Experiencing Interfaith Photovoice for the first time

Gratitude sparked Confidence and Hope

It has been a month since I started as a FELM Volunteer at the Al Amana Centre in Oman. Due to the pandemic, I have been working remotely from my home in the countryside in Finland. I have seen Oman only in pictures and Al Amana Centre´s devoted staff only in zoom. But that has not stopped me from enjoying every day while familiarizing myself with the work Al Amana Centre has been doing for the past years.

Al Amana Centre has an honorable legacy in Oman, and since last year, the amazing ability to change their work from physical educational courses to online events. Tuesday 25th May, I was given a possibility to participate in their online event called ” A Taste of Interfaith Photovoice”. The event was aimed to introduce this innovative interfaith engagement tool to Al Amana Centre´s partners.

In preparation for the event, we had been asked to find, from our own photographs, pictures that show how we experience or express gratitude in our everyday life in reference to our own religious or spiritual backgrounds. We were told to expect to explore this topic of gratitude together, through these photographs, during this event.

Our two hour event began with Roman Williams, Justin Meyers and Emma Robinson welcoming and introducing us the concept and structure of Interfaith Photovoice. We, participants from Norway, Canada, Tanzania, Jerusalem, Bangladesh, USA and Finland, were then divided into three smaller groups. I found myself in a group facilitated by Justin Meyers. 

We shared our photographs, listened to personal stories, and discussed how these pictures reflected gratitude. When we were encouraged to find similarities in these different pictures, we who came with diverse backgrounds and different perspectives, found many.

We saw confidence and hope in our photos. We saw celebration of life, family, nature and being alive. We saw hope for tomorrow, and hope in communities. Even my picture was seen reflecting confidence and hope – something I had not seen there myself – and this was very empowering for me.

Looking back at this experience, I find myself wondering how much more depth we would have reached if we would have had more time together. Even with this little time, I feel we went beyond knowledge of the other. We felt empathy towards each other. We learned about ourselves and others. And in our small and structured space, we build understanding and relationship between us on a very personal level. 

Today I am left to imagine the exhibition our pictures would have created and the impact it might have had. I will always remember and cherish our finding: gratitude sparks confidence and hope. 

Virpi Paulanto
FELM Volunteer,

I am a Theologian, and an ordained Deacon at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland. I am a Communications Specialist with a passion for building ecumenical and interfaith relations. 

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