighbours. Service in the armed

and universities, employment in the public were all situations which brought Karo people into contact with Muslims, in situations separated from the resistant environment of the adat community, and often in situations which demanded a choice among the religions acceptable to the Government. Slowly in the 1950s and 1960s some Karonese began to choose Islam, although at that time the perceived conflict between Islam and adat was still a strongly inhibiting factor. Other Muslims, of Karo origin, living in the former sultanates, began during the same period to resume forces, enrolment in schools


Karo clan names, sometimes in modified forms such as names that had been remembered but not used since forbears had entered the Malay-Muslim community. This phenomenon, reported by a number of informants in Langkat in 1976, was interpreted as a sign that the once negative attitude of the Karo to Islam had now become more positive, the remaining adat tensions notwithstanding, to the point that Muslim Karonese felt able to reclaim a place in Karo (and Batak) society. Masri Singarimbun indicates also that the social advance of the Bataks since Independence meant that Muslims of Batak origin were no longer ashamed to be identified as such by their the use of

Iskalingga, and Berahman:



In colonial times


penetration of the

Karo highlands had

been resisted and the only real centre of Muslim success was in the Tigabinanga area where two villages, Pergendangen and Kuala, have long-established Muslim communities, according to one informant from


The New Indonesia 1965-


the area possibly established before the beginning of Christian mission-

ary activity in Karoland. These early

Muslim communities, however, did

not develop during the colonial era, for the reasons discussed, although it is

in this area that

some subsequent development took place

recent times. Tigabinanga


in the 1960s,



had approximately 250

Karo Muslims 63 and the village of Tiga Beringin, on the road from Tiga64 binanga to Kuta Galuh, was entirely Muslim in 1978. In some other highland villages in the pre-war era there were three or four isolated Muslim families, accepted within the very tolerant Karonese society although regarded as somewhat nonconformist. During the turmoil of the revolution and the subsequent disorders some bands of Muslim fanatics from Aceh are said to have penetrated parts of

Karoland seeking to make forced conversions, an excess arising

out of the "holy war" (jihad) declared against the pagan Europeans and

extended informally by some to the animist Bataks as well. The areas

Acehnese border were most open to this penetration but, this way remained Muslim, these episodes gave rise to resentment and resistance and a heightening of suspicion, rather 65 than to any advantage for Islam. As has been suggested, they may in fact have contributed to some Karonese becoming Christian. That being said, however, the greater openness of the Karonese to closest to the

while some converted in

Islam in the late 1960s clearly provided a


opportunity for Islamic

mission (da'wa) to the Karonese.

Bases for such mission already existed


the strongly


Acehnese, Malay and West Sumatran communities, and in the towns and cities

where Karonese lived alongside Muslim neighbours. Societies for

Islamic mission were formed in those areas where Karonese were most

open to Islam. In August 1976 fifty students from the "Al Washliyah" School for Mission in Medan were sent into Karo villages to teach Islam and to assist local Muslims undertake da'wa in their own areas. 66 The Keluarga Muslimin Karo Jakarta was encouraging conversion among the Karonese of the capital and by February 1978 had held six "Islamisation" (Peng-Islam-an) ceremonies in Jakarta mosques, admitting a total

of 148 Karonese to the


While the spokesmen for



appear in 1977 to have been non-Karonese, they had the support of a Karo Muslim community of about L000 and by 1978 a Committee for the Islamisation of

Karo Youth

Jakarta (Panitia Peng-Islaman

in the Special Capital

Pemuda Batak Karo DKI

Region of

Jakarta) had

been formed, led by Udana K. Ginting, one of those received into Islam




in January 1977.



New Indonesia 1 965 -

Special efforts were clearly being


to convert

young people to Islam. At the same time the chairman of the Jakarta Karonese Muslim Community, H. Iskalingga, was calling for greater government efforts to extend Islam in Karoland where, he claimed, "in general the inhabitants are




Reception into Islam involved the pronouncing of the Arabic formula,

Two Sentences of the God who is One and in

"Bismillah irrohman irrohim" along with the Islamic Syahadat> the Confession of faith in the Prophet

Muhammad as God's Messenger, 69

after hearing instruction

from Muslim teachers. In Jakarta instruction was offered by Muslim theologians and following the profession of faith male converts were circumcised at the Islamic Hospital and went into retreat for about ten

days in an Islamic hostel, where further instruction in the faith was given.

At these Islamisation ceremonies Muslim officials expressed concern new adherents be given adequate instruction and encouragement in their new faith so that they would truly understand their new religion. Leaders were clearly aware of the problem of nominalism, and were not content simply to register numbers of converts. At this same time significant numbers of Karonese were entering that the

Islam in Langkat, Deli-Serdang and in

cities like

Medan and



Teams of doctors, including Karonese, undertook "mass circumcisions" (pengkhitanan massal) for those whose families could not sponsor 71

In Deli-Serdang and Langkat, the area of the former where historically Karo and Malay had competed for land, influence and opportunity, Islamic mission to Karo people was intensified in the 1970s. Here local Karo Muslim teachers such as H. Ismail Cukup Tarigan (Palit Tarigan) and Hamzah Ginting played important roles, and local government leaders and officials took part in both teaching and in

the ceremony. sultanates,

the ceremonies of reception into the faith.



by civil and military officials, acting always in a personal capacity, was encouraged by the Government, being in keeping with the state Pancasila philosophy, and with the policy of encouraging primal communities to accept one of the recognised religions as a way of integrating them more fully into national life. Muslim and Christian officials are heard frequently to preface their remarks with, "As an official in, as




impartial and ask

a private individual

In the




Karo highlands Islam,

according to


GBKP estimates

choose the religion you believe to


like Christianity, in



is still

a minority


of the highland population


The New Indonesia 1965 -



was Muslim and 37% Christian, leaving 43% perbegu. In this area there were significant Muslim conversions in the late 1970s, both in numerical terms and in terms of winning people of influence in the community. 74 This growth, and the proportion of Muslims in the Karo highlands, are significant in the light of earlier resistance, although still


true throughout the 1970s that


Karo people were more

once they decided to move away from their primal religion, and that Muslim communities in many highland villages were small and disorganised, sometimes relying on likely to accept Christianity than Islam

non-Karonese leadership. It







that Islam will

solid base has

grow more rapidly among

been established


the lowland



highland communities, and da'wa societies have been formed, with

Karonese leadership and membership and a clear Karo these may be noted the Persatuan Masyarakat Islam




Pemuda Islam se-Kabupatan Karo,77 the Karo branch of Pelaksana Pembina Pembangunan Islam,78 Badan Koordinasi Da' wan Islam Karo, 79 together with the organisations Indonesia Karo,



already mentioned.

The number of Karo

the late 1970s several

Haji Ismail



in positions

Cukup Tarigan and


haji has also increased

and by

of leadership in the community.

Haji Kurnia Ginting were well-known


In their presentation of Islam in Karoland


teachers continue

need for sincere personal conversion based on conviction (atas kesadaran sendiri) rather than response to group or social to express the




emphasise the need for continuing instruction so that

converts learn the faith and


in it

Faced by

practical difficulties,

however, Muslims, like Christians, have had to determine which aspects of mission preaching were to be emphasised and where compromise could be tolerated. The aim of da'wa is to secure the profession of the Islamic creed, sometimes by each candidate individually, sometimes by

a group together (secara massal). In predominantly Karo communities


difficulties as dietary prohibitions are

nor are


mantera (tabas) and the circumcision

not raised with converts,

associated with the primal religion, such as recitation of


ritual hair- washing (erpangir), forbidden.

by no means general


in Karoland, often representing

second stage of initiation for the very sincere convert, or for a Karo wishing to marry into a Malay family.


real efforts are


in the

towns and

cities to



give systematic







New Indonesia 1965-

to provide experienced leaders to help


of Karoland, a core of primal belief and practice remains. The




familiar with ritual prayers and ceremonies, in effect, in

in Indonesian Islam, with


sufi ele-

emphasis on mysticism, healing and

continuity with the religious past, encourages a tolerant syncretism, 81 in

which old and new exist alongside each other and without undue tension. It becomes a matter of personal conviction or choice how orthodox the new convert will be. In the highlands not even the pressure of marriage into a strictly orthodox as




Muslim family


In the presentation of the

erable emphasis


from implication it is

likely to

be a decisive


Muslim creed


North Sumatra consid-

placed on social factors, such as Islam's freedom

in the colonial

brought, and on the


in the lowlands, in determining orthodoxy.

regime and

in the social injustice

more recent nature of the Islamic

argued, supercedes that of the Christians. Further,

that Islam has a "better

beautiful than the Bible

Book", the Holy Quran, which

and of direct heavenly

particularly, considerable apologetic use

theories regarding the origin



revelation which,


made of

it is



both more



Christian critical

and compilation of the various parts of

the Bible, in an attempt to discredit


as a reliable record of


revelation through the prophets of Israel and through the Prophet Jesus

(Nabi Isa). The


long discarded theory that originally pure gospels

were perverted by Paul

is still

frequently used to discredit Christian

doctrine while retaining the Quranic teaching of a valid revelation of

God to humankind through

the Prophet Jesus.

Although Karo primal religion borrowed phrases from Islamic worship, as well as from Hindu prayers and chants, for use in mantera, and used written phrases from the Quran

in talisman

charms (ajimat), there

has been considerable Karo resistance to the use of Arabic as a


of religious instruction. For example, a Muslim Karonese academic in

Java had his children enrolled for Christian religious instruction


school because, as he said, "After a year of meaningless Arabic they

A Karo university student, brought up as Muslim, from the faith because he considered that inmoved away a have learned nothing useful."

struction in Arabic was, 'Teaching us so that

we could

not understand",

a reiteration of traditional doctrinal formulae without any real attempt to allow for individual questioning.

Aware of this


and of the danger of people simply memorisMuslim leaders have

ing material they cannot understand, Indonesian



New Indonesia 1965-


authorised an Indonesian translation of the Quran, a project resisted




consider that the sacred Arabic text cannot be

rendered faithfully in other languages.


Locally, Karonese


used in

mission and teaching in Karoland and a Karonese language Worship

Manual (Buku Penuntun Sholat) was produced in 1977. 83 In these ways Islam is seeking to become a real part of Karo life, going through a process not dissimilar to that undergone by the Christian mission. As earlier between Catholic and Protestant, so between Christian and Muslim, there has arisen a rivalry

in the competition for the allegiance

is no evidence of extensive Christianity, Muslim Karonese or of Christian Karonese conversion of to to Islam, but it is clear that some movement in both directions is a

of the remaining perbegu population. There

feature of the developing pluralism. Often marriage


an important

and one to which the two communities react differently. For a Muslim to marry a non-believer is seen as a positive step toward the latter *s conversion. So far as GBKP is concerned, factor in religious change,

marriage to a non-Christian


grounds for church discipline, suspension

or excommunication, in which case the couple


well opt for the

spouse's religion, perbegu or Islam.


admits that members have converted to Islam because of

and lack of pastoral care, as well as through mixed and so far as information is available it seems that similar




factors, as in the case of the dissatisfied student

mentioned, operate also

movement from Islam to Christianity. Relationships between the Muslim and Christian Karo communities

in motivating

are affected

by national perceptions and also by Karo custom and

traditional behaviour. Islam in Indonesia has

been subjected to a long

history of Christian missionary activity supported

by the wealth of and development technology. 85 No matter how unrealistic it may seem to the outside observer, many Indonesian Muslims see a programme of wholesale "Christianisation" (Kristenisasi) at work in their country, aimed at the total expulsion of Islam, the faith of 90% of the population, from Indonesia. 86 Antagonistic insensitivity by western missionaries in the past, and by contemporary Christian sectarian groups which Muslim the western world

and by western expertise

in education, health

people are unable to distinguish from main-line Christian churches, often fuel this suspicion, and give rise to a sense of alarm and frustration,

which may in some situations lead to localised violent reaction. Karo custom, on the other hand, has a tolerant, inclusive attitude






New Indonesia 1 965 -

non-conformist minorities. Even where only three or four Muslims live in a village their religion


acknowledged, provided they

respected and their right to be different live within the general

adat framework.

This attitude of toleration has fostered the emergence of a viable re-

and the strong kinship bonds of Karo Karo people and communities to support each even against non-Karo co-religionists seeking to use religion as a

ligious pluralism in Karoland,

society encourage modern other,

divisive agent.

A vivid example of this occurred in Bandung, a university city in West Java where

many Karo

among the some other Batak groups good relationships, learning some

students and graduates have settled

strongly Islamic Sundanese population. Unlike

Karo people have tried to create Sundanese language and following the courtesies of Sundanese custom, more elaborate and formal than those of the Karo homeland. In general


relations with the local people in the city


kampungs where Karonese

settled are very good.


in 1975,

GBKP erected a pastor's house in Sukaluyu, a newly

developed sector of Bandung city, where all the residents were newcomers, some minor local officials, with an army sergeant from the local detachment, tried to terminate the opening ceremonies, stating that

Muslim neighbours were offended by what they termed Christian aggression. The neighbours had, in fact, taken keen interest in the building programme and had shown courtesy and friendship to the people the

working on the


or bringing refreshments to the workers.

