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Culture

To look at how we are slowly becoming more accepting of other cultures, while holding on to basic givens, such as human rights.

by James Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To look at how we are slowly becoming more accepting of other cultures, while holding on to basic givens, such as human rights.

Preparation and materials

  • Prepare readers for the ‘mock debate’ nature of this assembly.
  • Download/play some typical music from a different culture from our own. One of the easiest to access might be Buena Vista Social Club, who play music from Cuba which is widely available.

Assembly

Reader 1

There are approximately 6 billion people alive today. Because of social and technological advances, that number is only going to increase. Within this enormous population lies a great variety of cultures; some aspects of these different cultures might seem comical or bizarre to us, but are commonplace to others.

Reader 2

Along with the rising population is the ease of communication. With the advent of air travel and the internet a businessperson can order goods from China without leaving the office, and the manufacturer can have them flown over in a matter of hours. New and exciting cultures are all around us, and often the best way to understand them is to live them.

Students are encouraged to spend semesters in other countries and return to their home nations with new skills and more understanding and respect for their former hosts. They can then go on to do business with other cultures. Through this, a better relationship between the two cultures is achieved. People are less likely to support a war with a nation they admire and respect – there has never been a war between two totally democratic states.

Reader 3

However, this great burst of travel has its downsides. Aircraft are frequently targeted for their environmental impact and global warming risks, damaging the beauty that often attracts tourists to a place. It seems that the more we learn about each other, the more we risk irrevocably harming each other.

Yet there is a positive note to be learned from this: as richer nations and poorer nations continue to lift the veil of difference to see the common links that bind us, the desire for global action to save other peoples grows. Solar panels made in Germany are being used across the world to produce green power – just one example of how different nations can work together to solve mutual problems.

The trade deals agreed between different countries that enable those nations to collaborate require cultural and linguistic experts who must have a strong understanding of the language and society of the other nation and culture. The world we live in relies on understanding and respect.

Reader 4

But there are still problems that need to be resolved. For example, China resists calls for greater human rights, calling them ‘western notions’ that do not apply to an Asian state such as itself. Advocates of human rights, such as Amnesty International, say that this is unacceptable. They argue that certain human rights are universal, transcending culture and society and that it is the duty of nations with strong human rights records to hold more lax nations to task. Both sides have strong arguments to support their cases – this poses an issue for the future.

Time for reflection

Despite the problems ahead, the world has grown much more tolerant of other cultures. We live in a truly international system today and racism is seen as unacceptable. There will always be disagreements as long as there is difference and maybe the disputes we face are something we will have to accept for now.

Prayer

In your mind, think about all the different cultures that we know about already, for example students here at school whose families have come to this country for various reasons, who bring with them experiences and knowledge that we share.

Think about countries that you may have visited. What was different about the way people lived their lives, the values that they held?

Think about countries that we find difficult to understand, working with systems alien to our way of life. And think about the people who live in such systems.

You might like to make these words your prayer too:

Help us to listen to others who have different views,

to grow through that listening,

to recognize the value of other views,

and always to work towards true freedom for all.

Amen.

Hymn

‘For the healing of the nations’ (Hymns Old and New, 198)

Publication date: 2008   (Vol.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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