Building Bridges in Religion

Inter-religious dialogue


.To contribute to a personal questioning about our attitudes towards the difference

.To understand the importance of dialogue and mutual understanding in relationships with others

.To define the concept of Interreligious Dialogue and to identify its protagonists

.To reflect on the role of inter-religious dialogue in Intercultural Dialogue


Expected Outcomes

In the end the participants will be able to:

. Distinguish between primary and secondary language, in Religion

. To perceive common aspects of religious and non-religious thinking

. To become aware of the contributions of Religion to Humanity

. To recognize the importance of knowing the other’s perspective, in terms of beliefs, in order to achieve a better understanding

. To be aware of each one’s role for building peace and interfaith dialogue


Target group


Youth, Adults

Number of participants: 12 – 20 people



(1 - very easy, 5 - very difficult)

Degree of expertise needed - 2

The amount of work to prepare and implement the scenario -  3

Relative overall cost predicted - 1



3 h 30 min (with one 15 min break)


Chairs arranged in U-shape

One  table for the supporting materials



Video-projector; markers; flipchart; pens; copy of supporting material: Quiz “BINGO!” (Annex 1) - 1 per person; Role-Play “The Relic” (Annex 4) - 1 per group



1. The facilitator prints the Quiz “BINGO!” for the Introduction Game (one per participant).

2. The facilitator prints the cards and organizes the Quotes’ cards by Author. The cards should be printed and organized by Quotes (cards A) and by Authors (cards B). The total of the cards (A+B) has to be equal to the number of the participants.

3. There should be as many A cards as B cards. However, if the number of the group of participants is odd, there will be two A cards (Quotes’ cards), which means that there will be two Quotes for the same Author.

4. For the Group Dynamics “The Relic”, the facilitator prepares 4 cards for a maximum of 4 work-groups.

For the timekeeping the facilitator should have a clock or a mobile phone.




Session’s presentation - facilitators, participants, objectives and sequence. (15 min.)

Introduction Game for presenting the participants: “BINGO!”

Step 1. The facilitator distributes one quiz “BINGO!” per person.

Step 2. The facilitator gives the following instruction:

“Find, in the room, persons who match each affirmation you have on you card. Each person you find has to sign near the affirmation that fits he/she. The group have 10 minutes to do it.”

There are two rules:

1.    The same person signs only once in the same quiz;

2.    One cannot sign his/her own quiz.

Once you get the 10 signatures shout BINGO!



Activity 1: Quotes and Authors (30 min)



This activity is made to induce participants into error, as people tend to make associations based on preconceived ideas, which often do not correspond to reality. For example, it is easy to associate a religious quote to a priest or religious leader, but in fact, that sentence was told by a scientist. On the contrary, we easily attribute the development of the Big Bang theory to a scientist when, in fact, it was said by a religious.

Therefore, the goals of this activity are:

. To identify and analyze the stereotypes associated with the ideas of religious beliefs (primary language);

. To recognize common aspects among the various religions (secondary language);

. To perceive common aspects of religious and non-religious thinking;

. To become aware of the contributions of Religion to Humanity.


- The facilitator asks to each participant to get a card (can be A or B).

- Then, he/she asks them to match the quote (card A) with the respective author (card B)

- When all pairs are found, the facilitator asks each pair to show their correspondence and explain to the group the reason for that choice. He/she asks the group if there is any rearrangement that needs to be done, or whether they are all in agreement.

- In plenary, the facilitator reveals the solutions and rearranges the quotes and the authors, in the right way. (Each quote with its respective author).

Tips for discussion

- The contribution given from the different religions for the civilization process, in several areas, that one thinks that are opposite to Religion (sciences, education, technology, etc.);

- The prejudice associated to religious beliefs and the prejudice associated to empirical knowledge;

- The importance of being aware of these associations and of its impact in the way we see the world;

- The common aspects of all religions, which are factors of union, instead of disunity and disagreement, such as:

- The awareness of not being alone in the Universe;

- The need of finding answers to the big questions and problems of the Humanity;

- The desire to achieve harmony, plenitude and peace.


Activity 2: “The Relic” (2 hours)



This activity intends to confront two divergent but coexisting currents of thought in today's society: a strongly religious thought, on the one hand, and an atheistic and secular thinking, on the other. It is about cultural shock.

Therefore, the goals of this activity are:

- To know distinct ways of put into practice the religious beliefs;

- To analyze the impact of these practices on the relationship with "the other" and on access to rights and freedoms;

- To discuss ways of negotiation and dialogue.




1st Step (1 hour)

The facilitator organizes 4 workgroups. To each group gives the text “The Relic”. He/she guides the group for working the case study according to the questions written in the sheet. The 4 workgroups works separately. In each group the elements discuss the case study between them. In plenary, each group presents the results of its work (40 min).

The facilitator guides the discussion, in plenary, taking into account the following aspects: (20 min)

a. What should you do if you were the character (Edouard)?

b. Do you agree with the attitude of the ebay users?

c. Then, let's analyse deeper this question: What is a Relic? What is its meaning? What is the impact of the option taken by the different characters?


2nd Step (20 min)

The facilitator invites the participants to reassess the case in the light of the new questions:

- What happened? (Deconstruct the steps taken by each character (Eduard, The believers, ebay)

- What position did they took? (Eduard, The believers, ebay)

- What moves him / them? (Eduard, The believers, ebay)


Tips for conclusion:

Different behaviours = absence of understanding = cultural shock.