GBKP gathering been what the officials expected, terminated the opening ceremonies and the



would have quietly people would have gone it

home. Events took a dramatic turn, however, when a Karonese Muslim army officer,

a lieutenant-colonel, waiting to make a speech on behalf of the

Karo Muslim community, that the building

told the officials that the gathering

had been properly authorised and




he would arrest

anyone who caused further disruption. A Catholic Karonese judge, also waiting to speak on behalf of his community, affirmed the legality of the proceedings, and in fact delivered a written statement to this effect the following day. Both officials declared, "We are not defending Christians against Muslims, we are defending the rule of law on which our nation stands," but it is clear that a sense of common Karo identity, which had brought these men with other representatives of the Karo Catholic and

Muslim communities

to share in the

opening ceremonies

in the first

The New Indonesia 1965 -




was also being defended against external

made even clearer when the all adat speeches be made

pressures. This


colonel rejected the officials* demands that in Indonesian, "for security reasons".


spoke in Karonese, and handed his notes to the unfortunate sergeant as he


saying, "Take this to your office and have

It is this






strong Karo identity, and the security of the Karonese within society, that allows a generous degree of

freedom in matters

of religion; Karo flexibility and toleration are based on strength, and confidence in the rightness of the "Karo way", not on insecurity or a

need to compromise.


has proved a valuable asset in the development

of religious pluralism in the Karo world, as


has also in uniting Karo

society against external pressures and threats.

As with the emigrant Karonese seeking good relationships with their Muslim neighbours in Java, so in the highlands care is taken not to offend religious minorities. For example, even where the Muslim community is very small, people will avoid holding feasts (kerja adat) during the


fasting month. People contribute generously to building

projects in their



or undertaken by kinsfolk in other areas,

is the Karo custom, even when these by other religious groups. The only exception observed in the 1970s was in relationships with Christian sectarian groups, which were seen to be divisive, and in many cases to have set themselves against the adat. At least so far as their religious activities were concerned, such people were assumed to have placed themselves

giving money, material or labour, as projects are sponsored

outside the mutual aid (sisampat-sampateri) network. 88

For its part Islam in the Karo highlands


much more tolerant than is

and is coming to be seen perbegu community as less threatening and demanding in this respect. Christians on the other hand risk church discipline if caught seeking assistance from traditional guru. The level to which passive the Christian church of syncretistic practices



participation in ceremonies such as

perumah begu, undertaken by one's

kin, is permissible to Christians, is

an on-going topic of debate; the

obligations of kinship and religion appear to be equally demanding.

same national and local Karo Christians are aware that they are surrounded by strongly Muslim communities, in Aceh, West Sumatra, Riau and on the East Coast. They are aware too of the mounting intensity of Muslim efforts to convert the pagan Karonese, and this has led in its turn to intensified efforts on the part of GBKP to reach and occupy these areas. 89 This Christian perceptions of Islam share the




New Indonesia 1 965 -


markedly from region



and the suspicion arising from


to region.

Karo highlands, where Islam and Christianity are both minority and where perbegu and adat are strongest, there are hardly any problems between Muslim and Christian communities. 90 Ironically, the values of the old society promote harmony between these two intrusive religions and their followers. In Langkat about 700 of the 953 villages are Karo villages, many of them, as Anderson reported in 1823, and as their own traditions In the



settlements of long standing. Islam, however, has long enjoyed

Langkat and even when

official status in





Karo population it encounters considerable difficulty from officialdom in such matters as land title, building permits and the like. 91 Under the sultans the mission had not been permitted to operate in the towns and cities of Langkat, except in Binjai where initial entry to this ethnically mixed city was through the good offices of a Christian entirely to the




the Pancasila philosophy of independent Indonesia, Chris-

tians in the

former sultanates

make positive


enjoy the same legal freedom to

witness to their faith as Muslims enjoy in predominantly

Christian regions. In general officials support that freedom with even-

handed fairness, but the experience of the GBKP congregation in the oil town of Pangkalan Berandan, in Langkat, illustrates the way in which determined opposition can place insurmountable obstacles in the way of a Christian group securing


legal rights.

In this case a permit to use a well-situated section of land,

30 metres, behind the Kindergarten was granted committee,

who was



30 x


chaired at that time by the jaksa, the public prosecutor,

later transferred out

of the


The Technical High School,

however, used the land without permission and, accompli,

to a


was given a much

in the face

less desirable section

of this/a//

away from

the road and near a dirty canal, behind State Primary School

Shop-keepers erected

illegal buildings across the right



of way so that

vehicles could not enter the section. As the matter stood in 1976 the church had not received redress for any of these actions and thus indirect

administrative interference in the development of



out of the

whole church complex


the community.

GBKP in the city had

into an undesirable, inconvenient,

location, effectively marginalising


the church

was opened


in the

in 1969,

eyes of

however, the


The New Indonesia 1965-


congregation acknowledged the voluntary labour and donations of many non-Christian well-wishers.


The policy of GBKP in Langkat has been not to react to such discrim95 ination and to seek harmonious relations with the Muslim community. It is

recognised that such discriminatory actions are localised and not


GBKP has expressed itself as being satisfied with the Gov-


ernment's attitude to the issues that




and with the


made by

officials to resolve


In Deli-Serdang relationships

between Christianity and Islam are and the situation

described as being "between" the situation in Karoland in

Langkat. In the large towns and cities the emerging religious pluralism


widely accepted and in the Deli-Serdang uplands the Karo people

have had a strong and active presence since pre-colonial times. In this area GBKP is less of an ethnic church than is the case in the highlands, where almost the whole population


Karonese, and in

Langkat where the Malay Muslim population is largely beyond the reach of Christian mission. In Lubuk


Presbytery (Klasis), founded in

1968 in response to the mass baptisms and embracing areas of the DeliSerdang, Simalungun and Asahan regencies (kabupateri), the population is

very mixed and


congregations are

made up of people from

whose families have lived in Simalungun for some time, and in 1978 there was a congregation, Gunung Sinembah, whose members were all Simalungun. 97 Many congregations in the border lands contain families of non-Karo origin, whose familiarity with the highlands, people

Karonese enables them to be active their


members, while retaining

own ethnic identities. To some extent GBKP can be seen here to be

representing the non-Malay orang asli communities of the East Coast,

which have

traditionally sought a balance with the

Muslim Malays and, numbers as

since colonial times, with the Javanese introduced in large plantation labourers and the

Toba Batak who have migrated

to the East

Coast in large numbers since the war. 98


has not entered into direct dialogue with Islam but

aware of developments,

in Indonesia

and overseas, through





ecumenical agencies such as the Indonesian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. Non-Christian Karonese, ticipation in

both perbegu and secular, have for their part taken from Islam what interested them, primarily the mystical

of the



and magic


and practices

men such as Tengku Syech, whose teaching was readily into bom the kinigurun of the perbegu religious specialists


— 1




New Indonesia 1 965

and the mistik which still exerts considerable influence on the modern secularised Karonese."

New Religious Movements The Karo primal community did not remain passive

in the face

the inroads Catholic and Protestant Christianity and Islam were

ing in the years following 1965.

A movement


brought together a variety of Karo people interested in



Perodakodak securing Gov-

ernment recognition of perbegu as a religion (agama), or at least as a semi-recognised "school of belief (aliran kepercayaari) equivalent to Javanese mysticism. To this end the primal belief in "One God"

was highlighted, hoping the



perbegu could be accepted as

of the Five Principles (Pancasila)

— Belief



One God

Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa. This recognition was not forthcoming and the movement, it is claimed, became increasingly influenced after the 1971 General Election by a group of former political activitists seeking a


basis for their activities following the collapse of the political


Perodakodak took its name from odak, to rock or sway, referring to the swaying dance with hand movements and stamping of the feet in which adherents engage, seeking contact with the spirit world or actual possession (seluken). Perodakodak are those who have resort to such ecstatic rituals.

begu and the spirits of the primal religion were of much Perodakodak than the professed belief in One God, which was emphasised only so long as there was hope that this 100 Like re-shaped primal religion might be accorded state recognition. the Parhudamdam movement before it Perodakodak arose in a time of social confusion accompanied by a crisis of confidence in community leadership. As these conditions eased and the New Order administration of President Suharto established stability and enforced order on the In practice the

greater importance for


interest groups,

Perodakodak has declined

in importance.

A new movement observed in the Karo highlands in 1977 took the name "Agama Hindu-Buddha", one of the officially recognised religions, and claimed to have been introduced into one or two villages by Hindu-Buddhist adherents from Berastagi. From observation of the "Hindu-Buddhist" rituals in Kutambaru, kecamatan Munte, it appears much more likely that this movement was a branch of Perodakodak


The New Indonesia 1 965 -


seeking recognition by assimilation to a recognised religious community its beliefs and rituals. A ceremony observed at Kutambaru in February 1977 included a trance dance with gendang music and burning of incense which the participants called "landek Hindu", 101 Participants danced with literally "a Hindu kind of Batak dancing".

capable of accepting

noisy stamping of the feet until to trance

dances observed in Bali, where the

so permeated with primal elements that

manner similar officially Hindu religion is designated "Agama Hindu

some fell into trance, it is

in a

Hindu Religion". It may well be that informed perbegu adherents saw a possible parallel, and hoped for the ultimate 102 recognition of an "Agama Hindu Karo". Possession or trance (seluken) was a wide-spread phenomenon of Karo primal religion, and was employed for many purposes, from calling down rain to averting disasters and divine retribution. People questioned in Kutambaru gave a variety of similar reasons for participating in the trance dance. Asked a specific question, "How does one communicate with God (Dibata) by means of the Hindu religion?", informants responded, "Aran perumah begu by means of the perumah begu rite", 103 Other inor "Aran kramat by resort to a holy place or person". formants indicated that the guru perdewal-dewal could be employed to make contact with the divine world. It will be evident, then, that the focus of this "Agama Hindu-Buddha" is the world of spirits and powers known to perbegu adherents. It is, to borrow once again Gonda's apt phrase, more "Indonesian cargo sailing under Indian flags". At the same time it is clear that perbegu has not lost all influence on those who have entered a recognised religion. Many Christian and Muslim converts will turn to a traditional guru in certain circumstances, either out of desperation or because the guru is seen as an available specialist in the area causing concern. Two cases observed by the writer illustrate these differing motives. The wife of a GBKP elder, in a highland village, went to a traditional guru for exorcism of the source of hallucinatory visions and voices, having failed to receive effective help from either the local minister or doctor. Her step was a last resort, in which her husband gave at least passive support, and involved for both husband and wife a severe degree of mental conflict, guilt and anxiety, and confusion when the traditional exorcism proved effective. Bali

the Balinese

Karo Christian students in Java sought help from they were unable to identify a persistent thief hostel. In this case there was no guilt. The guru was

In another situation,

a traditional guru at


in their






New Indonesia 1 965 -

believed to be an expert in such matters, the appropriate specialist to




Other attitudes





illustrate the

and the

lost property recovered.

continuing influence of the old religion

world view in the face not only of religious conversion but

also of modern, western-orientated education.


scientifically trained

educationist in Java refused to continue on a journey after falling from his scooter near his

home, while on the way to meet the people he fall was an omen, the journey was ill-fated

planned to travel with. The

and should not be undertaken at officer-bearer in the Karo church.

man was an

that time. This


GBKP has estimated that about 75% of Karo Christians, Catholic and on certain occasions, or in certain circumstances, and that only 25% of Christians had made a total break with the primal religion. 104 On the other hand a strict theological orthodoxy has prevented any real perbegu influence entering the official

Protestant, will return to primal practices

theology of the Christian churches.

At the same time many Christian


symbols and values have

been taken over by the primal religion as a result of the now extensive exposure to Christian teaching from the church, and from Christian kin. The cross in some places marks modern perbegu graves, at least until a proper concrete memorial is erected, being seen as an appropriate sign of death

— tanda kalak mate — separated from


Christian religious

and community, are now

associations. Expressions such as mutual love (si keleng-kelengen)

mutual support, by no means foreign

to the primal

much more widely encountered among

traditional believers as expres-

sions of social and religious values. Festivals, such as Christmas and the western


Year, which


regarded as Christian in origin, are

widely celebrated by perbegu and secularised Karo.

It is



be requested to offer prayer at traditional gatherings such as family and communal celebrations, marriage for Christian ministers or elders to


and the


Christian kin or neighbours, in this case, are

given opportunity to bring their spiritual offering as something that


valued alongside the more traditional offerings and contributions of the


IV Conclusion: Old And New

Roadside altar, with offering wands to the Sidebukdebuk, Karo highlands, 1977.




