Agreeing to Disagree
The Week of Prayer for World Peace is on 8-16 October
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore our understanding of the importance of overcoming our differences for the greater good (SEAL theme: Social Skills).
Preparation and materials
You will need a leader and two readers.
Leader: Look around you. In what ways are you different from others who are sitting close to you?
Pause to allow time for thought.
Reader 1: An obvious difference is that of gender . . .
Reader 2: . . . or age. Some of us are nearly five years older than others. (Change as appropriate.)
Reader 1: Some of us have blonde hair, others brown, some straight and some curly.
Reader 2: Some of us support (name local football team), others support (name their rivals) and many of us aren’t really bothered!
Reader 1: There are those of us who are optimists, always looking on the bright side of life.
Reader 2: Whereas others are pessimists and tend to dwell on life’s problems.
Leader: There are so many differences. This is only a brief selection. In fact, it’s true to say that no two students are exactly the same, not even identical twins (you may wish to refer to pairs of twins present in the assembly).
Sometimes, our differences can be the source of rivalry. This is often light-hearted and innocent, but occasionally, it can turn into something more damaging: prejudice or even active antagonism. Differences can so easily descend into disharmony.
But we can look at the situation another way. In what ways are you similar to those around you?
Pause to allow time for thought.
The first thing to recognize is that we’re all human. Then there’s the fact that many of us are teenagers. We’re all also part of this school community. We are all alive and living in a similar part of the country. These are characteristics that we share and they are factors that hold us together.
Time for reflection
Leader: One difference that wasn’t mentioned earlier is that of religion. It’s quite likely that in the assembly today, there are those who would term themselves Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Rastafarians, Buddhists and many other faiths. There are many who would not claim any faith at all. In fact, I’m sure that some people would suggest that religion is a cause of conflict in the world and is best avoided.
The week of 8-16 October is the Week of Prayer for World Peace. Throughout the country, there are gatherings of representatives of most, if not all, of the world’s main religious groups. Ordinary people meet to show their common humanity and to pray for the peace of the world. The idea behind this week is best summed up in the words of one of its founders, Dr Edward Carpenter.
Reader 1: The peace of the world must be prayed for by the faiths of the world.
Reader 2: The peace of the world must be prayed for by the faiths of the world.
Leader: What Carpenter means is that, if the world’s faiths or religions are one of the causes of disharmony and war within in the world, it’s the responsibility of those faiths and religions to do something about it. The first thing to do is simply to get together, to share our common humanity, to dissolve the barriers that keep us apart. The second is to do what faithful people believe is the most powerful action that can be taken, which is to pray, to invite God to intervene and bring peace to our world. It all stems from a shared belief that what we agree on is more important than what we disagree on, and we long for world peace.
It may be that some of us are planning on taking part in an event connected with the Week of Prayer for World Peace over the next few days. But it’s also worth applying Carpenter’s words to our life together in this school community. Together, we need to take responsibility for the good of our school community because we are all so different. Let’s consider whether we care that the vulnerable are protected, the lonely are befriended, the depressed are encouraged. Let’s consider the differences we can make.
Let’s make sure that our differences don’t get in the way of pulling together around our similarities and our desires for peace.
Together, if we really want it, we can create a community that is challenging, achieving and above all, peaceful. Lessons that are learnt here in school can transfer into the world in general.
Thank you for the variety within this school.
May we concentrate on the wonderful things that we all share.
May we be happy in our differences.
May we make our school community a place of peace that is a model for the world in which we live.
‘One love’ by Peter Tosh