Greetings from Al Amana Centre: Busy January by Jaakko Pylvänäinen

Al Amana Centre has had a rather efficient start for the year, as our schedules in January included two short term programmes, the annual meeting of the Gulf Churches Fellowship, and the beginning of our semester abroad programme.

A Tanzanian Muslim-Christian -group arrived in Muscat already on the 4th. During their seven-day programme they got introduced to interfaith collaboration, Omani context and – most importantly – each other’s context. The group was highly impressed by the Omani hospitality and proved to be especially keen on learning how interfaith issues are being managed in the country. During the programme they also brought forth very good reflections on what could they do for peace and tolerance as religious leaders in their own communities in Tanzania.

The second group arrived as soon as the previous one had said good-byes to us. Students from the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), USA, began their two-week programme on Interfaith Encounters and Intercultural Immersion on the 12th. Like the previous group they got familiar with interfaith work and local culture but spent also considerable time on learning about the situation of minority faith communities present in Oman. For them also one of the main questions was that how they could make use of the lessons learned in Oman back in their home contexts.

The annual meeting of the Gulf Churches Fellowship was held on the 14th and 15th January while the VTS students were present. Official matters were discussed on Monday and presentations given on Tuesday. The presentations by archdeacon, Rev. Bill Schwartz and Rev. Justin Meyers focused on the value of conveying respect by being quests and hosts in culturally sensitive ways. Naturally, time for joint prayers and fellowship was provided on both days.

The last group in January, the semester abroad students, arrived in Muscat, a bit delayed due to the snow storms in the USA, in the night between the 25th and 26th. Their first couple of weeks have included cultural immersions, thematic lessons, language studies, visits to local sights, and a trip to Abu Dhabi to participate the papal mass on the 5th of February. It has been plenty to be learned and experienced.

Although February is more easy-going in terms of programmes, the staff has much to be done before the next guests arrive. Planning and preparing future programmes, improving our ways of working, as well as finding new ways to be of use all takes time and effort.

On behalf of the Al Amana Centre Staff we wish to thank all the programme participants and guests for the willingness to learn and have a good time with us! We also wish to thank our partners, local and international, for helping us to make all this possible!

Semester Abroad students visiting the Grand Mosque (Photo: Matias Uusisilta)
VTS and Semester Abroad experiencing Muscat from the Sea (Photo: Matias Uusisilta)
VTS students enjoying the sights in Bahla (Photo: Jaakko Pylvänäinen)
Tanzanian guests settling in to Al Amana Centre (Photo: Jaakko Pylvänäinen)

The Historic Visit of Pope Francis to the Arabian Gulf.

Pope Francis visited Abu Dhabi February 3-5, 2019. During this historic visit he met with the officials, spoke in the interfaith event and lead a Papal mass where 135 000 people attended. More information about this visit: www.avosa.org