The horrors of the Second World War encroached deeply on the lives of many Dutchmen. Some of them were forced to flee their native country. One of them was the Utrecht theologian Johannes Christiaan (Hans) Hoekendijk. His account of his flight from Holland, his internment in Switzerland and his journey around the world in 1944-1945 was not made public until 2016. The journals or logbooks not only fill in the gaps in his life story, but also offer a unique insight in the life of a man on the run in a strife-torn world, searching for his destiny as an act of healing.
About the author: Hoekendijk as theologian
Johannes Christiaan Hoekendijk (1912-1975) was an internationally renowned Dutch theologian in the field of the mission and ecumenicalism. He made important contributions to the world mission conference in Willingen (1952) and to the study project of the World Council of Churches Missionaire Structuren van de Gemeente (‘Missionary structures of the congregation’) (1962-1966). In Holland he belonged to the circle of the so-called “apostolate theology” which basic principle is the focus of the church on the world. In these circles he took up his own position saying that the church is ‘at the service of the apostolate’ instead of the other way around: the usual order God-church-world should be changed to God-world-church. Hoekendijk’s dissertation ‘Kerk en volk in de Duitse zendingswetenschap’ (1948) (‘Church and people in the German missiology’) contains a critical analysis of the ‘entopathos’ in the German missiology: the utter devotion to a public concept that, according to Hoekendijk, was a romantic and sociologically misleading concept. Inspired by the German church conflict of the 1930s Hoekendijk repeatedly emphasizes that ‘God’s people’ cannot be identified with any natural shape whatsoever. For Hoekendijk ‘missiology’ was the substitute existence of God’s people for the entire world, in which testimony and service are ‘footnotes’ at the acts of God himself.
Born as the son of a missionary in the Dutch East-Indies Hoekendijk himself also followed the training for missionaries in Oegstgeest and next studied Theology in Utrecht. He hoped to be sent to the Dutch East Indies but the beginning of the Second World War foiled his plans: he became secretary to the Nederlandse Christen Studenten Vereniging (‘Dutch Christian Students’ Association’) and next student pastor. After a long and complicated detour (flight from occupied Holland, ten months in Geneva and then in the last year of the war a journey via England, the United States, Australia and the East Dutch Indies) he took over the Missionary Consulate in Batavia. Due to health problems of his wife, he had to return to Europe as early as 1946. After positions with the Dutch Missionary Council and the newly founded World Council of Churches he became professor for the Dutch reformed church in Utrecht (Biblical and Practical Theology; missionary work) and in 1959 professor (20th century Church History). In 1965 he was appointed to the Union Theological Seminary in New York (chair: World Christianity).
About the jounal
The journal, that covers the years 1944 and 1945, was only to be made public after 2000, as indicated by Hoekendijk himself. It contains extensive information about the long and complicated detour. A separate log book is dedicated to the flight from Holland to Switzerland (between 22 February and 20 March 1944) and the stay in Swiss refugee camps until 21 April. The Geneva period lasts until 26 February 1945; the following stay in England until 22 May and the stay in the United States until 23 July. Then the journey to Austrialia is described (21 days on a boat during the last days of the Pacific war) and from there the trip (by plane) to the Dutch East Indies and Batavia where Hoekendijk arrives on 17 September 1945. The journal ends on 12 October 1945 after the entry that the health of Hoekendijk’s wife forces them to return to Holland as soon as possible.
In the notes on the Geneva period four major story lines run parallel but also touch upon each other. (1) Through the agency of W.A. Visser ‘t Hooft, Hoekendijk gets involved in the work of the Federation of Christian Students’ Associations and the World Council of Churches in formation. He helps to prepare a number of conferences, writes reports on the ecclesiastical and missionary situation in Holland and participates in discussions about the role of the university and of the Christian students movement in the post-war ideological vacuum. (2) Hoekendijk works as a chaplain in the refugee camps in Switzerland (pastoral care, social work and an ‘East Indian course’ to prepare Dutch refugees for (missionary?) work in the Dutch East Indies; in relation to these activities many interesting discussion partners come along. (3) In the meantime there are restless study activities: the notes on the Geneva period contain detailed reports on the books he read: theology, religion and missiology studies, cultural history, political analysis. (4) The uncertainty about the near future (England or the liberated Netherlands?) lasts a long time; only in November the uncertainty ends when through the agency of Visser 't Hooft a plan is made to send Hoekendijk via Australia to Batavia as a military chaplain under the auspices of the Dutch army and several missiology organisations. There he will work on rebuilding the missionary work; Hoekendijk’s wife will become part of the military, too.
A new destination
Despite all kinds of organisational problems (visa, uncertainty about status) the notes on England, the United States and Australia show a straightforward, purposeful story of someone who knows where his destination lies and who is preparing himself to take up an important position in the international missionary world. Hoekendijk meets with nearly all high-profile theologians, church leaders and leading figures from the missionary world and is treated with respect everywhere he goes. Also in this part of the journal many books are discussed. Hoekendijk meets with a lack of understanding in relation to occupied Europe and with the nature of the Anglo-Saxon theology. Interesting are the sections about the criticism on the Dutch government in exile which was supposedly aiming at a dictatorial regime in postwar Holland, and the descriptions of the ‘victory parties’ in London.
The military plane journey to the East Dutch Indies goes via New Guinea and the eastern isles where capitulating Japanese army units are still present and where the war has left deep marks of destruction. Batavia is in chaos: the Japanese, the Dutch, nationalistic street gangs - the situation is becoming more dangerous and chaotic by the day. In this situation Hoekendijk as interim missionary consul – with the consent of missionary consul Van Randwijck who had just returned from a concentration camp – tries to establish contacts with ecclesiastical and missionary networks. This last part of the journal is the most personal and emotional: Hoekendijk visits the Dutch East Indies again for the first time in twenty years, but has to travel without his wife who was to arrive later from Australia in Batavia, ‘spent and overworked'; he notices that he is ‘getting old.’
Auteur: Bert Hoedemaker