I was in Surabaya as part of a speaking and meeting tour, with each city, town and village providing opportunities for constructive dialogue and mutual learning.
My final destination before taking a flight to Jakarta was the beautiful Al-Akbar National Great Mosque and as my travelling companions prayed, I walked around the interior enjoying the architecture and atmosphere.
There is a sense of déjà vu surrounding Indonesia's coming presidential election, which is now less than a year away - April 17, 2019. Incumbent President Joko Widodo will likely again face off against former army general, son-in-law of Suharto, wealthy businessman and perennial player Prabowo Subianto. Yet the ground has shifted repeatedly since their first presidential bout in 2015, with both political camps enjoying periods of ascendancy.
Some five months after Philippine troops flushed out Islamic State-aligned militants in the southern city of Marawi, recent military-militant clashes show the Islamic State's local affiliates have regrouped and spread since last year's siege, still gaining recruits and threatening once again to become a rallying point for jihadists across the region. But the persistent regional threat has spurred ASEAN countries towards greater security cooperation.
Israel has long had deep links with some ASEAN member-states, while its relationship with others are more fragile or less developed.
A small contingent of Israeli officials attended a conference in Malaysia, which has long retained a stiff anti-Israel posture. Post-visit, the Israelis spoke positively of the experience, with hopes for a thaw in relations; the Malaysians, not so much.
With Malaysia's next national election due to be held by August this year, voters will have their say on a government that over the past five years has been wracked with financial scandals, a crackdown on dissent, the jailing of the popular opposition leader, and religious bigotry fed by Islamic hardliners, not to mention a leader - a scion of the establishment - accused of massive corruption.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo's protracted struggle with Islamist groups bent on opposing him in all things is set to continue as the 2019 presidential elections approach. Legislative and judicial changes indicate a pushback against the illiberal forces that have harassed ethnic and religious minorities... But doubts remain as to whether these changes will be enough to counter deeper cultural currents.
Under Prime Minister Najib Razak, the Malaysian government has long touted the merits of a cohesive and inclusive multi-religious society in the Muslim-majority nation...
But a string of racial and religious incidents has brought concerns of rising Islamic conservatism to prominence, as the government plays on identity issues to widen not only its advantage ahead of the coming election season but also the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims.