My Spiritual Set-Up

An outline for a non-formal activity to trigger discussions and reflection about interfaith dialogue

Photo by Dwell Magazine

This learning session outline was developed by the AFS Education and Intercultural Learning team to help facilitators engage groups in discussions around values, beliefs, respect and interfaith dialogue. As these topics can all be sensitive and very personal, please be sure to conduct the activity in an inclusive and mindful manner.

Following the general structure and adjusting the debriefing questions facilitators can easily create variations and focus on similar issues.

Group size: 15 to 25
Time:
35 minutes
Materials:
Enough chairs and copies of the task cards for each participant
Objectives: — 
To create awareness of different beliefs, — To promote cooperation and collaborative attitudes, — To suspend judgement of different beliefs, — To turn conflict into cooperation.

Preparation:

Create a few groups of task cards containing the instructions. Formulate the tasks to talk about different cultures and beliefs, all related to arranging chairs in the room. We suggest the following three groups of task cards, but you can create more if you are conducting the activity with larger groups.

TASK GROUP 1:
You believe that it is best when all chairs in the room are arranged in a circle. You are highly motivated to live by your core belief and you should try to arrange all the chairs in this room to be in accordance with your preference towards circles. However, being in harmony with other people is a very important value for you. In this activity, you should do your best to behave by your beliefs and values. Remember not to reveal this card and your culture to anyone else in the room!

TASK GROUP 2:
You believe that it is best when all chairs in the room are arranged in a theater set-up. You are highly motivated to live by your core belief and you should try to arrange all the chairs in this room to be in accordance with your preference towards rows of chairs. However, being in harmony with other people is a very important value for you. In this activity, you should do your best to behave by your beliefs and values. Remember not to reveal this card and your culture to anyone else in the room!

TASK GROUP 3:
You believe that it is best when all chairs in the room are arranged in such a way that no two chairs face each other. You are highly motivated to live by your core belief and you should try to arrange all the chairs in this room to be in accordance with your preference towards arranging chairs so as not to face each other. However, being in harmony with other people is a very important value for you. In this activity, you should do your best to behave by your beliefs and values. Remember not to reveal this card and your culture to anyone else in the room!

Activity:

Spend about 5 minutes giving the participants instructions on this activity. Tell the participants that in this activity you will distribute task cards containing descriptions of different cultures and beliefs. Each participant should behave in accordance with the instructions on the card they receive, and they should not reveal the contents of their cards to each other. Instruct the participants that it is very important that they do their best to represent the tasks they receive. Distribute the task cards in a random order and check if everyone understands what they need to do. Tell the participants they have 10 minutes to perform their tasks and start the activity.

Debriefing:
After 10 minutes, bring the group together and analyze the exercise. This debriefing should take about 20 minutes. The following questions may help with discussion:

Facts:

  • What happened during the activity?
  • Were there any conflicts and how were they resolved?
  • What were the different cultures, values and beliefs you received?
  • How successful were you in accomplishing your tasks? Why?

Feelings:

  • How did you feel during this activity?
  • Is anyone upset, happy or frustrated with the task they received?

Findings:

  • What did you learn from this activity?
  • What was the most difficult thing for you?
  • How does this activity relate to interfaith dialogue?
  • Were you able to find a satisfying solution for everyone?
  • What communication strategies did you use?

Future:

  • What would you have done differently if you knew about what others believe in?
  • How can you use what you learned in this session to be more effective when communicating with different beliefs?

This activity aims to bring participants to work together to find constructive solutions even if they may have conflicting goals. The facilitator should create a clear link between this activity and the need to communicate and collaborate when it comes to interfaith issues.

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