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‘I have to ask! How’s life in Saudi Arabia? Is it as crazy and weird as most people think?’

To all those reading who still don’t know, ‘Life is great here, and no it’s not crazy. We live a normal simple life here except that we’ve got oil. And you know how that works.’

Growing up in Saudi Arabia, I never had much interaction with people from different religions. It’s always been a Muslim-majority country and the few people I met who happened to practice a different faith still knew more about the practices of Islam than one would expect.

However, all that changed recently. I finally, in my 20 years of existence, met individuals from a faith I never knew I’d even contemplate meeting 6 months ago. I was granted an opportunity to attend an interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Jews. And what an experience it was!

When I look back at that week, it seems like such a blur because of how fast it all went by. Each day, in a span of about 12 hours (or more), I had a hundred different conversations with people from extremely versatile backgrounds. Though it seemed that we are all different at the time, we all had one huge similarity that did not go unnoticed. We were all there to ‘talk it out’. We wanted to break all sorts of barriers between the two beliefs and move forward. We wanted to resolve the hovering hatred we had harbored due to what we ‘heard’ growing up.

Suddenly, I was getting all these new perspectives I had never been exposed to before. I was being asked questions I never thought I’d have to answer because everything had always been understood around me. Even Muslims from different backgrounds held similar concerns. It was all very fascinating to me. The questions were not one-sided though. I got to ask some people some really difficult questions too which made me realize how limited my knowledge is about the world. We’re taught to believe that what we grow up in is ‘life’ when life can mean different things to different people.

This conference definitely challenged my definition of reality and motivated me to further tap into issues that need to be addressed and maybe hopefully attain as Gracie Hart rightfully states in Ms. Congeniality, ‘world peace!’

I took so much from that one week that maybe I hadn’t in my whole life. I gained new experiences, made new friends, and took my first small step outside my bubble and I’d absolutely advise other people to take that small step too. It’ll definitely open up new interesting doors.

P.S. I forgot to mention that the conference was held in Bosnia and that was a whole other level of awesomeness that I’ll get to at some later point.

– This blog was originally published here.
Photo Credit: Daniel Shaked

MJC does not support any political agenda and would like to emphasize that these posts reflect personal views of participants that wrote about their individual experience at an MJC conference.

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