This assembly explores our views about those who are different to us and the extent to which we welcome them into our lives and the community

This secondary assembly challenges listeners to consider their views about differences and similarities and their concept of the stranger or outsider. It is based on the recent events in south Belfast where a group of Romanians fled their homes following attacks and harassment.

Resources:

  • Five Readers and a Leader
  • If possible, play this Sky News report about the Romanian attacks  


Note for teacher:

  • Care should be taken to be sensitive to any tensions within the school or community and to avoid creating tensions where none otherwise exist.

Engagement

Reader 1: My name is Colin. Colin Macdonald. I was born here in [insert name of your local area] but both my parents are from Scotland [change country if appropriate]. They moved here because my mum got a job here. We’re quite happy here and I feel like I belong because it’s all I’ve ever known. When we visit my grandparents it feels odd because they speak with a different accent which I sometimes find hard to understand – and they say that I have an accent – but I don’t think I have. My parents also have relatives in Canada. They’re very Canadian, but they are the descendants of people who were kicked off their land a long time ago in something called the Highland clearances. So they have Scottish roots but they were born and raised in Canada as were their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

Reader 2: I’m a football fan. I support my local team [personalise with your local team or use a well-known Premiership team]. The funny thing about the team is that a lot of the players have come over from different countries. Some of them even play for their home nation when they play international football. It doesn’t really make any difference to me where they come from though. All that matters is that they play football well and score goals for the team. I never really think of them as outsiders or anything like that.

Reader 3: I’m a teacher. I’m over here on an exchange programme, teaching in a primary school. I think my pupils are great and they seem to like me. I’m from the USA and it’s good fun to teach the children a bit about my home country, as well as learning lots about theirs. The funny thing is that the children here are no different at all to the children back home. They have exactly the same hopes and dreams and fears and worries. Everyone here has been very welcoming and they have made my time here really enjoyable.

Reader 4: My new dentist is from Poland. She’s great. She is very calm and I never feel nervous about going, like I used to with my old dentist – and he was born here and so were his parents and grandparents end everyone back for probably about a thousand years. It doesn’t matter to me where my dentist is from – all that matters is that she makes something unpleasant more bearable.

Reader 5: One great thing about our area is all the different food places there are. I like eating out a lot and I’m not all that interested in greasy fast food – even though I know all teenagers are supposed to be! There are Indian restaurants and Chinese and Malaysian. There’s a Thai restaurant and even a Mongolian restaurant. There’s a Turkish place which not only serves great food, but it’s like sitting in a Turkish house with all the decorations and atmosphere. Imagine what it would be like if none of those great places were there – what a dull place it would be.

Reflection

Leader: Just pause and think for a moment. In our area, what examples are there of the influence of other cultures and ways of life? [discuss here if appropriate] How bland and ordinary would life be without this diversity and variety? What things would you miss if everyone who wasn’t born here was asked to leave? What a different country it would be.  Many of our football teams are made up of people from other countries, and many of the people we come into contact with on a daily basis have families where there is more than one cultural background [again, discuss if appropriate]. Some people would call them outsiders. Even the most powerful man in the world, the President of the USA is someone with dual heritage. In most cases we welcome this as a celebration of the diversity of our world and our country, but sadly, not always.

Recently in south Belfast, a large group of people from Romania who are living in the area had to be escorted from their houses because of attacks. In fact two boys, aged 15 and 16 were arrested in connection with the attacks. The Romanians had only done what people have done for thousands of years – they moved from the place of their birth to another country in search of work and perhaps a better life.  Since organised work started, humans have probably always moved around in search of it, sometimes leaving behind all that they know and becoming strangers in a foreign land. In fact, if we were to look around this school we would find perhaps that even those who think of themselves as one hundred percent British are actually an interesting mixture of all sorts of national and cultural backgrounds.How should we behave towards those who are strangers or outsiders in what we think of as ‘our’ country? The world’s major religions all stress the common humanity of all people, and there is almost always a special effort made to welcome the outsider – to make the stranger a friend and to provide for their needs. In Christianity, Jesus went so far as to say that your behaviour towards a stranger is a reflection of your behaviour towards Jesus himself. He said that in each stranger you should see Him, and so treat the stranger as if he or she were Jesus himself. Other religions also have very special rules of behaviour towards the stranger – for example, in welcoming a stranger to share a meal in your home at the time of a religious festival. We can see strangers as a threat to our way of life or we can see them as people who might add to our lives, by enriching our culture and our experiences through the diversity of lifestyles they bring. Which option we choose is, of course, up to us.Do you welcome the stranger in this school and community? Do you welcome difference and celebrate diversity? There’s an old saying that goes: ‘A stranger is just a friend you haven’t been introduced to yet’.Do you welcome the stranger, the outsider in your community, as a friend?

Response

Leader:

Let us think about those who are strangers in our communityLet us think about those we consider to be the outsidersWhat good things they can bring to our lifeWhat benefits they might bring to our nationLet us not reject themBut welcome themAs friends we haven’t been introduced to yet

[Amen]

 

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2009

About the author: Joe Walker is Head of RE and psychology at Liberton High School in Edinburgh. As well as being a well-known author he was winner of Secondary Teacher of the Year at the Scottish Education Awards 2005.

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