Previous page

Old and new: rebuilding structure, 1978.

the Binjai church around the existing

10 Religion and


Writing in the decade following World


War II, and within a few years of M. Panikkar

the independence of the major Southeast Asian nations, K.

could claim with apparent justification that the Christian mission in Asia




Having traced the


connection of both Catholic and

Protestant missions with the economic, cultural and political imperial-

ism of the European powers, he concluded that,

"When that imperialism

came under attack and finally was destroyed the church could not escape the fate of


2 patron and ally." In what was the


sustained Asian

assessment of the colonial era in Asia and a work that introduced a

new dimension in spite

into Asian historiography, Panikkar demonstrated that

of all the benefits, economic, social and

political, that Christian

missions had enjoyed in China, India and in Southeast Asia, Christianity

had failed to establish itself as a major religion in any nation, apart, that is, from the Philippines which he mentions only in passing. "The attempt to

conquer Asia for Christ," he concluded, "has definitely failed." 3 Early

signs of



China and India had

failed to bear fruit


in Japan,

Thailand and Burma, where mission never appeared hopeful, the rise of nationalism and the revival of existing religions meant that Christianity


the faith of small religious minorities.

Panikkar, writing in the early 1950s, saw no need to deal extensively

with Indonesia where


then appeared Christianity had

made no


impact on a predominantly Islamic society. In the rivalry to absorb what he called the pagan tribes of the interior Panikkar concluded that, "victory undoubtedly lay with Islam.'*4 While in part the relegation of

Indonesia to the "lesser countries of Asia" reflected Pannikkar's


lack of familiarity with Dutch and Indonesian sources, his very negative

assessment of the impact of Christianity in the Dutch East Indies, and of




Religion and Karo Society

place in the newly independent Republic of Indonesia, sets a dramatic

backdrop for the growth of Christianity in post-revolutionary Indonesia and the degree to which it has become an authentically Indonesian religious option.


Panikkar, with

was not able

all his insight into


movements of Asian


from its colonial and western associations, Christianity would make significant progress in China, Indonesia and elsewhere and, while still falling far short of history,

to foresee

that, liberated

becoming the major religion of any nation other than the Philippines, it would play an important role in the evolution of new Asian societies. Nor was it only in Indonesia that Christianity, shorn of its imperialist appearance, came to appeal more strongly to mountain primal communities than the Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam of their powerful lowland neighbours, in the years following independence. In Karoland, and within the

Karo dispersion,

Christianity has


major role since independence, both as a personal religious option and as a catalyst for human and social development. While the to play a

confident assertions

made in the 1890s that the complete Christianisation

of the Karo people was only a matter of time have not been borne out, the Christian mission to the

Karo has

certainly not

That success, in terms of numerical growth, came era ended, and that the mission has


been a


after the missionary

a major contribution to the

economic and human development of the Karo people, whether they became Christian or not, are two features of this development that were not obvious in the 1950s, and which have real significance for the historical assessment of what took place. The reasons for Karo resistance to Christianity are clear enough in what has been discussed. That the fragile Christian community would social,

survive the sudden, traumatic termination of missionary leadership,

management and

financing in 1942 was


less obvious,

and few

could have anticipated the spectacular growth of the 1960-1980


work of the Netherlands Missionary Society created a climate that would favour later response to Christianity, and that the emergence of Karo leadership It

has been suggested that the patient and largely unrewarded

from 1942, and the attitude and role of the church during the occupation and revolution, paved the way for a Karo reassessment of Christianity. Other factors were also at work. Observers, among them Martin Goldsmith 5 have indicated that Karo people had grown dissatisfied with the primal religion before encountering viable alternatives. While many ,



Religion and Karo Society

of the dissatisfied have remained as secularised perbegu

were open

to change,

when an



appropriate opportunity presented


Coming now in Karo dress, Christianity provided a new metaphysical and intellectual framework for a people always open to new insights and alert to new ideas. The Christian communities provided new and appropriate

forms of the mutual help networks central to Karo

life. It is


hope beyond the limits Many Karonese responded

also that Christianity provided an eschatology, a


this life, lacking in the

primal religion.

6 with warm, and sometimes bizarre, enthusiasm. In significant ways

Christian eschatology filled the gap




the high expectations held

democracy and justice collapsed with the discrediting of the and the steady decline into the repressive paternalism of Soekarno's "Guided Democracy". In this respect at least, Christianity took the place of the earlier messianic movements such as Parhudamdam in providing a long-term personal hope, and a hope for the community, for liberty,

political parties


a time of traumatic change.

The growth and development of Roman Catholic



and Pentecostal denominations and the recent expansion of Methodist evangelism into the Karo homeland all mean that the Reformed Gereja Batak Karo Protestan will not now, the Karo, the arrival of sectarian

alone, represent Christianity in Karoland. the largest

and most

significant of the



however, by far

Karo churches, and the Christian

group most consciously Karonese and most consciously ecumenical

work will

in Karoland.


this reason, in the

discussion to follow,



be taken to represent the Karonese response to Christianity.

The gradual emergence of Karo Muslim leaders, both ulama and haji, the realisation that Islamic values parallel the democratic values of Karo society, and most of all the new awareness of Islam as the religion of the overwhelming majority of Indonesia's citizens, and of the Republic's leaders, have all tended to promote a new openness to Islam since the

who are well informed and have come to appreciate the growing

mid-1970s. In recent years Karo people, keenly interested in world


world religion, and of Islamic nations between the eastern and western power blocs. Islam is seen now by most Karonese as a national and international religion, not

international role of Islam as a as a third force

as the tribal religion of their neighbours, although those neighbours'



give rise to concern, particularly in the sensitive Karo-

land/Aceh border regions. While Christianity

modern Karo

society the growing


the strongest religion in

Muslim community

will ensure that a


Religion and Karo Society

religious pluralism, not simply a pluralism of Christian denominations


sects, will

Within in the


be the feature of Karo religion

in the foreseeable future.

pluralism perbegu remains a viable religious option and

1970s was


strong in isolated areas and

unyielding traditionalists. The old religion, however,

among groups of is

under constant

pressure from encroaching education and general enlightenment, and

from the expanding religious communities. The Perodakodak attempt to revitalise the primal religion and to secure its recognition by the state appears to have failed, but the introduction of "Agama Hindu-Buddha"

with exactly the same objectives

may prove to be more successful. Karo

people show positive reactions to the emerging documentation of their

and Indian religions may appeal both Karo primal tradition and as a counterweight to the encroachment of what are seen sometimes to be "European" and "Arab" religions. Comment is also made that Hindu-Buddhism was the one Indonesian religious tradition that did not have its own political party in the days of multi-party politics, and which is therefore in no way implicated in the collapse and discrediting of party politics. For the disappointed and disillusioned it could represent a new beginning, free society's cultural debt to India,

as an affirmation of the

of negative associations.



who have grown

disillusioned with the

Karo primal


gion a significantly large proportion has opted, actively or passively,

one of the major world religions. Some have done so in spite of adopting a religious identity to satisfy the government. These are the secularised perbegu community, involved in the various rituals of their Christian, Muslim or perbegu kin and for secularism rather than for

neighbours, influenced to a greater or lesser degree by magic and other traditional practices, but not themseslves

bound by any religious system

of belief or practice. Since the 1970s they have been joined by some

who have dropped out of the Christian and Muslim communities, for a de facto secular-agnostic

view of

identity only for registration purposes. strict



and retaining


their religious

the church's discipline



with regard to registration and conformity some are finding that

Muslim is an easier way of keeping up a religious identity government purposes. By the 1980s there were reports of city people actively discouraging village Christians from keeping up their religious practices. Where once city people had returned to their home villages registration as


to evangelise their kin

some now

return to visit family graves without

even attending the church. 7 Again, Karo alertness

to the outside



Religion and Karo Society




the realisation that

it is

possible to have education,

technological progress and social development without religion, as ap-

pears to



be the case

in the developed, "Christian",

films and other cultural manifestations leave

world whose

many Indonesians deeply may now increasingly

progress The quest for kemajun become a mixed blessing for the religious communities, and a puzzled.


propagating, and self-confident, secularism, spreading from the cities, will

prove more resistant to religious conversion than either the dimincommunity or the rival religions. Like their co-religionists

ishing primal

much of the rest of the world, Karo Muslims and Christians are having to come to terms with a religious pluralism in which their claims to exclusive revelation and insight are made alongside the equally assured in

claims of other religions, and against the background of an increasingly secular lifestyle.

and culture were not distinguished, nor were religious and social obligations differentiated. It was only with the coming of western ideas that these various categories were separated In the primal society religion

and distinguished from each


The primal

society functioned as

an integrated whole, prior to the intrusion of alien

political, social


The obligation of kinship was as much a moral or was the prohibition against life- taking. The laws of

religious influences. religious matter as

the natural

and supernatural worlds were not distinguished, indeed such

a distinction would have been meaningless.

The emergence of a perbegu-Christian-Muslim pluralism

Karo on the


society has led to attempts to differentiate between religion

one hand and the socio-cultural obligations of daily life on the other. Kinship and other adat obligations make it important for Christians in

whose religious discipline is much stricter than that of the Muslim community, to identify elements in family and communal ritual


can be regarded as adat rather than as religion, and to establish to what degree a Christian may join such rituals, seek the help of a guru or use traditional medicines, charms and prayers. Initially many aspects of adat were defined as religious by the missionaries who sought to preserve converts from any contact with the primal religion. Rules of separation were strictly enforced. Not only were pagan rituals, magic and divination denied to Christian converts but the music of the gendang, traditional dancing and social ceremonies connected with such events as that

the entry into a

new house were


significant pagan religious element.

banned, as each was seen to have a Most contemporary Karo Christians


Religion and Karo Society

justify this strict policy as being necessary during the initial contact

between Christianity and the primal religion, and some older ministers and guru agama express anxiety about the degree of relaxation that has taken place in recent years.

One consequence

of the emergence of Karo leadership in the church

has been a greater confidence in distinguishing between what



gendang music associated with trance, possession and the rites of the spirit medium, the tendi-begu cult and the practices of kinigurun and mistik, on the one hand, and what can be seen as cultural and recreational on the other. The use of western categories of differentiation, readily available in modern Indonesian, has provided a terminology for analysis and classification of elements in Karo culture. Reaching agreeement about what, exactly, is religious, cultural or social, however, is far from simple, and debates on these matters take place wherever Karo people meet, from village coffee shops to the synod religious, such as the

of GBKP.

A more detailed examination of some instances of this attempt

to distinguish

between religion and culture

will further illustrate the

late 1970s in the search for a legitimate accommodation between the adat community and Protestant Christianity, the most significant of the new religions in Karoland.

phase reached by the

The rites

associated with marriage are clearly of central importance to

a community for which kinship relationships are so basic, and of necessity these rites

to all

and the relationships arising from them are of vital


members of the community, regardless of their religious affiliation.

Dr Masri Singarimbun has given a detailed account of adat arrangements and procedures in his Kinship, Descent and Alliance Among the Karo 8 Batak, and a very brief summary has been offered above. Observation Karoland proper, and in the Karo communities in Java and Langkat, where the writer participated in many weddings, sometimes as officiating minister, sometimes as kin receiving the appropriate portion of in

the tukur? or as a village neighbour in Singgamanik,


quite clear

that the marriage proceedings are almost entirely adat. Their function is

to establish

and formalise the kinship relationships arising out of the

marriage agreement. The only elements of the primal religion observed lay in the role of the kalimbubu and in the reading of omens. Neither

obtrusive and neither appears to cause concern to Christian or




The ally

function of the kalimbubu as "visible gods" is not taken literby the modern Karo, but the role of this important kin group is


Religion and Karo Society


deeply respected. Words of blessing spoken by one's kalimbubu,

a Christian or Muslim prayer offered by one's kalimbubu, and symbolic gifts

given by the kalimbubu remain matters of great significance, inter-

preted privately by different people in different ways. Christianity has

imposed a new group of intermediaries between humankind and the divine world (the clergy who function regardless of kin relationships), but the kalimbubu have not been marginalised or forgotten. Karo Christians resort to vagueness in defining their role in the


order of things but

kalimbubu for something much deeper than mere good wishes on important occasions. 10 Reading the

clearly look to their

good will and their omens of the nuptial chicken is no longer part of a Christian marriage ceremony but the shared meal of the bridal couple and the offering of symbolic foods retain their important place, and Christians have been observed to speculate, without the aid of a guru, about the significance of the


which the bridal couple divide the cooked chicken, much


as western people light-heartedly consult their horoscope.

What is clear is

that all religious groups, apart

from the rigid Christian


can participate together in the traditional marriage ceremonies,



have great social significance and need not involve specif-

ically religious or ritual acts. In the Protestant

regularised the village

by head or pengulu

state officials, the civil registrar in

are complete.

It is

Church marriage is towns and cities and

in rural areas, after the adat negotiations

the task of this official to ensure that Indonesian legal

requirements are met and, in the case of the pengulu, that the adat parties are agreed.

