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The courage of conviction

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 3


To consider what it means to have the courage of one’s convictions.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a whiteboard and pens, with the names of the seven people and descriptions mentioned in the ‘Assembly’, Step 3, written on it. Mix the order of the descriptions up so that they are no longer by the person they describe.
  • You will need seven children to read out the descriptions of the seven people mentioned in Step 3. They can either be prepared or drawn from the students gathered on the day.
  • Find an image of Malala Yousafzai and have the means available to display it during the assembly (check copyright).
  • For Malala’s story, visit:
  • Have available the song ‘Stand up for your rights’ by Bob Marley and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


  1. Write the word ‘courage’ on the whiteboard.

    Ask the students to suggest courageous feats that spring to mind and courageous people.

  2. ‘Courage’ is a word that can also be used to describe those who have overcome serious difficulties, trials and sorrows. It can also be used to describe those who have put others before themselves in dangerous situations.

    One possible definition of it is:  

    the quality of mind and spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger and pain.

  3. Write the words ‘courage of one’s convictions’ on the whiteboard.

    This can mean, ‘I can do this!’, ‘I will do this!’, ‘This is not right and just. I need to do something about it.’

  4. A good example of this might be the determination and belief of the character played by Sandra Bullock in the film Gravity that she would get back to Earth.

    Another would be Eric Liddell’s decision as a Christian not to run in the qualifying heats for the 100 metres Olympic title in the film Chariots of Fire because they took place on a Sunday, which for him was a day of worship and rest.

  5. Another possible definition is:

    to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, especially despite criticism, and be brave enough to do what you feel is right, regardless of any pressure on you to do something different.

  6. Consider some people who are well known for having had the courage of their convictions.

    If you have followed the direction in the ‘Preparation and materials’ section above, you will have already written the names of the following seven people and the descriptions on the whiteboard. You will have randomized the order of the descriptions so that they are no longer in the correct order. 

    Read the names out, as they may not be known by all the students, then ask seven students to read out the descriptions, one at a time. Ask the students to say each time which person it is a description of.

    Nelson Mandela  ‘I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.’

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer  Opposed the Nazi regime in Germany, the euthanasia program and persecution of Jews.

    Emily Pankhurst  A suffragette who led campaigns of civil disobedience against a male-dominated political system.

    Rosa Parks  An American civil rights activist who started the Montgomery bus boycott by refusing to give up her seat to a white person.

    William Wilberforce  Campaigned against slavery and was responsible for the Slavery Abolition Bill of 1833, which became law the following year.

    Aung San Suu Kyi  A Burmese opposition leader.

    Mahatma Gandhi  An Indian politician who struggled to bring about Indian Independence by means of non-violent protests.

    These people have all had the courage of their convictions. They have done something to change something they believed was wrong.

    Consider what it cost them to do this.

    Nelson Mandela                      imprisoned for 27 years

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer                executed

    Emily Pankhurst                     imprisoned many times

    Rosa Parks                             imprisoned

    William Wilberforce                years of opposition and constant setbacks

    Aung San Suu Kyi                  years of house arrest

    Mahatma Gandhi                    imprisonment, long periods of fasting, assassination.

    Their beliefs caused them to act. Their convictions became their life’s work. It cost many to be so courageous, even unto death.

  7. The students might be thinking that all these people were clever, prominent people, so they could do something and had influence.

    Show the image of Malala Yousafzai. 

    She is simply a schoolgirl from Pakistan, but has the courage to campaign for the right to education. Explain what it has cost her already – that she was shot in the head by the Taliban and nearly died after defying their threats that those speaking out against them would be punished. 

Time for reflection

What do you feel strongly about?

It might be your faith, it might be injustice and poverty in the world, it might be something happening near you that is unfair or unjust.

What would having the courage of your convictions to do something about them look like?

Maybe it would be as simple as saying, ‘No, I don’t want to smoke’ or ‘No, I won’t join in your bullying’, ‘No, I don’t want to muck about, I want to study hard and do my best at school’ or ‘No, I will do as my parents ask and have respect for them’. 

Dear God, 
Standing up for what we believe is never easy. It takes great courage and many of us have little courage. 
Thank you for the many people all over the world who have risen to the challenge of acting on their beliefs and even been willing to lay down their lives for the issues that they believe in. 
We appreciate the benefits that their courage has brought to many lives. 



‘Stand up for your rights’ by Bob Marley

Publication date: June 2014   (Vol.16 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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