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Celebrating difference

To encourage tolerance

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To encourage tolerance.

Preparation and materials

(These can add impact, but the assembly can be used without them.)

  • Display a montage of newspaper headlines about conflicts with a religious undertone. This needs to be assembled over a period of time to give variety.
  • Relate the assembly to any visits to places of worship.
  • If possible, bring a rosary and a set of Muslim prayer beads.
  • (see 4. below) If possible, have ready an example of Muslim non-representative art and an example of representative art from another religion -- an icon, for example. (If you do not have these to hand, a local RE teacher or an Advisor may be able to help.)


  1. Refer to the display and/or ask for any instances the children know where people of different religious beliefs argue.

  2. Ask the children for responses to these situations. Is it a good thing for people to fight because they don't believe in God in the same way?

  3. If you have them, produce the rosary and set of Muslim prayer beads and explain their similar purposes. Here's an area where different religions have things in common.

  4. Either (if you are using religious artwork): Explain that there are some areas where different religions teach different things. Show the two types of artwork and briefly explain the differences. Ask the children to think about the variety of these different approaches -- is it a good thing?

    Or (if you are not using religious artwork): Refer to the fact that different faiths have different food laws -- for example, Jews do not mix milk and meat; Hinduism is a vegetarian faith; Muslims require food animals to be killed in a certain way. Give examples as appropriate to the school community. Ask the children to think about the variety of these different approaches -- is it a good thing?

  5. Read the following story.

    My mate Martin
    by Gordon Lamont

    Not everyone has a real live alien for a friend. Yes, that's what I said, and I mean someone from outer space. His name's Martin. Actually, that's not really his name. The closest I can get to his real name is Marahatrararatin (MAR AHAT TRA RAR ATIN), so you can see why I shorten his name to Martin.

    Martin looks just like you or me, except for a secret that only I know: if you pull one of the hairs in the middle of his head, both his ears pop out on long stalks like lolly sticks. Then they go round and round very slowly in opposite directions. Martin uses this trick to find things, passing spaceships, a lost pen and most of all, chocolate éclairs. Martin loves chocolate éclairs. The only trouble is that he doesn't eat them, he just stares at them for about ten minutes, then smells them, then throws them away. Martin's weird but he says everyone on his home planet does that to chocolate éclairs. When I asked him why, he said, ‘I don't know why, it's just what you do.’

    I should explain that I'm the only one who knows about Martin being an alien. Everyone else thinks he's just an ordinary boy who does funny things with chocolate éclairs and has a strange taste in sweets. Did I mention that the sweets he loves to actually eat are not sweets at all -- they're uncooked Brussels sprouts. Now that is weird.

    Martin is a good friend, but one day, walking home from school, I got a bit fed up with him being so . . . so different.

    'Martin', I said, 'Why can't you be a bit more normal? Why do you have to have ears than spin round on lolly sticks, why do you eat Brussels sprouts instead of sweets and why do you insist on throwing away perfectly good chocolate éclairs?'

    Martin didn't say anything, instead he did his ear trick. Out popped the lolly sticks and round went the ears. He seemed to be searching for something. Then he grabbed hold of me and led me over to some bushes. I was just wondering what was going on when I saw it -- his spaceship. In seconds we were inside and on our way.

    It must have been a very clever spaceship because in what seemed no time at all we were landing. When I looked out of the window, I saw lots of Martins - all with their ears spinning away. They seemed very pleased to see my friend and he quickly introduced me.

    ‘This is my earth friend, Mahinda’, he said.

    ‘Hello Mabbinda’, said Martin's friends.

    ‘It's Mahinda’, I said, but they couldn't seem to say it right. They stood looking at me. They were waiting for something but I didn't know what.

    Eventually Martin said, ‘I'm sorry everyone, Mahinda's ears don't have any sticks so he can't greet you properly.’ Everyone seemed amazed at this and I heard them saying things like ‘How strange’, and ‘I can't believe it’.

    One of Martin's friends offered me a chocolate éclair and of course I was delighted to eat it. There were gasps of amazement and it seemed that no one knew where to look. Finally someone offered me a Brussels sprout. I looked at it in my hand. I knew what I had to do. I couldn't throw it away. They expected me to eat it. I took a deep breath. I opened my mouth wide. I closed my eyes and . . .

    A hand grabbed my arm. It was Martin.

    ‘It's all right, my friend’, he said. ‘You don't have to eat it. You eat sweets, we eat Brussels sprouts. We're different in some ways and in other ways we're the same. We don't have to pretend to like the same things and do things in the same way. When we were on earth you said to me, "Why can't you be a bit more normal?", but here I am "normal".’

    ‘I'm sorry, Martin’, I said. ‘Sorry I got fed up with you being different. I like you just the way you are.’

    Then I had an idea that I thought would really please him. It took me a couple of goes to get it right, but in the end I said, ‘Forget that I said, "I'm sorry, Martin", what I really meant was, I'm sorry . . .’ and here I took a deep breath, ‘Marahatrararatin (MAR AHAT TRA RAR ATIN)’.

    My friend smiled -- and that seems to be the same wherever you come from.

Time for reflection

Dear God,
You have the whole world in your hands;
not everyone sees you in the same way;
open our minds to respect the beliefs of others,
and our hearts to know that your love is for them
as much as it is for us. Amen.

Also useful

The meditation in the Change of Head Teacher assembly.

Song and music

‘He's Got the Whole World in His Hands’ (Come and Praise 19).

Publication date: January 1999   (Vol.1 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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