Jakarta. The Indonesian Diaspora Network Global held its 4th Congress of Indonesian Diaspora at the Kota Kasablanka mall in South Jakarta on Saturday (01/07) featuring, among others, former US President Barack Obama, who is currently on holiday in Indonesia with his family.
IDNG Chairman Dino Patti Djalal said this year's congress was the network's biggest so far, with around 9000 participants from 55 countries. The first IDNG congress was held in Los Angeles in 2012, and the next two in Jakarta in 2013 and 2015.
According to IDNG data, there are a total of 6 million to 8 million Indonesian diaspora across the globe — a remarkable asset to the country, Dino said.
"It's not just about the number, but [also] the spirit of these diaspora. Wherever they are, Indonesia is always in their hearts," Dino, a former Indonesian ambassador to the United States, said during the opening ceremony.
The congress, according to Dino, allows IDNG members to get to know each other and mingle, and also pave way for collaborations.
"We need synergy, not a legalistic approach. Whatever passport you hold, as long as you love Indonesia then you are part of the Indonesian family," Dino said, emphasizing IDNG's broad definition of diaspora: not only Indonesian passport holders but also Indonesians who have renounced their citizenship but still care about the country.
Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi, who attended the congress, said she expects the Indonesian diaspora to contribute to the country's development. She read a poem entitled "Anakku" ("My Child") at the opening ceremony about a mother's hopes for her child, which she says symbolizes the country's hopes for the diaspora to give something back to their country of origin.
"We hope the Indonesian diaspora can offer help to the Indonesian government to develop the country. We should learn from other diasporas in the world, the Chinese, the Indians. The Indonesian diaspora are one of our greatest assets, they should help to improve life in this country," Retno told reporters.
Retno said one of the goals of the congress was to foster a greater "sense of belonging" among Indonesian diaspora.
Former United States President Barack Obama, who spent some of his childhood in Menteng Dalam, Jakarta, a stone's throw from the busy shopping mall where the congress was held, delivered an off-the-record speech which was the most-awaited moment of the event.
Assets to Country
The congress featured discussions throughout the day which were open to the public. Many feature IDNG members sharing their experiences living in a foreign country, but some also put current problems under the spotlight and consider what the Indonesian diaspora can contribute to find solutions.
Some of the highlights of the discussions include "State of the World 2017: Opportunities and Risks for Indonesia" on the current challenges faced by the Indonesian economy, which featured Finance Minister Sri Mulyani and Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice President Bambang Susantono.
In another session, called "The Role of the Diaspora in Promoting Diversity and Tolerance Around the World," Imam Shamsi Ali and Father Romo Markus Solo met actor Reza Rahadian and Jakarta Governor-elect Anies Baswedan to talk about the thorny issue of religious tolerance.
A talk show, "Living and Working Abroad: If You Can Make It Here, You Can Make It Anywhere," gathered Los Angeles-based actors Yoshi Sudarso and Tania Gunadi, winners of cooking show "My Kitchen Rules" Tasia and Gracia Seger and recent Oxford University graduate and singer-songwriter Maudy Ayunda to talk about how they achieve success abroad.
The ongoing issue of whether Indonesia should allow dual citizenship was also discussed at a session called "Pros and Cons: Prospects for Dual Citizenship," featuring University of Indonesia professor Satya Arinanto, North Carolina-based international relations and security specialist Hamdan Hamedan and House of Representatives (DPR) member Meutya Hafid.
Singers Maudy Ayunda, Paris-based Anggun C. Sasmi and Laya Pesulima performed live at the "Indonesian Diaspora Music Concert" at the end of the event.
The congress continues until July 4 with internal meetings and dialogues between IDNG members and government representatives.