BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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THE MISSIONARIES

During the past century all efforts to Christianize the Balinese have failed, and the story of Nicodemus, the first Balinese convert, is already well known. Nicodemus was the servant and pupil of the first missionary who came to Bali. He allowed himself to he baptized after some years in the service of the missionary, but time went by and no other converts could be made, so the missionary began to bring pressure upon Nicodemus to baptize others. The poor boy, already mentally tortured because his community had expelled him, declaring him morally " dead," unable to stand the situation any longer, killed his master, renounced his new faith, and delivered himself to be executed according to Balinese law. The scandal aroused in Holland brought about a regulation discouraging missionary activities in Bali.

This, however, did not stop the missionaries; permits were granted to them in 1891, again in 1920, and in 1924, when Roman Catholics requested special concessions, but waves of opposition from the Balinese thwarted these attempts. Meetings were held among Balinese leaders to " stop the catastrophe," and the permits were revoked.

But towards the end of 1930 the American missionaries again succeeded in securing an entree, supposedly only to care for souls already saved and not to seek new converts. But quietly and unostentatiously they began to work among the lowest classes of the Balinese. The more sincere of the early missionaries had aimed at obtaining converts of conviction and consequently had failed, but these later missionaries wanted quicker results and followed more effective methods.

Taking advantage of the economic crisis that was already making itself felt in Bali, they managed to give their practically destitute candidates for Christianity the idea that a change of faith would release them from all financial obligations to the community - all they had to do was to pronounce the formula: " Saja pertjaja Jesoes Kristos - I believe in Jesus Christ." If the man who was induced to pronounce the magic words was the head of a household, the missionaries claimed every member of the family as Christians and soon they could boast about three hundred converts.

Soon enough the new Christians discovered they had been misled; they had to pay taxes just the same, had become undesirable to their communities, and were being boycotted. In Mengwi, where the missionaries had their greatest success, the authorities refused to release converts from their duties, bringing endless conflict with the village and water-distribution boards; lawsuits developed and trouble began.

In many villages regulations were written into the local laws to the effect that those who were unfaithful to the Balinese religion were to be declared " dead "; meetings were held to discuss the possibility of banishing the converts to remote places like Djimbrana, together with " other criminals." The Christians had also become deeply concerned when they found out that they could not dispose of their dead, because they were not permitted to bury them in the village cemeteries and all the other available lands were either ricefields or wild places. At times the situation became tense and nearriots took place. The alarmed village heads reasoned with some converts and succeeded in bringing back a number of them to the old faith.

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