Only then do the


certificate to request the blessing

in the church,

and often

approach the church with the legal

11 of their marriage which takes place

as part of the


service, the bridal pair

seated in special chairs in front of the congregation.


service of blessing


placed within the adat ceremonies which



to the

house from which she will leave, where customary speeches are

made before

the bridegroom's procession goes to the bride's

the procession sets out, with the bride and

their supporters, to the church. In the case

elder or minister




may join



groom leading

of a Christian wedding an

the kin representatives in the bride's house,

and offer prayer before the procession

The Protestant service of blessing

is brief,

sets out.

outlining Biblical teaching

regarding the duties of husband and wife and emphasising throughout

need to offer each other support in their differing roles, to seek harmony, to avoid conflict, to be forgiving, and to be of one heart and one the






Religion and Karo Society

mind. The marriage vows emphasise the promising of love and respect by both parties and the fulfilment of the responsibilities of marriage and family life. A promise is made not to part unless parted by God through death. What appears, basically, to be a western marriage liturgy in fact underlines and strongly affirms central values held in common by the adat and religious communities. GBKP marriage discipline is strict, seeking with the support of the adat community to reduce the incidence of divorce and to maintain strong family units.

Following the vows the bridal couple


the officiating minister

blessed (ipasu-pasu) by


places one hand on the head of each, as

they kneel, while pronouncing the Aaronic blessing, 12 the Karonese translation of

which echoes ideas familiar

Ipasu-pasu janah ikawali Dibata







May God bless you, and surround you with protection Siang ayo Dibata ersinalsal ibabondu


13 .



May the brightnesss (often a simile for smile) of God's face shine upon you



which introduces an entirely new concept of God, no longer far away and aloof or present only through a hierarchy of intermediaries, . . .


malem atendu

May He make


your heart cool

— another fundamental con-

cept in Karo thinking, closely parallel to the



Following the blessing a hymn in the


hymns from

Hebrew shalom


Hymnal appear


sung and prayer is offered. Most hymns


be translations of European hymns or

other Batak hymnals, sometimes themselves translations

or adaptations of foreign hymns.

The gusto with which


Karonese hymns, or hymns whose translations relate specifically to Karo ways, are sung is quite noticeable. Hymn 124 is a clear example:

empo, kam


you who take a woman


Ipasu-pasu Tuhan Dibatandu, o tersereh





14 .


Lord God

bless you,

marriage (ngempo), and you


are given in marriage


The use of

precise adat terms, in their proper context, rather than ref-

erence to some vague western idea of being married, along with



Religion and Karo Society

make this a popular wedding hymn. There may be a spehave now received and "to show our rejoicing that

vigorous tune, cial offering,

God's blessing

...**, after

which the service proceeds




and the procession, now followed by the congregation, makes its way to the place where the adat ceremonies and the wedding feast will be held, 15 The customary wedding usually in the community jambur or loos. procedures pose problems only to the Christian sects that have rejected adat altogether, along with marriage tukur (thus behaving like western

people who, the Karo say, give and receive brides as though they were of no value) and even the traditional marriage dress with



and adat are mutually supportive of the Karo underpin marriage and family life; GBKP as a matter of

jewellery. Christianity

values that

policy will not bless marriages that offend adat, such as marriage in the

same merga, and accepts those forms of elopement (nangkih) sanctioned by adat, although introducing some safeguards of its own to ensure that there are witnesses present and that the bride-to-be is taken to a church elder's home where her decision and family negotiations can be made without duress.


The Karo funeral, similarly, poses few major problems for Christian and Muslim people, although there are areas of overlap between primal rites and the social custom of Karo adat. Kinship ties and neighbourliness make it a matter of obligation to attend funerals and to participate in the dancing and speechmaking according to one's individual relationship to the chief mourners. The manner and extent of participation varies, within certain limits, from person to person. An account of the traditional



has been given earlier.





of typical Christian funerals, one from the lowlands and one from a highland village, will give some picture of the degree to which accom-

modation has been made. For Christian Karonese the kalimbubu-anak beru-senina obligations stand firm and can over-ride even the new professional religious roles.


Each kin group has


defined role to


A grave is dug, a coffin is made — usually right alongside the mourners, with

much sawing and hammering

and food is prepared by the anak The kalimbubu sit in places of honour and the senina identify with the mourning family. The gendang traditional orchestra has always been


closely associated with the tendi-begu cult and


use in funerals has

been widely regarded as a mark of perbegu, as opposed to Christian, 19 ritual. By the late 1970s, however, cautious use of the gendang in the section of the ceremonies for which the church was responsible was


Religion and Karo Society

being made, and Christians were, it seemed, in the adat ceremonies.


For Christian funerals

concerned about its use

became customary



the parish council to negotiate with the orchestra regarding the selection

of music, or even to employ Christian musicians for the occasion.

Also by the 1970s an acceptable procedure had evolved that allowed


adat and the church clearly defined roles in the funeral. Unlike

the Christian wedding, adat ceremonies precede the Christian liturgy at funerals. is

While Christians may

usually a clear break, often

participate in the adat section there


interrupted the adat


ceremony with

by church elders as At one funeral I observed, elders

quite sharply

the agreed time for burial draws near.

play a Christian




— Women!

cries of "Bern! Bern!

until the wailing ceased; at another the



gendang was asked


silence the Christian liturgy


is read by a minister, guru agama or elder, the coffin is closed, and the procession moves off to the burial place led by a representative of

for burial

the anak beru carrying a cross with the deceased person's name and dates and an inscription such as "Idilo Dibata called by God ". Singing of hymns generally replaces the gendang music as the procession makes 21 its way to the burial ground, where Christian and Muslim dead are buried among their kin and neighbours. At the burial place the liturgy is completed, the grave filled in and the wooden cross left to mark the .







The burial liturgy itself is brief and simple, divided into two distinct The first, designated "In the house" is in fact usually held at the


place of the adat gathering, and the second, designated "At the place

of burial"


read at the graveside. The


section comprises


the recitation of the Apostles' Creed (which


baptismal instruction) the reading of a psalm and

New Testament verses,

learned during pre-

a Kata Pengapul or message of comfort based on a scripture passage prepared and delivered by the officating elder or minister, and prayers,

on themes of hope and comfort By general agreement no wailing is allowed after the liturgy begins, and the forgetful are reminded sharply of the proprieties of the occasion by people near them. Usually the body is placed in the coffin before the liturgy begins, and the lid is nailed down before the procession moves off for the burial, when there is often another outburst of grief from family and friends. At the graveside a



sung while the coffin


lowered into the ground, scripture

passages are read and words of comfort are spoken as earth into the grave.






concluded with the Lord's Prayer and a


Religion and Karo Society

hymn. The GBKP service book makes no provision for a benediction at the graveside, and at the conclusion of the first section only in the case of the burial of a church worker, where the whole service is in a church building and


entirely Christian in content.

after leaving the burial

Most village people bathe

ground and before going

Detail from specific occasions will


to their


clear the degrees of inter-

and the attempt at demarcation, between religion and adat in modern funerals. A funeral attended at Suka Rende, near Pancur Batu in the Karo lowlands, was attended by many Christian people, who gathered around the corpse laid out on a straw mat in front of his house, with the widow at his head and the senior daughter-in-law on the right side, nearest the house. There was no dancing, some wailing and one woman, a classificatory daughter, kept up a singing dirge with themes of parting and loss but not referring to death directly. A variety of speeches was offered, including two by visiting ministers associated with the deceased man's son who was a prominent elder. Both offered words of comfort based on Christian ideas but expressed generally: "Your father has been called away by God, he has gone before us and we will follow ...**, which skilfully caught up and responded to the words of the chant, "Father has gone, father returns no more to our home The ministers, both young, were restrained and respectful aware that they were not "in charge" at this point, but at the same time they were clearly confronting the primal belief with a modest statement of the action,

Christian eschatological hope, shorn of any exaggeration, speculation

or emotionalism.

When rain fell the body was removed to the church building, although services in the church are reserved this

by GBKP for elders and ministers. In

case the church was a convenient, dry place. In the church anak beru

came to the kalimbubu with money wrapped in a traditional woven cloth, begging that it be accepted. Adat speeches were made emphasising that was to ensure that the deceased would not be forgotten in the future. Words of comfort were offered and speakers from the bereaved family, the kalimbubu and the anak beru underlined the participation of the dalihan na tolu without which no Batak ceremony would be the gift


In a

more modern departure from

raries" of the deceased

the normal procedure, "contempo-

man's adult children spoke and gave a cash gift and the man's son quite unexpectedly spoke, after the adat speeches during which another, as was proper, had spoken for him. The to the family,


Religion and Karo Society

son brought a very personal touch to the proceedings, making a strong

and moving

tribute to his father's life and character and to the value of his guidance, and referring to the fact that he had resisted baptism until within

a few months of his death. Speeches were offered by church

representatives and the burial liturgy

was read by

the local minister

who began by announcing a hymn, which established that control of proceedings had now passed from the adat leaders to the church officials. The

funeral at

Suka Rende


a situation where adat require-

ments are observed by speech-making and exchange of gifts (including

some possessions of the deceased) but where Christian involvement at points made even the adat ceremony a Christian event, in which of course others participated. The master of ceremonies (protokol the all

Indonesian term was used), was a


elder and the role of local

and visiting ministers was evident The adat, however, was respected and church people conformed to it; traditional behaviour was respected, being neither forbidden nor ignored; and Karo people of other religious persuasions were able to enter as of right into the traditional speechmaking and ceremonies, according to their relationship to the deceased and his family. The degree to which this funeral and ritual in this region the Sunggal of

earlier times

— have been


to the decline of adat in the lowlands as to

of communal



much due

any Christian take-over

was at this funeral that local people said to the writer, "We need someone to write an adat book for us. We no longer remember how to do things like this properly and we are always afraid that people from the highlands will come and rebuke us, or mock us, because we cannot remember our own adat." Here dancing and gendang were not in evidence, although a very noisy traditional funeral procession was observed at nearby Suka Maju in 1976, and all trace of the begu-tendi cult were gone. Indonesian procedures for public gatherings influenced the form of the ceremony, particularly in ordering the speech-making, and people were not afraid to allow innovation such as the son's tribute to his father. The process of secularisation and were beginning to be loss of Karo-ness hilang Karona, people say evident In some ways the church has been part of this process, with the introduction of fairly stark and quite western liturgies, and in part it has resisted it by insisting that leaders and members respect adat, the dalihan na tolu, Karo language and the Karo way of doing things. In rituals. It

Suka Rende, long exposure

to Christianity

and the inroads of secularism


Religion and Karo Society

had quite shorn

this funeral

of any remnant of the old religion, leaving

could participate. The emerging pluralism of Karo society will ensure, however, that Christianity does not take over and become legitimator of the adat, as has been the case with Islam in it

a ceremony in which


the Sipirok region of Angkola.


In highland villages religious aspects of the traditional funeral are

much more

evident, even in Christian funerals, and the participation

of perbegu and secularised perbegu maintains a

format up to the beginning of the



much more

tolu is very pronounced, with kin groups dancing to

as each approaches the sukut, the family


role of the dalihan


gendang music

group responsible for the

ceremony. Sung and spoken greetings and condolences are rich in traditional allusion

and the tendi of the deceased

may be

carried into

the dancing as items of their clothing are draped around the shoulders

of the dancers. For some, secularised as well as religious,

be interpreted simply as traditional or sentimental, as

this will

when western

people place items of significance to the deceased on the casket during a funeral. For others the meaning

is unambiguous. Tendi-rich objects were commonly used in Karo religion to involve the tendi (the whole of which can be represented by a small, separated part) of an individual

in religious or


rites. It is

claimed that the parish council will

negotiate with the musicians to determine what music will be used for the adat dancing at a Christian funeral,

generally satisfied that there


and adat and church leaders seem

adequate attention given to the concerns

when the liturgy was interrupted Singgamanik and the coffin reopened for the benefit of a busload of mourners who had travelled all day, only to miss the of both parties. Flexibility is allowed, as

on one occasion


traditional ceremonies.

At a funeral

that played for the landek


Batukarang in 1977 the gendang

dancing continued on to play an opening


and church ceremonies. Expressions used in the katapengapul at Christian funerals vary from comforting words of assurance based on scripture to statements that reflect both the sturdy realism with which Karo people confront death and their perceptions of God as an all-powerful and somewhat despotic for the liturgy, so linking the adat


whose decrees

are simply to be accepted with humility.

In the former category, at the funeral of a handicapped child


parents had foreseen his early death but had prayed for, and explored

every medical avenue to seek, alleviation of the boy's condition, two ministers without consultation chose to speak

on the experience of King


Religion and Karo Society

David related in II Samuel 12 15-23, affirming the parents* efforts and and offering comfort in David's words, "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me." (v. 23.) The acceptance of death as something over which people in primal societies had no control is frequently interpreted in Karo Christian circles as an outworking of the unfathomable sovereign power of God; an important element in the experience of King David, highlighted in the addresses mentioned (v. 22): "Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me that the child may live?" A father whose 28 year-old son was killed in an accident said, in the Kata Pengapul service held the day after the funeral, "We just have to accept his death, he was God's child before he was our child". Words of condolence from elders present were 23 firmly turned aside, seen in some way as being unworthy. In prayer on this same occasion an elder used the commonly heard expression, ". enggo icidahken kuasandu, O Dibata ... ... your power has been revealed O God ". There is more than a trace here of the fatalism of the primal belief, and much of the inscrutable mystery of the primal world has been superimposed on the God who is for many partly the unknown deity of the old religion and partly the almost equally unknown God of the new. An emphasis on God's power manifested among us, rather than on the joys of the afterlife which was a new and unfamiliar element in the Christian and Muslim preaching, certainly characterised :







the statements of Protestant lay leaders in the 1970s.

