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Learning Activity

A Mosque in Sleepyville

Learning Activity Illustration
Group Size
Age group
19 - 25 years
26-35 years
36-50 years
51-80 years
Over 80
Time Required
175 minutes

Through a role simulation referring to a contemporary situation in a western European city (can be adapted for other areas) we create an experience to reflect about the complexity and the interconnection of intercultural dialogue, conflicting human rights, participation and citizenship.

Instructions for Educator
Step by Step Instruction

Introduce the activity explaining that this is a simulation exercise where participants will take different roles. Read out the description of the problem in the handout. Explain that all participants are members of Sleepyville and all are troubled by the problem of whether a new mosque should be built on a piece of derelict council land.

Hand out the role-cards and the handout description of the problem and indicate where people and groups can meet up beforehand, and where the ‘Council Meeting’ will take place later on. Explain the rules of debate that will be used during the meeting.

You can use the annex to this activity (handout) or create a new one depending on your adaptation.

Use the preparation phase to set up the space for the Council Meeting. Ideally people should sit in a semi-circle or horseshoe shape, with the Mayor at the front, in a slightly elevated position. Parties or groups should be able to sit together, and you should place their name-tags on the tables in front.

Step by Step Instruction

Getting into the roles:

Groups are formed ideally in pairs for each position role. Allow some time for participants to read, discuss their position and to develop their roles as they see them.

After 30 minutes, the Mayor calls the citizens for the first session. He/she should remind people of the basic rules of debate and give a short speech to introduce the meeting.

Provide the participant playing the “Mayor” role with concrete guidelines to have very clear procedure. Set up an order of intervention, establish a maximum time for speech,...

Set up in the physical space as a council meeting room, in one side supporting and in the other against the mosque’s construction.

Step by Step Instruction

First session:

The first session of the city council should serve to present the main argumentation for each position.

The Town Council first session last only 20 minutes,therefore there is very little time for actual speeches because of the number of people attending. For that reason, they should try to prepare just the main points that they want to make.

The Mayor should set up the order of intervention of the different positions (alternating for and against), and starting from the Muslim community explaining why they want/need the mosque.

Step by Step Instruction

Lobby Time:

This time can include a coffee break and the different delegations are invited to reflect on the argumentation they heard, elaborate questions or new elements for further discussion and lobbying, if they deem it necessary.

Step by Step Instruction

Second session:

The second and final session of the Town Council should allow for an open debate/dialogue of the different positions. There is 30 minutes time to have as many speeches as possible. Once the argumentation has been presented and debate done, close the session with a final round of one minute short interventions of all parts. At the end of this session the final vote will take part.

Step by Step Instruction

Final Vote:

The Mayor calls delegate by delegate, one by one, to approach the poll box to cast their secret vote. A facilitator (neutral person) will then extract each vote and announce if it is YES to the construction or NO to the construction of the mosque. The votes are counted in a flip-chart on a visible way for everybody.

When the votes have been counted and the result declared, facilitator should announce the end of the activity, and invite people to bring their chairs into a circle for the debriefing.

Step by Step Instruction

De-roling from the exercise:

If the role simulation went very heavy consider making an steaming- out energizer.

Invite everybody in a standing circle and ask one by one to take out and throw away the role indicator (name-tags, colour paper,...) while saying aloud their own real names.

Step by Step Instruction


For the debriefing is important as well to change the setting an sitting place in the room. These are some guidelines that may support you Reporting and Reflection on the experience:

In circle go for a round of feelings in one word
What happened? (if you had to explain to somebody that was not
in the room)
Were you surprised by the result of the vote, and did it reflect the
position of the person you were playing?
How easy was it to identify with your role? At this moment every
group read aloud their specific Role)
Did you follow all the arguments of your role?
How did you construct your “role”? what images did you use?
How much influence do you think you (in your role) had on the
Did interaction with other people or groups make you alter your approach or your attitude towards the problem?

Who used the materials provided (UDHR, ECHR; Cairo

Declaration...)? Which ones?

At this stage you can start guiding questions on the Conceptualisation of the experience:

Do you think that this situation could arise in real life? Can you think of any similar cases?
How would you react if this case arose in your town / place of residence? Did the activity alter your attitude at all? Did it bring elements/arguments that you have never considered before? What will be the outcome in your reality? What are the main arguments in your community?

What HR were considered for the exercise? What else did you consider as argumentation? (ICL, info about religion, gender issues,...)
Did you achieve dialogue? Did you achieve intercultural


Facilitation Tips

It is much recommended to adapt the simulation to the group of participants realities and competences. Adapting the roles is important, there are fixed ones and “swinging” ones that may chance easier their position and depend very much on participants’ interpretation. Some roles need to be given the option completely open.

Participants should keep roles but should be able to change position/vote if they consider that their role character has been convinced by the arguments.

Before starting the Council meeting set up the physical space. A “U” shape will work well, in one side supporting and in the other against the construction. In the middle the “swinging” ones.

Provide the participant playing the “Mayor” role with concrete guidelines to have very clear procedure. Set up an order of intervention, establish a maximum time for speech,...

Set up in the physical space as a council meeting room, in one side supporting and in the other against the mosque’s construction. Think about other possible adaptations depending in the context and the group of participants you have (construction of a church in a Muslim town...).

Ideas for follow-up

Ask participants to look for cultural, religious, linguistic, minorities in their cities. A meeting with migrants to share their live experiences could be a good learning point to explore what are the main difficulties faced for being included in arrival communities.

With participants to identify what are the “hot potatoes” in each community and explore what are the reasons that these cases are so sensitive.