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Duelling

To explore how conflicts and disagreements are best solved through peaceful means.

by The Revd Oliver Harrison

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To explore how conflicts and disagreements are best solved through peaceful means.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a glove, and some ‘weapons’ (comedy ones such as scrunched up paper balls for snowball fight, soft pillows, rolled up paper ‘swords’, etc.).

Assembly

  1. Explain that about two hundred years ago, it was common for rich or upper class men (the women were too sensible!) to settle a disagreement by having a special sort of fight. Ask if anyone knows what that was called, and what happened, etc.
  2. If someone thought they had been offended by another person and that person refused to apologize, then the person who had been wronged would take a glove and slap the other person on the cheek with it (if appropriate you could demonstrate on a member of staff who’s agreed in advance!). That was the sign that was a challenge to a duel.

  3. If you refused the challenge of a duel then you would be known as a coward. You would lose your honour and respect in society. Duels were often held at dawn in remote places, because duelling was against the law and they didn’t want any witnesses. People were seriously hurt or killed during the duels. We may think it’s mad to behave like this and risk being a killer or being killed just because of an argument, but that’s just what was expected in the society of that time – you might think it’s a bit like gang culture today!
  4. Use five volunteers to show how a duel worked: the two combatants, each with a supporter or ‘second’, and one referee. Begin with the challenge using the glove, as described above.

    The referee offered the participants a choice of weapon: pistols, swords, etc. The one who was challenged got to choose what sort of weapon would be used, and the other one (the challenger, who asked for the duel) had to accept this decision and use the same weapon. The referee's decision on the outcome was final.

    If they were using pistols, then starting back to back each combatant would walk five or ten paces away from each other, then turn … and ‘Aim, ready, fire!’

    If there was no clear winner, the referee would be asked for their decision who had won.
  5. Ask the children if they think duelling is the best way to settle an argument. Talk about how disputes can escalate and have big consequences.

    Now talk about giving offence, apologizing, turning the other cheek (remember the glove?) and being prepared to back down if you’re wrong and being ready to compromise (which isn't cowardly and sometimes takes more courage).
  6. Optional: Use Jesus' teaching on turning the other cheek, or ‘Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword’. Explain that these are hard things to understand but Jesus was saying that a peaceful and non-violent answer to any problem is always the best and that is what we should aim for.

Time for reflection

Reflection

We’ve had fun with duels. Sports and games can often be a type of duel. As long as we remember to play fair and respect our opponents, these can be great ways to have a contest and remain friends.

But do arguments and games ever go too far? How can you be a person of peace?

 

Prayer

Dear God,

Help me to be a person of peace.

To have fun with games and sports and contests,

but always be friendly and respectful of other people.

Amen.

Song/music

‘Peace is flowing’ (Come and Praise, 144)

Publication date: November 2007   (Vol.9 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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