Cultural shock is a reaction of strangeness to the difference of the other, of frustration or rejection, of revolt and anxiety, an experience both emotional and intellectual.

This may be a positive shock, but it can also be a source of conflict if those involved are unaware of the values and cultural habits of the other, as well as theirs.

Everyone is comfortable in their beliefs. The way we approach the "shock" will enable us to achieve dialogue or non-dialogue.

Are we aware of how our cultural identity can influence action?


3rd Step (20 min)

The facilitator asks participants to reassess this cultural shock in a different way - Paths for Dialogue. He/she ask the workgroups to think in terms of Dialogue to reach a solution for this case. (20 min)


Tips for reaching Dialogue

- Movement for approach - Ex. Believers suggest a suitable place to sell the relic;

- Explanation of the reasons of each of the characters - Ex. The believers explain in more detail the value of the relic;

- Proposal for solutions to a compromise - Ex. Edouard sells the Relic to the believers.


4th Step (20 min)

The facilitator invites the participants to think in their daily and to try to make parallelism between this activity and their reality.

- How do you see this case applied to your daily life? (Ask for examples)

- How to communicate face to the cultural shock? Examples: the use of the Muslim scarf; burqa; vaccination; food

- Aspects where religion has a negative influence - Examples (mourning, punishment, blood transfusion, vaccination)

- Aspects where religion has a positive influence - Examples (finding a meaning for life; sense of belonging to a group; avoiding loneliness)

- It is important to realize that there is not a single "solution" to the different situations (e.g. the story discussed is not intended to lead to a predetermined idea). There is a dilemma and there are different positions, sensitivities and possible attitudes.

Once we have this awareness, the participants understand that it is necessary to have some openness of mind in this matter, that the process of thinking is complex and that perhaps the greatest instrument for interreligious dialogue is empathy.


Activity 3: “Who are the protagonists of the Inter-religious Dialogue?” (15 min)


The facilitator asks to the plenary: “Who do you think the protagonists of the Inter-religious dialogue are? Religious leaders? Politicians?"

Then he/she informs that all the people, from the most diversified professions, ages, origins, with different backgrounds, beliefs, etc. can be important for the Inter-religious Dialogue. It does not depend only upon politicians nor priests, VIP or famous people, it’s a matter of everyone. In fact, sometimes it is easier to be someone lay and unknown to be heard and followed, than people with more responsibilities.

The facilitator presents a slide with a quote from Amin Maalouf (2009), Disordered World (Annex 5).




In plenary, the facilitator reviews the various activities, highlighting the most important aspects and inviting the participants to reflect on the main lessons learned.

Since at the end of each activity a brief debriefing has been done, at this moment is only necessary to make connections and consolidate learning.

From the Activity 1 is important to highlight the common aspects of all religions, which are factors of union, instead of disunity and disagreement. This means going deep into the concept of religion, moving from the superficial to the deep, from primary to secondary language.

The facilitator explains that the primary language of religion comprises those concepts, principles, stories, and other forms of teaching and expressions that are particular to an individual faith group. They are deeply meaningful ways of conveying our spiritual or religious truths; but they can also be misinterpreted or cause discomfort for adherents of other traditions or spiritual paths

The use of primary language may be heard by others as a direct challenge to their own religious or spiritual understandings, or even evoke memories of historical enmity or polemic between certain faith communities. For example, "Jesus Christ is the Son of God".


Going through the second activity - “The Relic” - the facilitator highlights the importance of being open-minded and reminds the tips for reaching Dialogue that arose in the end of this activity. Then he/she can asks the participants if they consider these two activities are complementary or, on the contrary, they drive the participants in opposite ways; if they reinforce each other or not. It is important to highlight that, despite of having common values and aspects, as the Activity 1 had shown, the Religion and beliefs also have specificities, traditions and practices that differentiates one from each other. And because of that, inter-religious dialogue is essential for a peaceful coexistence.


For concluding the message of Amin Maalouf is important because introduces the need of civilization (”skillful pedagogy, appropriate legislation and appropriate institutions)”. Education is fundamental for “overcoming prejudice and hatred” and each of us are important pieces for this construction. The ultimate message should be that one does not have to be a leader or a famous person to contribute for the Inter-religious Dialogue. Everyone can do that, being aware of the differences and obstacles that may arise and try to find a solution, instead of judging the others as superstitious, fools or bad people. (15 min)


Support tools

− Attendance list;

− Annexes (indicated below);

− Evaluation exercise: The 5 fingers of a hand: (15 min)

− Thumb - what I considered cool?

− Forefinger: what I point out (for good or for bad)?

− Middle finger: what I considered bad?

− Ring finger: my relation with the group of participants?

− Little finger: what was not enough?




Raja Sheadeh (2007). Palestinian Walks. Notes on a Vanishing Landscape.

Shafique Keshavjee (1998). The King, the Wise Man and the Fool - The Great Tournament of Religions.

Amin Maalouf (1984). The Crusades Through Arab Eyes.


Ideas for action

- When traveling try to know the different religious perspectives

- Show the different religious calendars

- Suggest to create a section in your library with books, magazines, films and materials that allow you to know and understand different religions



Annex 1: Quiz “BINGO!”

Annex 2: Quotes cards A and B

Annex 3: Supporting information about the Authors’ quotes

Annex 4: Role-Play “The Relic”

Annex 5: Slide with the quote of Amin Maalouf


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