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Religious tolerance

To explore the idea that people can see God and faith in different ways.

by The Revd Trevor Donnelly

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore the idea that people can see God and faith in different ways.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a vacuum cleaner (the children must not see you bringing this in – keep it hidden or the assembly will not work).
  • A bin liner or similar large bag, big enough to comfortably hide the vacuum cleaner.
  • Set the concealed vacuum cleaner on a table.


  1. Welcome everyone and say that you have something hidden in the bag, and you’d like them to guess what it is. Ask for volunteers to feel inside the bag, one at a time, and to describe what they feel BUT make sure you direct their hands: the first child to the lead, the second to the bristles, the third to the tubing, the fourth to the smooth sides.

    Each should report a very different item under the bag. Ask all the children to guess what the object is, then reveal the vacuum cleaner with a 'ta dah!'

  2. Say that you want to tell them a story that’s a little bit like the guessing game you’ve just played.

    Six blind people were taken to visit an elephant. The first felt its tail, and went away saying that the elephant was like a rope. The second felt the elephant's ear and said that the elephant was like a huge fan. The next felt the trunk and described the elephant as a great snake. The next felt the side and said it was a wall. When the next felt the tusk he thought it was a spear. And the last person felt one of the elephant's legs, and he thought an elephant was like a tree trunk.

    The six blind people met up later and started to discuss what they thought of the elephant. ‘It's a rope,’ said one. ‘It's a fan,’ said another. And the two began to fight, each saying that the other one hadn't visited the elephant at all. Then the others joined in: ‘No, it’s a snake!’ ‘A wall!’ ‘A spear!’ ‘A tree trunk!’

  3. Explain that all the blind people had encountered the same elephant, but they had come away with very different ideas of what that elephant was like. They all had some of the truth, but none of them had the whole picture, so they fought with each other.

    Say that the reason you’re telling this story, and the reason you played the game with the vacuum cleaner, is because you want them to think about the different religions that people follow: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and others.

    Many people believe that all these religions say different things about God. They all have pieces of the truth, but the truth is just too big for one religion to have all of it.

    It is the same with other arguments or fights. Very often we have only part of the picture – but we are so sure that our bit is true that we are ready to fight someone with a different truth! But rather than fight, it is always better to try and see the ‘bigger picture’.

Time for reflection


Close your eyes and think of the day and week ahead.
You will meet lots of people, of different ages, younger and older, boys and girls,
maybe from different cultures or religions.
Think of them as people who may have something to teach us.


Loving God, you are known by many different names,
by many different peoples.
Help us to be slow to argue
and quick to listen.
And help us to live and learn and love together in harmony.


‘He's got the whole world in his hands’ (Come and Praise, 19)

Publication date: November 2005   (Vol.7 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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