Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Learn from Local Wisdom: Cultural Revival Movement in Bali
OGAWA Tadashi / Professor, Atomi University

March 23, 2023
A great change is now taking place in Bali, Indonesia. The Balinese have begun to reexamine and reconfirm their identity by asking "what is Bali?" and "who are the Balinese?", and this is having repercussions in various areas. The Balinese themselves call this process of self-confirmation "Ajeg Bali”. It means "Bali, be strong. It is a cultural revival movement to return to the "original Bali" by restoring the "unspoiled Bali of the past" before it was disrupted by outside cultures and values.

Bali is unique in Indonesia, a country with the world's largest Muslim population accounting for approximately 90% of its people. Only Bali has an overwhelming majority of Hindus (83%). And Bali Hinduism is said to be a very different form of belief from the original Hinduism of India, mixed with the island's ancestor worship passed on since old times.

What directly triggered the rise of Ajeg Bali was the Bali bombings of October 2002, which killed and injured many people and caused extensive damage to the local economy. Behind the Ajeg Bali movement is a strong sense of crisis: "Bali continues to be destroyed by tourism development bordering on violence, and if nothing is done, Bali will cease to be Bali" and "Islamic extremism is creeping into Bali, putting people's lives in danger”.

To overcome the crisis, Ajeg Bali has called on the Balinese to:
-regain Bali’s pride and reorganize and revitalize its community by rediscovering their own profound Balinese Hindu spiritual culture, and
-limit the incessant invasion of foreign cultures, values, and immigrants, control the tourism industry, and revitalize agriculture.

Ajeg Bali has been aroused by the ongoing religious revival phenomenon of Islamic revitalization in Indonesia. Hindu Balinese are in the majority on the island, but are in a delicate position as a minority within Indonesia. The nationwide revitalization of Islam has cast a subtle shadow over the self-perception of the minority Balinese, and the terrorism of Islamic extremist groups has stirred their anxiety. It can be said that the Islamic revitalization in Indonesia has led to another religious revival, namely the Bali Hindu revitalization.

Against this backdrop, Ajeg Bali is not only a spiritual and cultural revival movement but also contains an element of physical force that would strengthen surveillance and security against outsiders based on exclusionism. Traditional vigilante groups are being reevaluated, and vigilante organizations are being strengthened in many areas. The Bali Provincial Police has publicly stated that it recognizes and will utilize the power of vigilante groups as the cooperation of local communities is indispensable for maintaining public security in Bali. Cases have been reported of offenders of theft or vandalism at temples caught by vigilantes and lynched by locals. Postulating that Bali without Muslims before the influx of Javanese Islam was the "ideal Bali," Ajeg Bali sets its goal on driving out the alien "others”.

On the other hand, there are those who take a different approach to look into history with a view to discovering what Bali should be. One such approach is a reevaluation of traditions, focusing on the past coexistence of Hindu and Muslim communities. Those who take this approach claim that now is the time for the Balinese to learn from the "local wisdom" nurtured by their ancestors. One example is the "Megibung" tradition in East Bali, in which Hindus and Muslims perform rituals together and then sit down in a circle to eat and talk. The tradition is said to have started with an event initiated by a wise king to cement reconciliation after a dispute between the two groups.

The Balinese are not the only ones who need to discover pearls of "local wisdom”. In Japan and other Asian countries, where globalization has brought about multi-ethnic societies, there are traditional events that contain many pearls of wisdom from our ancestors who had accepted visitors from afar in their midst. Therein may lie useful hints for creating symbiotic societies.

Tadashi Ogawa is a professor at Atomi University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小川 忠 / 跡見学園女子大学教授

2023年 3月 23日
インドネシアのバリ島で今、大きな変化が起きている。バリ人が「バリとは何か」「バリ人とは誰か」という問い直し、自己確認を始め、それが様々な領域に波紋を投げかけているのである。この自己確認作業を、バリ人自身は「アジュグ・バリ(Ajeg Bali)」と呼ぶ。「バリよ、強くあれ」を意味する。外からの文化、価値観が混入する以前の「穢れなき過去のバリ」に回帰することで、「本来のバリ」に立ち戻ろう、という文化復興運動だ。








一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Learn from Local Wisdom: Cultural Revival Movement in Bali