Joty ter Kulve-van Os (Netherlands)


Joty ter Kulve

Joty ter Kulve was born in 1927 in Semarang (the capital of Central Java, Indonesia) from a Dutch father and an Indonesian-Dutch mother. When she was three years old the family moved to Linggarjati, a small resort village at the foot of the Ciremai volcano in West Java.

The house in Linggarjati where she grew up was built in 1930 by her father and became in November 1946 the historical site of the ‘Linggarjati Negotiations’ where the Netherlands recognized the de facto sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia. Later, the Indonesian Government designated the house to become a monument of Peace Through Dialogue and in honoring the Founding Fathers of the Republic of Indonesia Sukarno, Hatta and Syahrir.

Joty was 14 years old when the Japanese Imperial Army invaded the then Dutch East Indies. The Dutch were interned subsequently in concentration camps and so were Joty and her family. If it were not for the fierce protection by her mother, who challenged the Kempetai and consequently was shot on the spot, Joty would have ended up as one of the many comfort women in service of Japanese soldiers. She learned to know constant hunger, cruelty, killing, pain and death of innocent people in times of war, as well as the loss of freedom and humiliation under the inhumane and cruel regime of camp commanders.

The capitulation of Japan in August 1945 did not bring peace to Indonesia. The ratification of the ‘Linggarjati Agreement’ of November 1946 amended by the Dutch Parliament failed and instead the Dutch Government shipped in troops from the Netherlands to subdue the “Indonesian rebels”. After two tenuous years in school in the war-torn city of Bandung – beleaguered by Indonesian freedom fighters – Joty was able to muster efforts as cleaning worker on a refugee ship and worked her way across the ocean to the Netherlands.

The Netherlands was just limping back after a devastating World War II and most of the Dutch hardly knew what to do with the bunch of refugees coming from the former colony. There she was, a young girl, all alone in Red Cross hand-me-down clothes, banned from her country of birth that had been home of generations of her forebears. Joty was dedicated to continue schooling and in 1950 she proudly graduated with a degree in Dutch-Indonesian law.

When she finished university, Indonesia had become an independent state and Joty found to her dismay that her law degree was useless. Meanwhile the Cold War engulfed the world. The 20th century had already known two World Wars. Arms and bombs may help win a war, but they destroy the soul. Fortunately, already at young age Joty discovered that love and peace are stronger than fear and war.

This is the very reason why after graduation Joty joined the non-profit organization Moral Rearmament that was not merely talking about peace but was actually building on the ruins of Germany and other European nations towards a new Europe. It was at the headquarters of this organization that Konrad Adenauer and Robert Schuman laid the first foundations for the re-birth of Europe.

On behalf of that organization, as part of a team, and with the help of media aids, Joty travelled all over the world to campaign for peace which cannot not be achieved only by being active in an organization or for which one makes attempts to from time to time; peace has to come from the heart and the soul. It is the decision to become a human being and to live peace; a decision one has to make every day. Men travelled to the moon but have still to learn to live together. How can we teach our children and grandchildren to live to become happy people and teach them the ways to find the God in their hearts? Each child has a God in her or his soul.

In 2002, already at age 75, Joty and her brother Willem van Os founded the “Friends of Linggarjati Foundation” in honor of the Indonesian people and in appreciation for the way Indonesia since independence had developed through hard struggles.

In 2012, Joty was also instrumental in the founding of the Indonesia Nederland Society (see Even today, she is still active in peace-related works, such as the organizing of events for war refugees. Besides, various people-to-people partnership projects between the Netherlands and Indonesia have been built upon the groundwork she once had laid down.