Peace be with you, assalamu alaykum,
I am Rev. Aaro Rytkonen and I have lived here in Muscat since April 2017 as I joined Al Amana Centre as the Executive Director. I believe we all are created equal and there is so much we can learn from each other. I have been working for the last decade for building peace and supporting religious actors in their peace building efforts among others in Central African Republic, Mozambique and Somalia. My previous working experience includes World Council of Churches, Conference of European Churches, FinnChurchAid, Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland. I am ordained pastor in the Lutheran Church and now I am priviledged to work for peace and reconciliation through leading this unique organization of Al Amana Centre. I want to welcome you all on behalf of Al Amana Centre to the Sultanate of Oman and I encourage all of you to join our efforts for shared values of peace, reconciliation and acceptance.
Greetings from Oman! When I graduated from Western Seminary in 2003 I never would have imagined that I would call a country like Oman home. After serving pastorates in upstate New York and New York City I came to Al Amana Centre in the summer of 2013.I am passionate about bringing people from different religions and cultures together to learn about each other and to break harmful stereotypes.
I am joined in Oman by my wife, Stephanie, and our two school aged sons. When we are not busy with school and work our family likes to spend time on and in the water, reading, and exploring God’s beautiful creation.
I’m currently working on a MA in Peacebuilding and Reconciliation from University of Winchester in the U.K.
Oman is an incredible country – a desert filled with life and diversity. It is also a safe place to learn about engaging persons of other religious traditions in a way that challenges us to think more deeply about our own tradition and faith. The Al Amana Centre is unique in many ways, and I am excited to join the team.
Prior to joining the Al Amana Centre, I spent nearly fifteen years in Dhaka, Bangladesh where I served on the faculty of the College of Christian Theology Bangladesh, as both the Director of Academics and the Dean of Research and Resource Development (2001-2017). As I transitioned to the Al Amana Center, I had the opportunity to hold a position as Scholar-in-Residence at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan (2017-2018).
I am doctoral candidate at Gonzaga University. Under the mentorship of Father David Burrell, my research is inquiring into the ways Muslims, Christians, and Hindus in Bangladesh are learning together though experiences of interreligious dialogue, modeled after the practice of Scriptural Reasoning. When I am not in the office, I enjoy fly fishing, trekking, skiing, snorkeling, and hanging out my wife, Melissa, and our three children in the wild places of Oman. When we we are not in Oman our home is in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state.
Hailing from Kerala, the southern state of India, I came to Oman with my mom and sisters to join my dad who was then working in Muscat. Being in Oman from the age of seven, I did all my schooling in the prestigious Indian school Muscat. Having a bachelor’s degree in Management and a master’s in Business Administration, I worked in a business concern for four years before joining Al Amana Centre in 2005 as the Administration/Business manager. Since then I have been continuing my journey with the Centre and it’s been 12 years running.
I am happily married to Melba and we celebrated a decade of togetherness this year. We are blessed with an eight year old son Ryan and a four year old daughter Riana and the both of them have been in Oman from their very young days. We are actively involved in the Catholic Church in Ruwi, where we are part of one of the youth ministries.
Living in this wonderful and peaceful country for nearly thirty years, I rightly call this place my home enjoying its warmth and hospitality. Surely for us Oman is where our heart is……
I am Catherine Armstrong. I am from the southern part of India I have been living in Oman since 1994. My husband, Armstrong works with Majan University College, as head of the post graduate centre. We have two boys Joshua (13 years) and Andrew (9 years).
After a fifteen year stint with Oman Hotels and Tourism Company as a finance and accounting professional, I had taken a sabbatical. Since January 2017 I have resumed my career as Controller at the Al Amana Centre. I have a Bachelors degree in Commerce and a Masters degree in Business Administration
Venerable Canon Bill Schwartz
Ms Margaret Shurdom
Dr C Thomas
Dr Florina Xavier
Rev Canon Andrew Thompson, Board Chair, Anglican Church
Rev Dr Peter Ford, Board Vice Chair, Reformed Church in America
Rev Ken Bradsell, Board Treasurer, Reformed Church in America
Mrs Anne Bouji
Rev Dr Kenneth Ruge
The Sultanate of Oman is a unique place for interfaith dialogue and trust building. Oman is a muslim country which has an official state religion – Ibadhi Islam. Being neither Shi’i nor Sunni, Oman has intentionally avoided becoming entangled in the region’s sectarianism both regrading external and internal policies. Furthermore, Oman’s internal policies have been dominated by peaceful intra-Islamic and inter-religious coexistence. The country is very forward-leaning in the questions of religious freedom and working in the country as non-Muslim actor is welcomed. This all is contributing positively to our presence in the country.
Al Amana Centre and its predecessors have experienced this warm welcome over the years. The work of Al Amana Centre is based on the 125 years of collaboration between Christians and Muslims in the country. Reformed Church in America begun collaborating with the people in Oman already in the year 1892. Over the years trust has been built.
Oman is also a country which is looking for moderation and peace. It gives a firm ground for us as Al Amana Centre to work here in the Sultanate of Oman. This is a country where our guests can experience the hospitality and openness of Omanis. Most of our visitors come from countries where Islam is being portrayed in a negative imagine in the news and media. There is also many times very little correct information available in regard to Islam and the role of religious in peace building. Visiting Oman is a great opportunity for people to understand people of other faith. This experience is of utmost importance when they are returning back to their homes.
Our work could not be done without our partnership here in the Sultanate of Oman. This is the best possible place to achieve mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims and provide people opportunities to work together towards sustainable peace. The Sultanate of Oman is part of the identity of Al Amana Centre.
Dialogue facilitation The world is in need of dialogue. In order to provide peaceful coexistence, prevent conflicts as well as resolve them, we need to understand each other. This means we are open for dialogue.
Dialogue is a process that can lead us to something new. Dialogue can be a process where people understand more about each other. Dialogue is entering to joint path with others. It means sharing thoughts about values and beliefs. But it also gives us a possibility to understand oneself better. Because many times through discussions with others you begin to understand yourself better.
Al Amana Centre has been living this reality for many years. We understand and value the importance of dialogue. This is also the reason we want to enhance possibilities for different groups to come together for a joint process of dialogue.
Al Amana Centre facilities (Al Amana Campus) give participants a quiet and safe space to discuss and engage in dialogue. Al Amana Centre staff is there for the groups and willing to support the process in any way requested by the groups. Sometimes Al Amana Centre Staff will facilitate the discussions but it is also very possible that Al Amana Centre is merely the venue for the dialogue and participants will facilitate their process by themselves.
Al Amana Centre truly believes dialogue is a tool to create change in a peaceful manner. Dialogue is one of the most important tools to build connections between parties and groups. One of the priorities for Al Amana Centre is to lift up the role of religion in dialogue. We are supporting especially groups which want to discuss the role of religion in their situation. How reconciliation is being understood in different religions? Or how different religions understand forgiveness or some other essential points in people’s lives?
Religion is playing an important role in today’s world. It is becoming even more important also in the West. Al Amana Centre has always understood the role of religion in building peace and we are seeking possibilities to support religious groups which want to engage in dialogue within themselves or with other groups and communities.
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