Holy Cross-roads: Looking both ways

Earlier this month, Al Amana Centre hosted students from University of Notre Dame in Indiana and University of Notre Dame Bangladesh together for a program called “Holy Crossroads.” For one week, the students engaged in interfaith dialogue, cross-cultural sharing, and experiential learning. The following blog post was sent to us by one of the participants from Bangladesh. Happy reading!


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Students from Bangladesh and the United States gather in the Al Amana Centre garden for class.

Oman has been enlightening for all students who participated in the ‘Holy-Cross-roads’ programme from Bangladesh. At first, when we applied for the programme, it seemed like a dream that we would be able to visit such a beautiful country to share our ideas and beliefs about religion and politics. But, as the date of our departure neared our anxiousness increased — what is it going to be like meeting all those new people and visiting a new country for the first time? And before we knew it, the date of our travel had arrived and we were waiting at the airport to board out flight.

Upon arriving at Muscat the first thing I noticed was how beautiful and well organised everything was. Much to my amazement Oman is a great country with a rich culture and heritage. I am most grateful to the Al Amana Centre for hosting us and taking care of us for the week-long programme. It was also very generous of them to introduce us to the culture of Oman and the differences and similarities they have with countries belonging to other parts of the world.

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Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat

This search for similarities and differences during the ‘Holy Cross-roads’ programme through interfaith dialogues introduced us to some challenging questions — who gets to decide what is normal? Why the minority groups are treated the way they are? How can peace reside in society through accepting the differences? Yes, perhaps accepting is the best way for a peaceful life in Allah’s world.

From the wee hours when we arrived at the Corniche and the walks that we have had along the coastline, I have pondered — how lucky I am to have been blessed with this opportunity to witness the beauty of Allah’s creation! I have said this over and over to my fellow participants whom I have grown close to through the experiences we have shared, the interfaith dialogues we have had and have come to accept and appreciate our differences.

Throughout history we can see that conflicts have arisen and wars have been waged because of the notion of ‘difference’. Whether it was the Romans who tried to gain power and expand their borders or some other modern era leader who started fighting for any ungracious reason, I believe it was their habitual inability to accept that human beings are different is what led to fighting amongst human beings. And it was this fear of the ‘different’ that led to such great losses of life.

Looking back at the ‘Holy Cross-roads’ programme where the participants met and talked, I believe we truly shared a connection that goes beyond the boundaries of religion. We understood each other and talked on issues which make us tick. And ultimately we understood that human beings are different but at the same time we are not so different either.

On the other hand, the idea of getting to know a different culture for some time has its own perks. You get to know people who are in many ways similar to you. You can learn about the follies that limit your existence to base fundamentalism and overcome these obstacles just by talking to someone who is knowledgeable and knows the proper way to disseminate that knowledge.

This was an adventure which has etched its mark in my mind and will always have a special mention in my book of unforgettable memories. I hope that I will be able to return to Oman and Al Amana Centre once again in future to work for creating peace through interfaith dialogues. Finally, I want to add that I have returned to Bangladesh enlightened, but with sadness in my mind, sharing the centre with each other had brought us together like a family and leaving behind this family has been tough. But like the wise person said, all good things must come to an end and the world never stops spinning.

Diving into this unknown culture and learning new things about my own religion and that of others has opened my eyes and has taught me to look at the world in a broader perspective.

Written by Md Saifuddin Al Quaderi, student at Notre Dame University Bangladesh, participant at Holy Cross-roads programme at Al Amana Centre

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