As part of the Australian-Indonesian Muslim Exchange Program (MEP),  five Indonesian delegates visited Australia between 6-19 March to meet with key prominent community contacts in order to gain an insight into the Australian Muslim community.

The Muslim Exchange Program has been successfully operating since 2002 and it involves visits to Australia by groups of young Indonesian Muslim community leaders to have a greater awareness of Australia’s multicultural society.

The Indonesian delegates went to Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney within a period of two weeks and visited prominent universities, mosques, interfaith organisations and businesses and had the opportunity to meet a variety of community leaders.

Indonesian delegation with Mehar Ahmad, Rowan Gould and Zia Ahmad.

The Indonesian delegation comprised of five exceptional professionals that all brought a diverse level of experiences and knowledge. They include:

  1. Mrs Oki Setiana Dewi is a well-known presenter on two national morning religious television programs, and an actress in Islamic-themed films.
  2. Mrs Niswatin Faoziah is the Head of Department of Primary Education from Sunan Panandaran College of Islamic Studies; and Vice Treasurer at Fatayat NU, Yogyakarta (Fatayat NU is the women’s wing of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation).
  3. Mr Prosmala Adisaputra is the Head of Diniyah Education Program at Selaparang Islamic Boarding School, Lombok; and Publications Division in Nadhlatul Wathan (Lombok’s largest Islamic civil society organisation).
  4. Mrs Nurjanni Astiyanti is the Regional Coordinator, Vocational High School Guidance Counselling Musyawarah Association of West Java; and Staff member of the Indonesian Muslim Students’ Association.
  5. Mr Syamsul Arif Galib is a lecturer at the Alauddin State Islamic University in Makassar; and the Co-founder of Makassar Peace Generation (part of the international Peace Generation Network).

The delegation visited the University of Melbourne and meet with director for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, Professor Tim Lindsey who also was the Former Chair of the Australia Indonesia Institute and Professor Abdullah Saeed, Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies and Dr Nadirsyah Hosen, Senior Law Lecturer at Monash University.

They visited a number of schools including a private Christian school, Balcombe Grammar, Al-Siraat College where they observed the Hifz Program and Arkana college.

The Indonesian delegates enjoyed the many beautiful mosques in various cities of Australia including Doncaster mosque, Auburn’s Gallipoli mosque and Imam Ali Bin Abi Taleb mosque in Lakemba.

They were given a tour at Newport Mosque by Sheikh Abdulla Hawari, the Imam of the architecturally innovative Australian Islamic Centre, and ended their first day with an alumni dinner.

The Indonesian delegation paid a visit to the Australasian Muslim Times offices at Bonnyrigg, Sydney led by Mr Rowan Gould, Director of the Australia-Indonesia Muslim Exchange Program and a researcher at Melbourne University.

One of the delegates, Mrs Nurjanni Astiyanti said “Having wonderful moment to track a journey of community and family in search for belief and distributing the message of Islam through Australasian Muslim Times publishing since 1991.

Surprisingly, Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad, member of the first generation came up in his wheelchair and caught up with us on Arabic and Islam and said “Without Arabic, you cannot understand Quran, and without Quran, no one can tell you who is Allah.”.”

Another delegate, Mrs Oki Setiana Dewi said “Thank Allah for my amazing ‘spiritual journey.”

In gaining an understanding of the interfaith Christian-Muslim relations in Australia, the delegates had the opportunity to meet with Martin Chatfield from the Catholic Archdiocese of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission and visited St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral – where they were invited to observe mass.

They also visited the ACT Baha’i Centre, Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra Interfaith Forum, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, meeting with Revered Dr Stephen Pickard and the Sydney’s Jewish Museum.

They met with mainstream Australian organisations such as ABC International, Victoria Police Multicultural Liaison Unit, the National Gallery of Australia, National Library, Parliament House and Football United.

The exciting program included round-table discussions with associate professor Gregory Fealy and other ANU academics as well as the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed.

Delegates also met with a number of Islamic organisations such as the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, the National Zakat foundation, the Islamic Museum of Australia, Islamic Council of Australia, Benevolence Australia, Indonesian Muslim Community of Victoria, Canberra Islamic Centre, the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy of Australia, Mission of Hope, Gould Sydney, Muslim Women’s Association, IQRO, Centre for Islamic Dawah and Education.