I want to start my description of my arrival to Oman by expressing thankfulness. As I’m collecting my thoughts about my first impression of the country while taking a sip of Karak tea, that I managed to order in Arabic from a coffee shop nearby, I’m just overall thankful for this unique possibility to volunteer in Al Amana Centre during the next four months.
As I’ve been wandering around the streets of Muscat it has surely felt like an invitation to an adventure. The warm welcoming weather, an aroma of freshly ground spices and the scent of burning frankincense have all given me a glimpse of something new and exciting, if only I’m willing to be open to it. And I believe that a totally new environment can be a fruitful platform for learning new things as it offers a great chance to shake those everyday life routines a bit. It can also offer a great opportunity to go back to basics and focus on fewer things as the amount of responsibilities doesn’t necessarily have to be as big as it oftentimes happens to be back at home.
And as I dive in deeper into the new culture and environment, I become more and more excited about this valuable chance to get to know a wide variety of people from different backgrounds with different beliefs, thoughts, expectations and experiences, through interfaith dialogue. And that, if anything, can truly be an unknown and captivating field full of hidden treasures and interesting stories.
I personally want to believe that it’s possible to learn a lot from interfaith dialogue, looking at things from a wider perspective. And not only about interfaith or cross-cultural dialogue, but also about applying those principles about peace building and reconciliation into all interaction and encounters in everyday life. I see it as a lifelong learning process to choose to rather pursue and build connections than to create a distance or be led by prejudice or fear. And there can be something very liberating in that permission to lay down the need to figure out who’s opinion is better and just simply be brave enough to care and listen to those around you, even if it challenges you to step into an unknown field or even if you don’t completely understand the things you see. And it can also invite to go through some inner processing, that can lead into new ideas, growth and wisdom, as well.
At this point I would like to think that what truly matters is the person behind the beliefs. And for me personally openness is going to be the main key to how I will approach this new and exciting season. And as I get to be a part of a bigger picture, I would like to build trust and peace by loving and caring those around me and giving space for myself and others to express their thoughts and beliefs aiming to increase understanding and build a connection.
So being new to Oman and Arabic culture I choose to build trust and peace by being open, curious and caring and to show respect to and honour different faiths and points of view. And that’s what I get to practise here during the next four months. And as a person who loves beautiful details, stories and getting to know new cultures I couldn’t be any happier to be part of this important work with a great team here in sunny Oman.
Written by Anita Ruokolainen, Volunteer at Al Amana Centre