Celebrating a Science-Themed Iftar in Jakarta

September 2, 2010
Embassy Jakarta Celebrates Ramadan

About the Authors: Hugo Yon serves as Environment, Science, Technology and Health Chief at U.S. Embassy Jakarta in Indonesia, and Alice Chu serves as Public Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

U.S. Embassy Jakarta celebrated the Islamic holy month of Ramadan by hosting a science-themed Buka Puasa (Iftar) on August 26. Eighty high-level Indonesian guests attended the celebration. Adding a high-tech twist, U.S. Science Envoy Dr. Bruce Alberts, Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) Lawrence Gumbiner from the Bureau of Oceans and International and Environmental Affairs (OES), and Gray Handley from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) joined the event via digital video conference (DVC) from Washington, D.C.

Charge d'Affairs Ted Osius opened the evening in Indonesia by highlighting the great strides both countries have taken in the past year to deepen science collaboration, including the recent joint ocean science exploration of the sea floor and biodiversity of North Sumatra by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Okeanos Explorer and Indonesia's Baruna Jaya IV. Via DVC, DAS Gumbiner praised the conclusion of the new Science and Technology Agreement signed earlier in the year, and emphasized President Obama's commitment to science and technology in the United States and as a key pillar of international engagement, saying "our president, Barack Obama, has a commitment to science diplomacy and international S&T collaboration that is placing these themes at the forefront of U.S. diplomacy.” He added that the U.S.-Indonesian relationship “is a partnership that will be continuing and deepening. We look forward to both Muslim and non-Muslim researchers and collaborators working together to solve these great problems that we all share on the global stage.”

Dr. Alberts expressed his strong support of continued science and technology engagement between the two countries that he explored during his trip to Indonesia this past May, including launching regular engagement between the next generation of Indonesian and American scientists. Mr. Handley reinforced the NIH's continued interest in engaging and cooperating with Indonesian counterparts on issues such as infectious diseases.

Speakers from Indonesia included Professor Zuhal Abdul Kadir, Chairman of the National Innovation Committee and Rector of University Al-Azhar, and Dr. Jamaludin Jompa, head of the Coral Reef Research Institute at Hasanudin University, who discussed the relationship between religion and science. In particular, Prof. Zuhal commented that in Islam, "people with wisdom and knowledge" -- scientists -- are highly regarded for they further the teaching of Islam, which includes the human responsibility to preserve nature. Dr. Jompa expanded upon this theme by summarizing the efforts by young Indonesian scientists under the age of 45 to address cross-cutting issues on climate change and the future of human life. The two speakers represented the expanding network of seasoned and up-and-coming scientists in Indonesia's science community and embodied Indonesia's desire to expand science and technology collaboration with the United States.

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