In many congregations a Kata Pengapul service is held in the family home within a few days of the funeral, a clear Christian substitute for the Perumah Begu rite. Members of the congregation meet, seated on the floor as for an adat gathering, and are served drinks and a



Various people speak, offering comfort and emphasising aspects of the Christian faith and hope.

peace and a



are sung and prayers are said, seeking

of acceptance of God's will for the family. Prayers

are not offered for the deceased in Protestant circles.


among Karo


at least


students in Bandung, a Kata Pengapul service

was arranged quickly when the flatmates of a motor-cycle accident the Indonesian term hantu victim began expressing fears about ghosts was used but clearly the begu si mate sada wari was the primary concern. Karo Christian graves are not markedly different from those of their fellow villagers. The thought of burying Christians separately from their kin is generally unacceptable, although the Toba custom of burying people on their own land was spreading into Karoland in the 1970s,

— 213

Religion and Karo Society



other things the claiming of a democratic right, for

only the sibayak and other leading people had such a right before the 24 Following the influence of Tapanuli also, more cement Revolution. graves, called semen, are appearing in Karoland. Like burial

on private

land they are a sign of the wealth and prestige of the family concerned:


tendi-strengthening elements in the old religion.

Most Karo graves however

are in village burial grounds, with earth

heaped over the grave and a waist-high bamboo fence erected around it. Traditionally this was probably another form of sacred enclosure, like the family offering-place,

and Christians


sometimes bring or

plant the leaves or plants that had sacral significance in the old religion:

"cooling leaves



malem-malem" and bunga sempa, ,

fragrant flower (Plumeria acutifolia) often planted at the head


and foot

of the grave.

People will

visit the

grave to mourn at the appropriate times, bringing

flowers in the place of the traditional food offerings, as a

way of

showing respect for their departed kin. The church has not opposed this practice and a satisfactory accommodation appears to have resulted. To depart altogether from traditional practices would have left a deep psychological vacuum for Karo Christians, and would have exposed the Christian community to accusations of being la eradat not faithful to lacking respect for one's kin. Karo ways, or la mehamat No Karo informants, Christian or traditional, favoured a revival of cremation, although people recognise that with a growing population,

becoming a problem. It was said that cremation was a "Hindu" custom, unworthy because it separated the dead from their ancestors and kin. Clearly cremation is now perceived generally to be an alien introduced practice, recalling the Sembiring belief that it had been imposed on them as a punishment, but more likely the distinguishing mark of an Indian or Indianised migrant group who in earlier times retained this custom, or were forced by Karo neighbours to practice it to avoid burying their dead in Karo soil. Marriage and burial are the rites that occur most often in Karo society, and which most frequently involve large numbers of people of all burial, particularly in cities, is

religious persuasions, as well as those


for all practical purposes

rites. To argue whether marriage contemporary Karo society are "social" or "religious" is to argue about categories that are by no means clearly defined. That the religious and adat communities can operate harmoniously together

live without observing

and burial


any religious


Religion and Karo Society

in these situations is a tribute to the creative genius with

society has coped with the social changes consequent

which Karo

upon the intrusion

of western attitudes, ideas and values since the 1880s. Informants and observation both suggest that the real area of difficulty lies

not with these major religio-social events but in the balancing of

kinship obligation and church discipline in respect to the church as being pagan.


seen by Pa Mbelgah


again, as the Sibayak

demonstrated, to step aside from kinship and social obligations



an option. The dalihan na tolu imposes clear obligations when kin hold such ceremonies as nurun-nurun, to clean and re-bury bones, or

perumah begu. Some

edge of

Christians attend and try to remain

work required by adat but not

things, doing the

actively in the rituals. Others participate, seeing the

on the


whole procedure as

a religiously neutral tradition. Ritual dancing can, similarly, be privately redefined as traditional culture, and entered into with a clear conscience. Participation in the


individual rites and practices of the old reli-

gious world presents another dimension to the dilemma. Here attitudes

vary from those who take a strict line of avoiding any contact with paganism through a spectrum of accommodation processes to the new

who may be

or un-instructed Christian


bound strongly to the old Such was the student in

religion, or to the magical practices of the guru.

Bandung who was unwilling to leave he had

lost his

baptism, he looked for


the hostel for his baptism because

magic charm (ajimat) its


from giving


up for


protection particularly as he approached this


Cases of resort to traditional healers are frequent. Where healing based on traditional wisdom and experience



can be seen to have an

empirical basis, scientific rather than magic, although a tabas or mantera is

usually applied to seal


effectiveness. Scientifically trained

doctors are in fact investigating

and employ,



traditional medicines to identify,

their therapeutic elements.

Educated Karonese, extending

the analogy, sometimes profess to believe that palm-reading (retak tan),

and other practices of the guru also have an objective, so the guru


scientific basis;

consulted as the appropriate expert, not as a practitioner

of religion or magic.


staunch Christians are influenced also by omens and dreams,

seeing in them guidance from God. influences from outside


Christian fundamentalist

GBKP have strengthened the idea that God gives

direct guidance in this way.

Dreams have always been important to Karo


Religion and Karo Society



People are

not infrequently seek assistance with the interpretation.


a person's


alert to the fact that there are




but limited role for dreams by suggesting that

encourage people in time of sorrow and direction as to the detail





sends dreams to than as clear

difficulty, rather


number of Karonese have

of such encouragement during the Revolution or

stories to tell

in the troubles that

of their

that arise out

has attempted to affirm a positive


GBKP discipline is


where clear compromise with the old religion has become a cause of public scandal or adverse comment, but the strict

church does not look for offenders or seek confrontation. integrity of the church's witness

In conclusion



Damage to the

be the primary concern.


may be suggested that extensive religious change has

not destroyed Karo adat, which once looked to supernatural sanctions for


authority; adat

was the custom bequeathed by

ancestors. Rather, in the

new religious

pluralism, adat

now for its own sake and in recognition of its






important social function,

has provided a strong yet sufficiently flexible framework within which traditional

and modern people, of many

different religious persuasions,

can live in harmony together and contribute to each other's wellbeing and advancement. Clearly adat


being undermined in urban areas, where young people

are less confident in Karonese as



imply a

and reluctant

to use kinship terms such

status subordinate to the

— and where mutual help has

person being

way to an Both adat and religion face an increasingly strong challenge from secularism, and from the materialism that is wooing more and more Karo people from their traditionally frugal


economy of buying and

life style.

long ago given

selling for profit.


With Karo society itself in a phase of rapid change and development it is

impossible to say whether the accommodation reached between adat

and the religious communities will survive and develop, or whether a reduced adat and much


vigorous religious movements will dull the

urgency of the issue. For the meantime is


can be said that Karo identity

stronger than the divisions of religious faith, so the society itself

able to

accommodate a new and unprecedented

be generous in


level of diversity,

openness to change and to individual choice.





From Old




— Aspects of Religious Karo



If it is



the Karonese has been the perception that both Islam and Chris-


were the religions of powerful and threatening neighbours, then


major inhibiting factor for religious change

that the

can be claimed that the major influence favouring religious change has

come from


new world- view

introduced to Karoland


by Eu-

ropeans, and later reinforced by increasing integration into Indonesian national affairs.


Karo primal society


and religion were woven together,


taking place where people lived or worked, and not being limited to

prescribed days or times. Also, the deities with which ordinary people

had to do were the family and household guardians, nature spirits, deified ancestors and the guardians of village and agricultural land.

One major impact latter since it

in Karoland, has life


of Islam and Christianity, and principally of the

has been the most influential of the introduced religions

been the severing of the intimate relationship between

religion. This has

obvious of these


happened on a number of


The most

the centralisation of religious events in specially

Muslim prayer-house community with no mosque), mosque or church. These buildings are new objects on the Karo landscape, foreign in architectural form and serving an unfamiliar function. This was illustrated in the 1970s set-apart buildings such as the village langgar (a

for a


plans were

tourist object, to


living, functioning relic

had been


on the


of Lingga a form and architecture as a

to designate the historic village

be preserved

in traditional

of traditional

outskirts of

fell just



the village,


church, which

and which was neat and

within the radius of the land designated for

preservation, and efforts were

made 216




moved away

or rebuilt

From Old





— Aspects of Religious Change

traditional form.

planners' concern.



Karo Society


church people could identify with the

They were not objecting

to the presence of a

building but to the presence of a building that was quite out of



with traditional Karo architecture.

This centralisation of religion in a particular building had the potential

and must be seen as one reason why many of those converted during the mass evangelism programmes of the 1960s never came to church services. GBKP has been alert to this for major dislocation of



danger, and significant elements of church




communal or res-

Household worship is emphasised with a parent taking an initiating role within the nuclear family, and the church has provided resources for personal and family worslrip. Worship, evangelism, instruction and church-initiated community programmes all take place in communal gatherings, in someone's home or in the community jambur idential in nature.

or loos.

Most parishes hold week-night

services in people's homes,


pre-baptismal instruction usually takes place in such an environment,

and so


semi-public in nature. Enquirers are in fact encouraged to

observe and to participate actively in such programmes.


da' wan and rites of initiation are public and, while formal

prayers are offered at set times of the week, individual Muslims


observe the daily prayer times where they are working or by pausing in

and Muslim families can gather for household prayers. Thus and Islam there is some integration with village life and an openness to observation and participation by the uninitiated. It is the weekly formal worship and the most sacred rites that are removed into a church or mosque context where outsiders, and seemingly even some their travel,

for Christianity

recent converts, are less likely to follow. Similarly the



have introduced a new concept of


gious timing. In the primal community worship and ritual took place

when people gathered

for a particular purpose, or

when an


time had been determined by divination. Apart from the observation

of some annual festivals, there

is no regular pattern of traditional ceremonies during the year. Both Islam and Christianity have set times for weekly worship, for seasonal festivals in which the whole community

and Islam observes a daily pattern of individual prayer. The and purpose of some religious festivals remain vague to many converts and many assume that secular celebrations such as western New Year are religious in nature: a not unnatural assumption in the participates,


Malay-Indonesian world where places of transition are perceived to be


From Old to New

— Aspects ofReligious Change

fraught with danger, thereby requiring



Karo Society


ritual intervention.

separation of religion and life into segments that can be identified

as either religious or secular has brought with

religion will

another danger, that


in Karo society. one of many optional elements in life, an

be compartmentalised, or marginalised,

Religion could



optional activity to which individuals give as tion as they choose.

advanced in some


There are signs already that



that secularism will

or as







be a major challenge

and Islam in the future. Modernisation, along with dethat emphasise hard work, self-reliance, investment and the accumulation of wealth, and a growing awareness that many to Christianity

velopment values

make progress), is leading some converts to reassess their earlier commitment to religion. Christianity has also introduced new divisions into Karo society. While, western societies are only nominally Christian (and

for the



Christian-Muslim relations

village level in Karoland are harmonious, this



at personal,

family and

not so with the Christian

These groups take rigid attitudes against custom and tradition, ban and ignore or even oppose traditional kinship relationships and responsibilities. Resects.

participation in traditional ceremonies, religious or cultural,

action to this attitude


equally strong, and resentment against religious

divisiveness has been a further impetus toward secularism which in the

1980s appeared to be becoming quite militant.

Regarding the formal beliefs of Karo Christians, very tive nature

can be offered. Christian

as in the early church


faith is taking root in

and in every subsequent new

of a defini-


soil and,

cultural environment,

Karo Christians are experimenting with religious vocabulary, with ways of expressing faith and belief, and with giving content to ideas and terminology adopted from other religions. God, as has been seen, is both addressed and spoken of as Dibata, using a name taken from Hinduism by way of the Karo primal religion. While in terms of grammar Dibata is a plural form, adapted from Sanskrit devata-gods,



used in Christian circles with a singular

meaning, God, and few Karonese would be aware of this grammatical technicality which it shares with the Hebrew EloHm, which it translates in

Neumann's Karo Old Testament. Both words have

retained their

original plural forms, as ancient polytheistic patterns of belief gave to


in ancient Israel




modern Batakland.

