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Real-life magic

To offer an image of hope, and of good triumphing over evil.

by Gordon Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 3


To offer an image of hope, and of good triumphing over evil.

Preparation and materials

  • Although it is not essential, this assembly will greatly benefit from a magic trick or illusion at the beginning. It may be that you, a member of staff or a student can perform a trick. You’re looking for one with, if possible, a high visual impact that will come across in the assembly hall. There are plenty of simple tricks you can use without special equipment, either in books or on internet sites such as
  • You will need a bike (or large picture of one) and a picture of a gun (or a toy gun).
  • Read through Sousa Manuel Goao’s story in advance or prepare one or more students to read it.


  1. If you have one, perform your magic trick. If you don’t have a trick, talk about magic and illusions and the sense of amazement and wonder they create.
  2. Go on to mention the great staples of stage illusions – sawing someone in half; making someone levitate (float in the air); making people and things appear and disappear; turning something into something else; producing things out of seemingly impossible places, such as a rabbit out of a hat or an endless stream of silk cloths from a small box.
  3. Talk about ‘real-life magic’: that wonderful feeling when something actually happens that you had thought was impossible. Give some examples: you get picked for a sports team, which a few months ago had seemed impossible; someone is ill and then, amazingly and against the odds, they get better; something you’ve been dreading and worrying about, like a test, turns out to be good – you even enjoy it! These are ‘real-life magic’; not tricks but events that give you the same feeling of surprise and wonder that a good trick does.
  4. Explain that you have an example of real-life magic that is so amazing that it sounds like a magic trick! The magic turns this (show gun/picture), into this (show bike/picture).

    How is it done? In the Republic of Mozambique, a country in south-eastern Africa, an organization called the Christian Council of Mozambique swaps guns that are left over from the country’s civil war (a type of war in which people from one nation fight among themselves) for useful things like a plough, a bike or a sewing machine. This is real-life magic – they take weapons that did so much harm to the country and, hey presto, they turn them into useful things that help to build a better country for everyone.
  5. But the magic doesn’t stop there. Just like the best magic tricks that have an extra surprise at the end to make the audience gasp and applaud, the guns are given to artists who make them into works of art – sometimes they even make chairs and tables out of them.

    Read or ask the rehearsed students to read Sousa Manuel Goao’s story.

    My name is Sousa Manuel Goao. I live in a small village in Mozambique. When I was 23 years old I was kidnapped at gunpoint by anti-government rebel soldiers. I found myself with other young men who had been kidnapped. We were all forced to march for 150 miles – with no shoes!

    After days of marching we finally arrived at a training camp in the middle of nowhere. We learnt how to survive. We also learnt how to raid farms and attack other people. We took whatever we wanted. We also kidnapped men to train as soldiers, just as we had been taken. We did not think about who we were killing – soldiers, men, women or children. It didn’t matter.

    Then, after a while, the rebel army that kidnapped me made an agreement with the government. So we stopped fighting and the government asked us to hand in our weapons. But we hid many of them. We needed to survive, so we kept the guns to help us get food and money.

    Then I heard about the Christian Council of Mozambique. It was offering to give people tools, like ploughs and sewing machines, in return for their guns. I was hopeful. I wanted to stop running. I wanted to stop attacking people. So I nervously took in some guns. And I was amazed at what happened: I was treated with respect. The people at the Council gave me a sewing machine – no questions asked. Now I had a chance to earn a living!

    Since then, I’ve given up more guns and in return I’ve had two more sewing machines. Now I work with my brother and my uncle and we make clothes to sell at the local market. I am so happy now there is peace in my life.
  6. You could end by saying something like: I think we should show our appreciation for the brilliant real-life magicians of Mozambique – cue applause!

Time for reflection

Some magic is clever and amazes us with its fantastic tricks and illusions. So we ask: how did they do that?

Some magic is more everyday; we know how it happens but it still amazes and delights us. So we feel surprise and wonder.

And some magic seems to be both, like turning guns into bikes and making sculpture too!

What kind of magic can you do today? Who can you surprise and amaze?


Dear God,

Please help us to make magic in our daily lives to surprise and amaze people with great new ideas,

just as the people of Mozambique did when they turned guns into useful things and exciting art,

and to do small magic by being helpful, perhaps when people least expect it.


Publication date: January 2009   (Vol.11 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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