Hello Everyone! First, my apologies for the long period between blog posts. I have been wonderfully busy with short-term programs. Since my last post, we have hosted a group from Nigeria, a women’s group, and a group of students from Princeton. As you may expect, each group is extremely unique, offering distinct challenges and joys.
What do we do with these groups? Well, each schedule varies somewhat, but some typical activities include:
- Sessions of Scriptural Reasoning
- Sessions on Religious Peace-Building
- Visit to Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat
- Visit to Christian Churches and Hindu Temple (sometimes Sikh Gurdwara too)
- Presentation on Omani Culture and Cooking Lesson at Omani Tourism College
- Hike up a wadi or to a fort
- Omani-style dinner at our friend’s date palm farm
- Q&A with various Omani friends of Al Amana Centre
- Overnight trip to either the desert or mountains
- Sunset cruise on traditional dhow
- and of course plenty of opportunities to explore the Muttrah souq and surrounding areas
An exciting step for me was getting to lead the women’s group. As the only female program coordinator, the team gave me leadership over this group. We had 11 women from Nepal, Palestine, Myanmar, Tanzania, Finland, and USA. This group posed unique challenges because only 2 participants were native English speakers, and the rest varied in their comfort with the language. Also, the participants did not know each other before arriving in Oman, so in addition to tackling difficult topics, we had to build trust and sisterhood within our group. And for an added bonus, we had a six month old baby in tow.
Because of the barriers mentioned above, I incorporated more of what I’m calling visual dialogue – the use of visual art to help communicate and participate in group discussion. Here are two of my drawings:
One of my favorite parts of every group, and especially the women’s group, is simply getting to know the individual participants. Hearing their stories, asking each other questions, learning about a new culture or religious tradition.
I whole-heartedly believe that my life is better when I’m around people who think and act differently than me. My understanding of God grows deeper when I discuss scripture with people from other denominations and religions. My understanding of justice strengthens when I hear stories of healing and resiliency from my most-distant neighbors. Even my ability to love my neighbor augments with each tense disagreement that is followed by renewing fellowship and friendship.
In short, you do not have to agree with my practices of religion, politics, economics, or social justice issues for us to be friends. The only things required are mutual respect and a willingness to listen and hear one another. That being said, I am loving making friends from around the world. I am thankful for each person who comes to Al Amana Centre and each new bridge built.
I am clearly not reliable at blogging or posting photos to my own social media, SO if you want more regular glances at what I’m doing, follow @alamanacentre on Instagram and/or Facebook. It is most often me posting anyways.