The degree to which the Karo were consciously aware of a "High God" is unclear. That formal belief in both God (Mula Jadi na bolon 1

From Old



— Aspects of Religious Change


Karo Society


Dibata) and in the divine triad existed, cannot be doubted. Nor can it be doubted that these, perhaps vestigal, beliefs eased the way for Karo 2 acceptance of both monotheism and the Christian trinity. If it is true, as it appears to be, that use of the name Dibata has

not introduced Indian concepts of divinity into Karonese Christianity, it is

equally true that out of their

own much

older religious tradition

Karo people have carried into popular Christianity (and probably into contemporary Karonese Islam) an understanding of God very similar to what we are told of the old Batak nature deity, Mula Jadi na bolon. Many people see God as aloof, awesome, freely exercising sovereign power, far above real human fellowship, mysterious and unfathomable in purpose. When the writer asked a group of church leaders why Neumann had translated "fellow-workers (with God)" as "God's servants"3 in what is generally a careful translation the reply was prompt and clear. "No Karo people at that time could have accepted the idea of humans working together with God, so Neumann chose an expression they could accept." There are Karo sayings that refer to God's sovereign majesty, and to God's knowledge of the "life and death" of humankind, few that 4 reflect the nurturing, patient, compassionate nature of God. Many of these traditional ideas of God have been fortified by Old Testament passages, and particularly by the dramatic stories included in the Old Testament section of the 104 Bible Stories almost universally used in Protestant catechetical instruction. J.


Neumann used Jahwe

Yahwe appeared

in the

in his



Old Testament a bold



for the time

where which

provided an intriguing Elohim-Dibata Yahwe-Jahwe parallelism with :

Hebrew text. Enquiry however, as to the degree of comprehension evident among Bible readers, tended to indicate that Jahwe was seen, like Allah, as the name another ethnic group used for God; "Dibata the

kalak Yahudi


God of Jewish people", most answered. When using

the Indonesian language, in


as a courtesy

Karonese, Karo people speak of


it is


when speaking



as "Allah" without hesitation.

is one God, known To them it seems appropriate, old Karo name for God among

evident that Karo Christians believe there

to different peoples

and obvious,


different names.

to continue to use the


Furthermore the use of Dibata demonstrates a perceived continuity with the old world, as opposed to an abrupt break, as was underlined





chose Paul's words in Athens, "What therefore


From Old to New

— Aspects of Religious Change


Karo Society

you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you" (Acts 17 23b) as the sermon theme for the annual commemoration of the beginning of 5 Christian mission to Karoland. People saw the church affirming that Christianity was a clarification of an earlier Karo belief in God, not a :

total denial

of all parts of the old religion.

The most dramatic effect of the widespread acceptance of Christianity in Karoland,

however, has been the wholesale elimination of the lesser

and intermediaries from the religious world of Karo Christians. Protestant Christianity in particular imposes a radical monotheism on its believers, leaving no room for Batak ancestral spirits,

divinities, spiritual beings

begu, nature


the "visible dibata"




manifestations of the divine world,

the kalimbubu, have had their religious

and social

role substantially secularised.

In fact, of course, this radical transformation of the

world is


from complete;


European experience




any guide,



never be complete. Once again a dynamic pluralism, rather than a totally

new religious

order, has emerged.

Contemporary Christians



place great emphasis on the Biblical creation stories, which are in a

form easily assimilated and which go beyond the sketchy traditional cosmology. Belief in God "who created heaven and earth"6 allows Christians to see the divine world as existing under the sovereign


of the creator who, despite the mysterious outworking of his purposes, is

believed to be well disposed toward humankind.




the spirit world. "It

present leadership has avoided confrontation with is

better to let the old Batak spirits rest in peace",

one senior minister said when a colleague suggested attempting an exorcism. The church does not deny or support belief in spiritual powers and beings, but looks to Christ, risen and present with the church, and to the Spirit of God to empower Christians for life in a world that is God's creation and in which God's power is supreme. Christians, individually, still manifest awe, fear and anxiety when confronted with spiritual powers associated with certain places or objects, such as a pengulubalang, a grave that was thought to be mejin or endowed with spiritual power, or the site near Batukarang where Japanese murdered hostages and disposed of the bodies without any of the appropriate rites. The possibility that wild spirits still haunt that place, that begu ganjang

some residual evil remains near old objects of awe or sites of sacrifice still makes some Christians cautious in their approach to such places, but the power of the old spiritual beings has been broken.



abroad, that

From Old



— Aspects of Religious Change


Karo Society


Similarly, the church has not challenged the role of the kalimbubu,

the visible gods as they


called, although in function they


visible representatives of the divine world, agents or mediators of


blessings, rather than actual divinities. In the revolving system of Karo

kinship everyone


someone's kalimbubu, so a

literal interpretation


mean accepting that everyone was divine. People One's own kalimbubu are known to be anak beru

"dibata niidah" would

smile at the thought.

or senina to other people.

rather in the functioning of the

It is


as representatives, within the kinship system, of the divine world, that

they were spoken of in this way.

Given this understanding it has been possible for the Christian community 7 to reinterpret and reaffirm the role of the kalimbubu within a monotheistic world.

It is



that calling the


8 gods was a "saying", a way of speaking of the key role

plays in Karo society. People say





that they never believed that the

in any direct kalimbubu could ensure tuah blessing and offspring or automatic way; "If we believed that they had that much power," a



"we would


have treated our kalimbubu with great

awe, and would have done much more to win their favour." Catholic Karonese

may be

afforded a


more scope

for retaining

belief in the intercession of departed kin under the guise of the inter-

cession of the saints, but the post- Vatican


renewal of the church has

tended to throw emphasis on other aspects of the faith and to work for a creative engagement with adat and culture rather than an attempt to "baptise" the Karo spirit world (after the

and provide new Christian It is

manner of the older missiology)

identities for its inhabitants.

clear that in Indonesia different aspects of the life

and ministry

of Jesus appeal more strongly to particular ethnic groups. For Karo Christians Jesus

is si


ikuten the one to be followed, as a moral y

guide, spiritual leader, as teacher and the one to

communion with God and with



in their


"holds the

way" 9

As spiritual leader human person, close to humankind

the divine world.

perceived as both an exalted

own journey through


and a

figure of divine majesty sharing

some mysterious way the nature and being of God. People seem to have avoided allowing the exalted nature of the risen Christ to dominate either their faith or their devotional life. The suffering in

and redemptive death of Jesus


a central theme in popular spirituality. A

hymn often sung at funerals likens

the suffering

planting of a seed, that must die before


and death of Jesus


to the

can come, and which

From Old to New


brings the hope of

— Aspects of Religious Change



for the believer.



Karo Society

The presence of Jesus

invoked in time of sorrow, bereavement or crisis, not as a wonderworker who will wave away the problem but as a spiritual companion is

and helper. 11 Nor

is it

only in

crisis that

people look to Christ. The

words of Matthew 11 :28, "Come to me all whose work is hard and whose burden is heavy, and I will give you rest", in the sanctuary of the Singgamanik church spoke eloquently to people who spent long hours working in the fields, travelling to the market towns or in other ways providing for themselves and their families.

The and

Karo Christians with Jesus appears both warmer

relationship of

less aloof than is

communities. enthroned in

sometimes the case

in other Indonesian Protestant

One hardly ever hears prayer addressed to, "Lord Jesus " 12 the Kingdom of Heaven in Karoland. The pietist .



tradition of personal spirituality, firmly enshrined in the

GBKP hymnal,

and emphasis on Jesus as companion-leader in this world, and the one whose suffering and death "opened the way" into a new relationship with God, maintain a sense of intimate relationship; while comparatively less interest in the mystical and triumphalistic aspects of Christology has saved the church from extravagant language and ideas, or the aloofness that comes from a concentration on the exalted Christ. People are impatient with resounding concepts that are difficult to understand, or to

be given any concrete meaning, and

to systematically tone



have been known

the language of over-enthusiastic visiting

preachers. Christian faith,


concrete realities of

hope beyond land, that

this life



the Karonese, then,


well grounded in the

world, as was the old religion. The Christian

has brought exciting

find comforting


religious ideas to Karo-

and helpful, but people will not allow

these things to divert them from present realities. It is




that this kind of faith-orientation should


out in a Christian concern for the world and for the welfare

of others. The mutual help (sisampat-sampaten) ethic of Karo

and the Christian

ethic of accepting



responsibility for others*

wellbeing blend well together. The example of the pre-war missionaries'

involvement in education, agricultural development, the development of market networks and other forms of community development have left

models for community projects

that deal with groups rather than

individuals and aim for development rather than relief.

up and developed wide-ranging programmes


GBKP has taken



From Old to New

— Aspects of Religious Change


Karo Society


and economic goals, and which are expressions of what Christian


responsibility can


in the

modern world. 13

Christian faith also emphasises accepting responsibility for one's


life and situation, replacing the fatalism of the old order, and so has given

further impetus to the long-term

Karo quest for kemajun

progress, and

push for development or pembangunan, which has been a primary objective of the post-war governments of Indonesia. The Indonesian Council of Churches and the international ecumenical agencies have to the

further reinforced this concrete call to

human development and and


At ship,


be involved

in "nation building",

the renewal of society, as well as in personal


same time emphasis on personal

and discipline

faith, learning



of church members, appears to have

in the life

averted the twin dangers of allowing Karo society itself to define the

and programmes, on the one hand, or of identifying the Kingdom of God exclusively with the struggle for social and 14 national development on the other. Here and there in Karoland one church and shape

its life

encounters the Benedictine motto,


labora, appropriated along


with words of power from other languages and religions.

It is

an apt

summary of the Karonese Christian spirituality of prayer and work. The life of church members revolves around a weekly schedule of activities, a major contrast with the more demand-related activities of the old religion. The primary obligation is attendance at the Sunday service which, particularly in towns and


brings together people of quite

wide-ranging social and economic levels in a that reaffirms the democratic, egalitarian traditional




new kind of


and participatory values of

people also attend house services and

meetings of church organisations for youth and women.


introduction of Bible study and cell groups in the 1970s caused

considerable friction between participants,

who enjoyed

the unstruc-

tured sharing and learning opportunities, and the church leadership,


feared the introduction of sectarian and charismatic influences that, in other churches, have caused serious divisions. 15

Resources for personal

spiritual growth are available to varying deThose educated since the war, and thus fluent in Indonesian, can material from quite sophisticated Bible commentaries, and intro-



ductions to aspects of Christian faith and thought, to a wide range of

small popular publications. There it

is less available in Karonese, some of produced by fundamentalist para-church organisations, but the church



From Old to New

— Aspects of Religious Change


Karo Society

increasingly seeking to provide resources for personal and family

worship. Religious pictures are popular, and

homes have

many Karonese


traditional Catholic pictures with the Sacred Heart or


similar theme; the bold and explicit presentation of such themes seems to

appeal. Musical cassettes have followed the battery-powered casssette-

player into the far corners of Karoland, making available a very wide

range of religious music, style

by professional

collections of recorded



much of it presented in attractive contemporary and vocal groups. GBKP has produced hymns. 16 Cassette recordings of perbegu and


were being sold

old religion sought to catch up with Special church programmes

Advent, Ascension (which






in 1976, as

even the

techniques of communication.

Christian festivals such as Easter,

a public holiday in Indonesia), and western

New Year. Many of these provide opportunity for creative participation and the use of drama and music setting of regular worship.



ways not possible

in the liturgical

parishes promote what


in effect

an on-going adult education programme. Facilitators are brought in

from church, government and university departments to lead courses in subjects ranging from Sunday School teaching to soil science and animal husbandry, from care of poultry to responsible family planning and health care. Government programmes such as re-forestation 1

(penghijauari)} to combat the erosion of highland hillsides where trees

have been cut out for firewood, have been vigorously supported by

GBKP. Many people cation

of the older generation, whose chance for formal edu-

was disrupted by war and

revolution, or

who came from


areas without schooling, speak with great appreciation of these non-

formal educational opportunities, and overseas experts have commented

on the effectiveness of developmental programmes, which aim to enhance the quality of village life 18 and so reduce the drift to the cities where people often encounter major difficulties. Credit Unions, motivator training, and the very effective Service and Development Department of the GBKP synod, have given a quite remarkable impetus and continuity to self-help development programmes, and to community-based development projects for roading, bridge-building (to link villages with the wider market opportunities and so extend their economic base), piping and channelling of water for household use and irrigation, and even the erection of small hydro-electric generators with the capacity serve two to three villages.


From Old to New


— Aspects of Religious Change


Karo Society

has been seen that Christianity not only introduced


new patterns of

from the context of household, village and the localised kin-group and set it in a Karo-wide, national and international context. The Gereja Batak Karo Protestan was the first belief to Karoland but also took religion

Karonese institution seeking to work throughout Karoland and in the Karo dispersion, the first attempt by Karo people to erect a permanent organisation that related to the whole of their society rather than to jabu, kesain or urung. GBKP has grown into a diverse organisation, continuing an energetic mission to the Karonese while at the same time real

and non-formal education, development, health care, family welfare, environmental and social issues, lay training, child care and preschool education, and women's and youth programmes. working

in formal

The church has adapted



of church order to the situation


presbyterial-sy nodal pattern

faces. Continuity of leadership is

provided by a synod executive called the Moderamen, presided over by a President or Moderator (Ketua

Moderamen) who with

deputy, general

from synod to synod, for terms of four years. The pattern has been to re-elect the Ketua and many of the

and other





officers is elected

members so long



as they are providing effective leadership.

has had few Moderators since 1942 and the

quality of leadership given to bom church

and society has meant that this

new position has come to be respected beyond the confines of the church. The Moderamen provides a corporate leadership, and the Moderator, Deputy Moderator and General Secretary ensure that this leadership has focus and personal, pastoral sensitivity. Presbytery (Klasis) and Parish Council provide similar leadership

and local levels. In the management of such an institution Karo custom has not provided models that could be applied directly. Application of the kalimbubu-anak beru-senina relationship, vital for valid Karo decisionmaking in other contexts, is hardly possible where the Moderator's kalimbubu might be an organisational subordinate and where the Treasurer might be expected to operate the church funds within the constraints

of his


at regional

kinship network.

