Monsma leads study trip in Oman

Dr. Scott Monsma, associate professor of sociology, and five NWC students received an insider’s view of the Middle East while in Oman during Christmas break.

Monsma designed the study trip to challenge students’ sense of identity and culture.

 “I wanted them to come back with a different view of Arabic culture, Islam, Oman—something they would not get from the media,” Monsma says.

For more than two weeks in December and January, the group studied in the cities of Muscat, Nizwa and Sur, visiting popular sites as well as traditional homes. At Sultan Qaboos University, Omani and Northwestern students exchanged presentations on college life.

On a three-day camping excursion in the sand dunes of Wahiba, Bedu musicians performed for the group, inviting NWC junior Jackie Carlson, a percussionist, to play along.

Monsma spent a week in Oman in 2002 with Michael Bos, director of the Al Amana Center in Muscat, to begin preparations for the study trip. The center, which is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, works to encourage interfaith dialogue and relations in their moderate Islamic state.

“We’ve met fathers and mothers. These are real human beings to us now,” says Monsma, addressing the religious divide. “We can talk with one another across these differences.”

On Christmas Eve, the group worshipped with an Arabic Christian congregation. Another day, they learned about Islamic worship practices at the Grand Mosque.

“The trip to Oman was amazing,” says junior Mandy Gordon. “The people are gracious, the landscape is beautiful, the presence of God’s hand is all over the place—everything one wouldn’t expect from watching the news.”