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.
Having been asked by the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, via a local imam, to be the main speaker in the synagogue, I can report first hand on the thirst for knowledge on display.
None of the young Indonesians had ever met a Jewish person, nor even imagined being in a synagogue, let alone in a majestic, historic Jewish house of worship.
"This nation [Muslims] should know that it was [...] created to spread Allah's religion and lead the nations, and this could only be achieved by Jihad for the sake of Allah!"
These words were not said somewhere in the war ravaged Middle East by a supporter of ISIS or other extremist groups. They were not whispered in a dark room, hidden from public sight. This call for holy war, or jihad, was voiced loud and clear to a large crowd in a Sydney mosque just a few months ago.
Israel has long had deep links with some ASEAN member-states, while its relationship with others are more fragile or less developed.
On January 19, the Pentagon released its new National Defence Strategy for the US. The second paragraph of the 14-page declassified summary painted a dire picture. "We are facing increased global disorder, characterised by decline in the long-standing rules-based international order - creating a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory. Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security."
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.