Concordia students Adonis Duran and Chris Knepper spent their spring break immersed in Omani culture and Christian-Muslim dialogue, and found it a life-changing experience.
The trip was made possible through the generosity of the Stephens Initiative for Service Learning and the Al Amana Centre in Muscat, Oman. Trip leaders were Dr. Joshua Hollmann, chair of Concordia’s theology department, and Nicholas Pohl, Director of Instructional Support and Student Experience for Concordia’s Impact U program.
The trip marked Dr. Hollmann’s third visit to the Al Amana Centre, an organization devoted to cross-religious dialogue as a means of trust-building, mutual understanding, and, ultimately, peace in our interconnected world. Oman is an ideal setting for the Centre: the Sultanate’s official state religion is Ibadhi Islam, setting it apart from the Shi’i/Sunni sectarian conflicts, and its internal policies are characterized by peaceful intra-Islamic and inter-religious coexistence.
Mutual respect and dialogue across differences are central to the mission and ethos of Concordia College New York, and Spring Break in Oman is expected to become a yearly event.
The group had a busy week exploring the mosques, markets, museums, farms, ancient ruins and stunning natural wonders that have shaped Oman’s faith, history and culture. Hiking, camping, and cave excursions joined scriptural reasoning, lectures in peacebuilding and reconciliation, and instruction in Christian-Muslim dialogue and Islamic prayer practices.
Pre-seminary student Chris Knepper said: “As the week progressed, I had the opportunity to partake in deep theological conversations with both local Omanis, and those who came on the trip with me. With Christianity being the minority religion in the country, it was easy to find someone to talk to who did not share my view of religion. However, by having interfaith dialogue, specifically between Muslims and Christians, I was able to see things about the other that I did not even know I was looking for. Through this dialogue, I discovered that the Muslim people of Oman are deeply religious, and have devoted their life to the God they love, and the God that loves them. Participating in these interfaith dialogues allowed me to not only learn something about another faith, but to learn more about my own faith. Yet above all, I learned that even around the other side of the world people are people. Being completely immersed in the amazing Omani culture was life changing for me, and the lessons I learned are something that I will take with me for the rest of my life.”
Biology major Adonis Duran said: “I came to Oman with positive energy and that's what I received ten times back. The Al Amana Centre has not only given me an experience I’ll never forget in my life but a mental and spiritual enlightenment. I conversed with many of the local people, who gave me a personal view on their life and their story living as Muslims. They each felt blessed in harmony with the diversity and ability to freely speak about faith in a positive atmosphere. I feel I was converted to a deeper understanding and appreciation for one another’s faith and perceptions.”