The problem was well


during discussions leading to the establishment of a church bookshop

Kabanjahe. After all the problems arising from adat expectations had been discussed the Deputy Moderator countered with the comment, "Adi toko tokolah! If it is a shop operate it like a shop!" GBKP has had to follow this policy in a number of management and organiin

sation areas

where adat never anticipated the complications of a


From Old to New


— Aspects of Religious Change


Karo Society

— mutual murespect among kin groups, shared work, shared access — however, and harmony kin and communal

diverse institution.

The values

that underlie the adat



to resources,

in family,

maintained in ways appropriate to the new, and ations. Providing

Karo society



scope of oper-


religion has taken

level of social relationship,

and has helped to and

an organisational base for the

into a



develop new models for a society




part of the wider

more complex world. It

has been observed that Christianity entered Karoland only after

other, secular, influences

had begun

to penetrate.

Such influences con-

tinued to penetrate and establish themselves during the mission period

when response

to Christianity

and Islam was very limited, and

it is

not a surprising consequence that a significant number of people have

moved from

the primal religion into a secular life-style.

These are

the "secular perbegu", and the large

number of nominal

Muslim Karonese who have taken a

religious identity only to


government expectations. Being openly agnostic

Christian and

is still


conform difficult

position to maintain in Indonesia.

Nor has are


the primal religion lost all


influence. Traditional beliefs

many Karonese and most traditional rites are reported to time; the more elaborate now only very occasionally. "Indian" rites, such as cremation and the floating away

held by

from time Introduced

of ashes and bones, have been discontinued as people have realised

customs separated them from mainstream Karo life. Perbegu revivals such as Perodakodak may continue to appear from time to time, that these

although the revival of the primal religion under the guise of "Hindu-

Buddhism" appears

to offer better long-term prospects for recognition,

and Christianity in the 1960s largely took over the role of the former messianic movements. The final balance between these elements in the Karo religious pluralism


not yet evident The irony of the present situation


that the

cement for this dynamic harmony-in-competition between the religions is provided by a refined and reaffirmed adat, that stresses communal unity over against the potential divisiveness of the competing religions. The coming of world religions to Karoland has had a considerable social impact, at a time of rapid reorientation and social change. Both Islam and Christianity have helped Karo people to attain a national and international perspective on their own situation, and both religions affirm the democratic equality and co-operation that are the basis of the

From Old new




It is

— Aspects of Religious Change


Karo Society



Protestant Christianity, however, that has had the greatest social

impact, to date, both on



adherents and on Karo society in

general. Progressive education, community development, health and

family care and the training of people to accept responsibility in church

and community have, in Karoland, all contributed to the renewal of society, and the direction of "development" into people and communitycentred projects, rather than towards the exploitation that has occurred

elsewhere in the developing world. People and communities have been

encouraged to accept responsibility for their own life situations, and to intervene actively to change adverse conditions where that has been possible. Fatalistic attitudes

have been thrown off, and people have been

encouraged to seize the opportunities that presented themselves, to work for a better future for themselves and for their communities, as their forbears were doing

on the eve of the colonial era

in East Sumatra.


kemajun or a new development toward

Christianity has given a strong impetus to the quest for

progress, and in doing so


has set in train

secularism and a concentration upon material progress that

major challenge to both Christian and Muslim






some justification, blame Christian mission for this development Whether confronting a common challenge will bring these two religious communities closer together in Karoland, only time will tell. The strong social bond of Karo adat could facilitate this process in a society where relationships are still much more important than differences. The greatest difference between old and new in Karo religion, in the end, is to be found in the difference between the primal religion with its largely unchanging structure and content and the modern manifestations of world religions with their dynamic adaptability and relevance to changing situations. A primal religion is, by definition, relevant to one particular society only, and often acts as a conservative influence on the norms and values of that society. While open to absorb elements from other religions and cultures, a primal religion is stable, providing with

a constant basis for a relatively unchanging society, but unable to cope

with traumatic, radical social upheaval.

The world

religions, in their

phasised change,


contemporary manifestations, have em-


and the seeking of new and better

opportunities. Christianity, particularly, encouraged people to participants,

even motivators,


in the process of social change, rather

than passive, fatalistic victims of it. Clearly Islam and Christianity have


From Old to New

— Aspects of Religious Change

opened new horizons of personal difficult for the historian to



Karo Society

spirituality for their followers,


than are the clearly evident social

changes, and these have provided the spiritual energy, resource and

commitment required

to tackle long-term

development and to face a

radical restructuring of society.

The process of religious change, from old to new, gained momentum became more radical and pressing. Significantly this new momentum, particularly for Protestant Christianity, grew as the Protestant Church established its Karo identity and leadership, as the church affirmed the value of the "Karo way", and as people began to as these social changes

grasp with enthusiasm the new opportunities for education. Unlike societies

where religious change comes



a time of cultural collapse and

disintegration, however, major religious

change occurred in Karoland at a peak period of cultural confidence when Karo people were exploring their cultural past, and using the new opportunities to develop new forms of cultural expression, to be shared with the wider Indonesian society.

was seen to legitimate the quest for new knowledge, new opportunities and above all else progress, that would Christianity, in particular,

ensure Karoland enjoyed the benefits of the

At the same time

it is



clear from testimony and record that

people found a new personal spirituality and a new for their lives in



one or other of the world religions


spiritual orientation

— a new

faith for


Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations


Angkatan Bersenjata




Armed Forces


polite address for older

Berichte RMG

In die Welt fiir die Welt: Berichte der Rheinischen

literally "father".

Mission, Wuppertal. B.I.


Bahasa Indonesia: Indonesian language Bijdragen


de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van

Nederlandsch-Indie -uitgegeven door het Koninklijk Instituut

voor de Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkunde van





Berita Kajian Sumatera/Sumatra Research Bulletin,



Badan Penerbit


Christian Conference of Asia, orig.


Du. Sub-district

Kristen: Christian Publication



officer, colonial administration


Dutch language


Dewan Gereja-Gereja di Indonesia: Indonesian Council of Churches now PGI. Norm Sumatra Regional Council of Churches


Daerah Khusus Ibukota:







(Fern. Dra, doctoranda.)






MA, MSc, MCom

K. Upper Deli, Serdang and Langkat, largely populated

by Karo people.


East Asia Christian Conference,


English translation of the work cited






Gereja Batak Karo Protestan: The Karo Batak Protestant



now CCA


and K. Guru Agama: Teacher-evangelist


Gerakan Mahasiswa Kristen Indonesia: Indonesian Student Christian





Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations

Gereja Masehi


Minahasa: Christian Evangelical

Church of Minahasa Golkar

Gologan Karya: Functional Group


Gereja Protestant Indonesia bagian Barat: the Protestant



political coalition

Western Indonesia


Gereja Protestant Maluku: Molucca Protestant Church


Gerakan 30 September: 30 September Movement




Muslim who has made

the pilgrimage to



Huria Kristen Batak Protestan: the major Toba Batak


Huria Kristen Indonesia:

(Lutheran) church.


Toba Batak Lutheran

church Ir

academic scientist,


for an engineer, architect, agricultural

ME, MArch, MAgSc, etc. Du ingenieur, B.I.



International Review of Mission(s) [Missions until

April 1969],



Indonesian translation


Journal of South East Asian History, Singapore


Karonese language


Kabupatan: Sub-Province


Kecamatan: County




Netherlands Indies






Normal School,


Malay language


Maatschappij: Commercial/business


Mededelingen van wege het Nederlandsch Zendeling Genootschap; bijdragen tot de kennis derZending en der Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van NederlandschIndie\

for training teachers.






Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk: Netherlands Reformed



de rechten): Master of Laws



NederlandschelndischeCiviele Administrate: Netherlands Indies Civil Administration, following




Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations


NST n.p.


Negara Indonesia Timur: State of East Indonesia Negara Sumatera Timur: State of East Sumatra

no pagination B.I. Nyonya,


form of address for a married

woman, Mrs







Netherlands Missionary Society


Overseas Missionary Fellowship, founded as China Inland Mission


original edition, version or date of printing of the






Partai Kristen Indonesia: Indonesian Christian [Polit-





Demokrasi Indonesia: Indonesian Democratic 1973 grouping of five non-Muslim political

Party, a



B.I. Pendeta,

K. Pandita,


for Protestant cleric,

equiv. Rev., Ds, Pastor.


Perdjuangan Semesta: "Total Struggle" movement





Indonesia: Indonesian



Partai Nasional Indonesia: Indonesian National Party Partai


Party, a


Persatuan: United

1973 union of four Muslim


political parties

Pemerintah Revolusioner Republik Indonesia: the "Revolutionary

Government of






Republik Indonesia: Republic of Indonesia


Republik Indonesia Serikat: Federal Republic of


Rheinische Mission Gesellschaft: Rhenish Mission


Rupiah: Indonesian unit of currency


Student Christian


Sekolah Dasar: Primary School


Saudara, democratic form of address, Mr,


South East Asia Journal of Theology, Singapore



Movement Press



Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations

Hukum, Master of Laws, equiv. Meester Medan daily




Sinar Indonesia Baru, a


Sanskrit language


B.I. Surat

Keputusan, document embodying


decision, legal judgement, etc.


Sekolah Menengah Atas: Senior High School


Sekolah Menengah Pertama: Junior High School


Sekolah Tinggi Theologia: College


dictionary references

tertiary level


refer to entry under




Sumatera Utara: North Sumatra


Toba Batak language


see Tijd.




also sometimes


Land- en Volkenkunde, uitgegeven door het (Koninklijk) Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetensc happen, Batavia Tentara Keamanan Rakjat: People's Security Army,


Tentara Nasional

Title of nobility



voor Indische Taal-,







Indonesian National


Verhandelingen van het (Koninklijk) Bataviaasch

Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, Batavia (Java)






World Council of Churches

now embodies


this study of the process of religious change among the Karo people were my informants in the Karo communities in Java mainly betweenl972 andl975, and in Karoland in the years 1976 -1978 and on occasional visits before and after those dates. I have followed the advice, and example, of the Karonese anthropologist and demographer, Dr Masri Singarimbun, in not

Primary sources for

naming individual informants: " 'Mention all their names or none at all', a Karo would say in this context, and I have decided to following the latter course" (Kinship, Descent and Alliance Among the Karo Batak p. xxi). Some informants were interviewed individually; but more often questions were posed in the wide-ranging discussions so much a part of Karo life. Often information was offered, and group discussions in coffee shops, church meetings, while waiting in offices, along the walking tracks, on buses and in y


homes provided a wealth of material. Needless

to say opinions varied,

between highland and lowland people, between people of different villages and between individuals. Where necessary the same questions were asked of many people, and sometimes of the same informants after a period of time. The keenness of all informants

to offer information,

advance theories, and enter into

controversy on a wide range of subjects, provided a rich resource of information


reflection, generally presented in

an uncritical and unsystematised form.

My most valuable informants were my language teachers, who first awakened my

interest in

Karo ethnohistory and whose teaching often took the form of life and culture. To them I will always be

extended conversations on Karo grateful:

— — —

Sdr Sastra Sinulingga Yogyakarta, 1972 Dra Kerarin br Bangun— Bandung 1973-1975 Pa Philipus Sitepu B.A. Binjai 1976 BapakO.S. Kembaren Medan 1976.

This study is based for the most part on fieldnotes and diaries for the 19721978 period along with the growing number of Karo publications in the general field

of ethnohistory then available. The main lines of the argument were clear

in the field, but

have been modified and elaborated since 1978 by study of the

valuable body of reports and studies from the colonial period, mostly written in

Dutch by colonial


missionaries and travellers, and of the works

written since Independence by the Indonesian and overseas scholars and students

who have

subjected the history, politics, social anthropology, economic affairs,


demography and geography of what was once known

Coast of Sumatra"


minute examination.


as the "East



Documentary sources listed below are grouped into primary written sources, which stand alongside my oral informants as written versions of Karo ethnohistory or as contemporary descriptions of Karo life and society, and secondary sources, which assist in forming an overall picture of the social and historical context of religious change. is




a very specialised field of study.


North Sumatra

political history of

The summary presented here does


claim to be either complete or authoritative, particularly with respect to recent discussions.

Nor have centres



My debt to writers in this field will be evident. I

had access


Catholic or Islamic archival material. Discussion

on the largest and most influential of the Karo Protestant Church. Islamic and Catholic developments,

the primal religion and

religions, the

which became increasingly important following Independence, are noted in much less detail, to sketch a wider picture of the emerging religious pluralism in Karoland. Both religious communities are worthy of much more extensive treatment than has been possible here.

