Australia Awards in Indonesia

The Australia Awards are prestigious, transformational scholarships and short courses offered to emerging leaders for study, research and professional development in Australia

13 Sep 2023

Robinson Sinurat: Raising the Skills of Young People to Promote Tolerance and Diversity

"Ain't no mountain high enough" could be a song about Robinson Sinurat and his journey to build a youth movement to promote peace and tolerance in Indonesia. Known as Obin, his effort to pursue knowledge in this field has taken him across several countries.

After graduating from Universitas Sriwijaya with a Bachelor of Science in Geophysics in 2013, Obin moved to Jakarta to accept a job offer as Program Coordinator of Youth and Community Development at Global Peace Foundation Indonesia. The son of coffee farmers from Dairi, North Sumatra, had been actively involved in peace and democracy organising during college, including as a member of the youth interfaith community.

He continued to improve his understanding of peace and democracy. In 2015, Obin was one of 10 young leaders from Indonesia who was selected to participate in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) United for Peace in Tagaytay City, Philippines. The US Embassy in Manila hosted the event in partnership with the Focolare Movement, an international organisation concerned with unity, respect and diversity.

Following the forum, Obin was Vice President of the Youth Interfaith Community and Director of Operations of CINTA Indonesia (Community for Interfaith & Intercultural Dialogue Indonesia). Through this work, he promoted peace and tolerance in Indonesia, primarily through youth.

"My work within the movement to promote tolerance and democracy was put on hold for a while since I was preparing to pursue a master's degree in 2016," Obin explained.

Obin continued his studies at Columbia University in New York, where he completed a Master of Science in Social Work. To fund his studies, Obin obtained an LPDP scholarship (Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan, or Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education), from the Indonesian Ministry of Finance. From here, he dreamed of returning to Indonesia to promote peace, tolerance, and democracy.

He established a foundation called Yayasan Mimpi Besar (Big Dream Foundation), which was initially his final university assignment project in 2018. However, believing a foundation that supported young people to embrace diversity and spread tolerance was needed when he returned to Indonesia, he started work to launch it.

His project got a boost when he attended the Australia Awards Short Course on Youth Participation in Social Justice Issues in 2022. During the course at Queensland University of Technology, he had the chance to meet with Australian Government agencies, youth organisations working on social justice issues, young activists, young politicians, and other leading experts in the sector.

An Opportunity to Champion Diversity and Dialogue

"After taking this short course, I got more excited. It was a kind of reminder to me that this issue is important. It was a turning point, and I was contemplating how it would develop," Obin said.

The final project for the short course program, entitled Dialogue in Diversity, was also positive. The two-day event held in Palembang promoted tolerance and diversity through various activities, including visiting houses of worship, dialogue, seminars and discussions. 

A total of 20 participants from South Sumatra, aged between 20 and 30 years old and from different faiths, were selected. The session on the first day focused on the importance of dialogue in conflict resolution through role-playing exercises. The next day, 60 participants joined a “Dialogue in Diversity: Inclusive Youth Leadership” seminar.

"This event's participants aim to become local champions in their respective communities and raise awareness in their surroundings," Obin said.

"The youth must be the agents of change. For the youth not to be readily provoked by issues of religion, ethnicity, and tribe, it is essential that they be well informed.”

The Dialogue in Diversity activity continues. Obin and Yayasan Mimpi Besar have received grants from Unilever through its ‘Every U Does Good Heroes’ program. In July 2023, Dialogue in Diversity was conducted in Makassar. Currently, Obin is working to ensure the seminar – which uses the hashtag #EmbraceDiversity – can be held in another city.

"Youth in Indonesia need to cultivate their awareness so that they have a good understanding of conflict resolution," Obin explained.

His experience in Australia opened his eyes to the significance of government involvement in support of youth programs related to diversity and democracy. “Governments should collaborate with youth and be receptive to conducting beneficial programs”, he said.

In addition, the network he developed through the short course program has raised the profile of his foundation and the support for its activities. "Again, these young people are the most crucial factor in promoting democracy and tolerance in Indonesia. So, having a strong network and support is truly important," Obin said.

His journey from continent to continent has taught him that tolerance and diversity are essential for maintaining world harmony. Through the activities of his foundation, Obin continues to encourage young people to spread the spirit of tolerance and embrace diversity.

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