Primary Written Sources Karonese Traditional Literature Beru Dayang Jile-JUe, comp. Ngukumi Barus and Masri Singarimbun, Jakarta, Yayasan Merga Silima, 1990 (orig. 1989), 13 Karonese folktales, with brief Indonesian summaries.

Beru Ginting Pase, comp. Ngukumi Barus and Masri Singarimbun, Jakarta, Yayasan Merga Silima, 1990, (orig. 1989), Karonese text with brief Indonesian summary.

Guru Pertawar Reme ras Perdagang Cang gang, comp. Ngukumi Barus, Kabanjahe, Toko Bukit Mbelin Gunana, 1977, two traditional tales with a short story, "Mate Sope Erberas", written by the compiler and orig. published in Tugas, March 1960. texts with Dutch translations and exby M. Joustra, Batavia, Verhandelingen van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, LVI, 1914, pp. 123. Col-

Karo-Bataksche Vertellingen, Karonese tensive notes

lected tales.

Masri Singarimbun, comp., 1000 Perumpaman Karo,

traditional proverbial

sayings with notes and commentary in Karonese, Medan, Ulih Saber, 1960.



Karo, comp. Henry Guntur Tarigan, 2nd


Bandung, the author,

1965. Poetic courting dialogues.

"Pawang Ternalem"

see Sembiring





entry below.

"Pustaka Ginting", annotated Karonese text with Dutch translation

mann, "Poestaka Ginting", in



in J.

1931, pp. 1-51. English

Masri Singarimbun, Kinship, Descent and Alliance






H. Neu-





"Pustaka Kembaren", from Sapo Pandang, Langkat Atas, copied from original

by Guru Agama Pa Belit. Karonese text and Dutch translation in J. H. Neumann, "Bijdrage tot de Geschiedenis van de Karo-Batakstammen", Bijd., 83, 1927, pp. 162-80. An Indonesian translation of Neumann's Dutch version, by J. Siahaan-Nababan, in J. H. Neumann, Sedjarah Batak Karo Sebuah Sumbangan, Djakarta, 1972, pp. 47-64. Sembirlng Mergana Tergelar Pawang Ternalem Anak Penguin Jenggi Kumawar

Beru Patimar, comp. with notes by Rumpia Bukit, Medan, Monora, 1976, pp. 58.

Tedeh-Tedeh Perukuren, comp. Henry Guntur Tarigan, Jakarta, Yayasan Merga Silima, 1990.

Turin Si


traditional stories,

'Tedeh-Tedeh Perukuren" and "Turi-

Kata Malem" in Karonese with


Indonesian translation, pp.




Telu Turi-Turin Si Adi, comp. Jakarta, stories,

Ngukumi Barus and Masri Singarimbun,

Yayasan Merga Silima, 1990


1989). Three traditional

"Sibayak Barusjahe ras Beru Tarigan Gersang Nagasaribu", "Karo

Mergana" and "Beru Karo Basukum" summary.


Karonese with brief Indonesian

Turi-Turin Beru Ginting Sope Mbelin, comp. Henry Guntur Tarigan, Jakarta,

Yayasan Merga Silima, 1990. Text translation



Karonese with



and summary.

Cultural Studies by Karonese Writers

Kongres Sedjarah Kebudajaan Karo Kabanjahe, 24 May 1958 documents presented and reprinted as Sejarah Adat Istiadat dan Tata Susunan Rakyat Karo, Kabanjahe, Toko Bukit, various eds. Barus, S. M., Barus



rikutken pertaruh ras perletakna, Kabanjahe,

S. Barus, 1977.

Singarimbun, Masri, Kinship, Descent and Alliance



Karo Batak,

Berkeley/Los Angeles/London, University of California, 1975 tific

study of Karo kinship by a Karonese scholar

research in the highlands 1960-1962. dissertation,


"Kinship and Affinal Relations

a scien-

who undertook


PhD Among the Karo Batak", Aus-

revision of the author's

tralian National University, Canberra, 1965.


A Village of the Karo", in Koentjaraningrat,

ed., Villages in

Indonesia, Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell, 1967, chapter V.

"Pola Kepemimpinan Masyarakat Karo", Penataran I, Yogyakarta,

August 1975. 'A Karo Prognostic Chart", BKS/SRB, Sitepu, Palestin,

Hull, 11:1, October 1972, pp.

Buku Kesenian Kebudayaan



Tradisionil Karo, the author,

Medan, 1976.



Adat-istiadat Karo, Djakarta, Balai Pustaka, 1952.



Henry Guntur, "Bahasa Karo dan Budaya Karo", in Tarigan, TedehTedeh Perukuren, Jakarta, Yayasan Merga Silima, 1990, pp. 127-155.


Percikan Budaya Karo, Jakarta, Yayasan Merga Silima, 1990. of articles and other contributions tics

to the

A collection

study of Karo culture and linguis-

published 1976-1989.

Puisi Karo, Bandung/Kabanjahe, the author, 1972, 122 pp. Karonese poetry

by various writers, with Indonesian translations. "'Rebu' pada Masyarakat Karo", Dalihan Na Tolu, No. 3 Tahun 1978, Medan. With Jago Tarigan, Syair Lagu-Lagu Karo, Kabanjahe/Bandung/Leiden, the authors. in 1960s;

A collection of popular and traditional songs sung in Karoland

Karonese with Indonesian


"Symbolic Marriage Among the Karo", BKS/SRB, IH:2,


1974, pp.



Religious Publications Gereja Batak Karo Protestan Publications Periodicals

— dates

refer to issues consulted

Agenda GBKP, published

annually, Kabanjahe,


Almanak Gereja Batak Karo Protestan (GBKP) 1985. Benih Senium,

GBKP Jakarta, April-August, 1977. GBKP Kabanjahe, 1975-1979.

BulletinNdilo, Klasis

Mbar, Warta

GBKP Bandung, Dec. 1972-Dec. 1975. GBKP Maranatha, Moderamen GBKP,

Kabanjahe, Dec. 1976 -Apr.

1979. Official Publications

Anggaran Dasar dan Anggaran Rumah Tangga Panti Asuhan Kristen "Gelora Kasih" Sukamakmur, Kabanjahe, n.d.


Anggaran Dasar MORIA GBKP, Kabanjahe, 1973. BimbingenPerpulungenJabu-Jabu GerejaBatak Karo Protestan (GBKP) 1985, Kabanjahe, 1984. Garis-Garis Besar Pelayanan Gereja Batak Karo Protestan

(GBKP) Priode

Tahun 1979-1984, Kabanjahe, 1982.

"The Growth of

the Geredja Batak

Karo Protestan (Karo Batak Protestant

Church)", Kabanjahe, stencil, n.d.

Jubilium 80 Tahun Geredja Batak Karo Protestan 18.4.1890-18.4.1970, Kabanjahe, 1970.

Kitap Ende-Enden Gereja Batak Karo Protestan (GBKP), 12th 1982. Enlarged edition, 1989, identifies




Kitap Liturgi ibas Geredja Batak Karo Protestan, Kabanjahe, 1968.




Kitap Pertoton

man Perminggun

Perpulungen, comp. W. Grothaus,


Berastagi, 1970.

Lau Kegeluhen: Kitap Renungen man tep-tep wari, comp., E. Schildmann, trans, from Toba Batak by Th. Sibero, M. Peranginangin and N. K. Sitepu, Kabanjahe, 1970.

Mejuah-juah J ub ileum 100 Tahun GBKP, Kabanjahe, 1990; souvenir publication,

GBKP Centennial,

18 April 1990.

PantiAsuhan Kristen GBKP Gelora Kasih di Suka Makmur, Kabanjahe, 1973. Pedoman Khotbah, comp. Pusat PWG-GBKP, Kabanjahe, 1979. PengajarenSigendek kerna Kiniteken Kristen, 7th ed, Kabanjahe, 1968.

Empat Turi-Turin idur Pustaka Si Badija Nari Padan Si Ndekah ras Padan Si Mbaru 52 Turi-Turin, various editions, Balai Alkitab, Djakarta. "Suatu Bukti Nyata ..." unpublished programme report, 1983, loaned by Rev.


A. Ginting Suka. Surat Pengepkepen man Perpulungen


GBKP, Kabanjahe,


Tambahen Kitap Ende-Enden GBKP, Kabanjahe, 1982. Tata!P eraturanGereja B atak Karo Protestan (GBKP) & TatalPeraturanDiakonia


Kabanjahe, 1976.

Individual Publications Ginting Suka, Anggapen, Kelompok Doa, Pengelayasi Series No. 5,


Kabanjahe, 1983.

Pokok-PokokPengajarenAgama Kristen, GBKP, Kabanjahe 1979. "Gereja Sekte (Bidat)", Pengelayasi




1984, pp.



BiakRas Fungsi Musik Geredja, GBKP, Kabanjahe, n.d. Dahin Diakoni Itengah-tengah Geredja, GBKP, Berastagi, n.d. Tafsir an Pertoton Tuhan, GBKP, Berastagi, n.d.

Grothaus, W.,




GBKP, vols.


2 and


1989-90 [no

publication details


Published by other agencies for use in Karoland

Lembaga Alkitab, formerly Balai Alkitab: Indonesian Bible Society: manJelma Si Gundari Padan Si Mbaru ibas Cakap Karo si

Berita Si Mehuli

tep-tep wari, Jakarta, 1979.

Padan Si Mbaru, Djakarta, 1970, orig. 1928. Padan Si Ndekah (Si Nipergendek) trans. J. H. Neumann,

Djakarta, 1953.

Pustaka SiBadia [Bible, Today's Karo Version], Jakarta, 1987. Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF): comp. Sungkun 2 ras Djababna kerna Berita Simeriah, Djakarta,



GBKP Documents Synod Minutes (Notulen Sidang Synode GBKP): 1969-79.



Reports of Moderamen, Departments, Presbyteries, vent Pendeta, presented


MORIA, Permata and Con-

Synod, 1969-1979.

Miscellaneous Reports and Documents, 1969-1979 R.

Bangun and M. U. Bangun, comp., Pendidikan Agama Kristen Protestan Untuk SMP—Kurikulum 1975, books

for classes 2



Medan, 1978.

Curriculum material, for Karo High Schools.

Audio Recordings

— Karo

"Gendang Adat Karo", 1973


traditional culture

cassette recording



by Sinar Jaya, about

includes Perodakodak music.

& Surdam", music locally recorded by Sinar Jaya, Kabanjahe, about


"Merga Si LimaTutur

Si Waluh", cassette, locally recorded, produced

by Sinar

Jaya, Kabanjahe 1973.

"Turi-turin 'Kerbo

by Karo Official


Gunduk Marak






by Pa Betul, produced

Medan, No. 427/CAIN/1976.


Benda, Harry


James K. Irikura and Koichi Kishi, eds and



Military Administration in Indonesia: Selected Documents, Yale University

Southeast Asia Studies translation series No.



Halim, H. Marah, Pidato Pengarahan Gubernur KD. Tkt I Sumatera Utara, delivered Pematang Siantar, 21 February 1977, published Medan, Governor's Office, 1977.

Komisi Wanita Dewan Geredja-Geredja di Indonesia, comp., Tumbuh Bersama Dalam Kristus, documents, Church Women's Conference, Sukabumi, 916 August 1969, Djakarta, BPK 1970.

Okuma Memorial

Social Sciences





comp., Japanese Military Administration in Indonesia, Tokyo, 1959.

Simalungan, Kabupatan, Memperkokoh Toleransi Ber-Agama didaerah Kabu-

patan Simalungan, Pematang Province, 1973

Sinatar, Office of the

— conference speeches,

Simalungan Sub-

Christian and Muslim.

Yamin, Muhammad, Naskah Persiapan Undang-Undang Dasar Republik


donesia 1945, 3 volumes, Djakarta, 1959-60.

Pembahasan Undang-Undang Dasar Republik Indonesia,

Djakarta, 1960.

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Kennedy, Raymond, revised


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— Indonesia



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LXEL3, pp. 508-21.

Building Research


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J.A., Terres et


Batak Karo [comp.

Peuples de Sumatra, Amsterdam, 1925.

are the Karo?


are the

people of the highlands of North Sumatra. In a little over one lifetime they

have experienced colonial occupation,


vasion by the Japanese, revolution, and the

emergence of the modern Republic of Indonesia. In this study of

shows how





Simon Rae

has expressed Karo identity,

the people have responded to change,

and how close are the

ties that

bind them

to their land.

An Otago ology,

graduate in history and the-

Simon Rae

his family

lived in Indonesia with

from 1972 to 1978, and has


turned several times in recent years. He is Principal, Knox Theological College, Dunedin. Cover photo: Geriten, for deposit of ancestral bones, surmounted by a miniature traditional house,

rumah-rumah, Lingga, Karo highlands, 1976.



r//vvY '.»'* *»






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