Students need to establish rules and values for respectful dialogue before studying the 1981 U.N. Declaration. A dialogue is a conversation between two or more people about a subject. If the group is made up of diverse religions or beliefs, it may be helpful to establish rules and values for dialogue in the beginning. Most likely, persons who want to learn how to monitor freedom of religion or belief already have developed a tolerance and understanding for the rights of others to hold beliefs different from their own.

It is no exaggeration to say that while providing hope and consolation, in the broad sweep of history more wars have been fought, more persecutions have been carried out in the name of religion or other beliefs than for any single cause. Dialogue about the differences between our deepest-held beliefs is one of the most sensitive and demanding challenges of our time. It requires an attitude of kindness, understanding, sensitivity and respect for persons who hold beliefs different than our own.


  • To establish group rules to ensure respectful and safe dialogue for everyone;
  • To engage each other about what factors contribute to respectful dialogue;
  • To create ways in which the group will be responsible for maintaining the rules;
  • To translate group rules into values through personal rights and responsibilities.

Time: 2 classroom hours. No outside assignments.

Materials: Two sheets of paper.

1. Begin Discussion

Religion or belief involves issues about which many in your group may have strong feelings. That’s natural. We all have a bias one way or another, including your facilitator. The goal of this discussion is dialogue in contrast to a debate. Never try to prove one person right and another wrong. Try to explore different ideas in a spirit of tolerance, understanding and respectful inquiry. We need to learn how to hold on to our strong beliefs, but temper them with an attitude of respect for others to believe as they so choose. Group rules are needed to ensure everyone’s right to freedom of expression, while respecting each others’ beliefs. Rules should apply to everyone, including your teacher.

2. Draft Group Rules

Turn to the monitor on your right. You will be paired as a team to draft a list of five rules you think are needed for respectful group dialogue. Take a clean sheet of paper and with your partner write down five rules for what you think is needed for respectful group dialogue. Turn to the team on your right and combine into a group of four. Take ten minutes as a group of four to compare the lists, combine them and write a group list of five rules on your separate sheet of paper.

3. Develop List of Rules

The facilitator will call on the teams to read their list of rules. If a rule written by one team is similar to a rule written by another team, it will be re-written on the blackboard to accommodate the difference. After all the rules are written on the blackboard, a group vote by show of hands will identify the most important five rules. Prioritize them on the blackboard. Record the five agreed upon classroom rules in the space below:







4. Make Rules Personal

Each student should take ten minutes and on a clean sheet of paper convert the five classroom rules written above into personal rights and responsibilities. For instance, if there is a rule that no one should interrupt a speaker, it might be written by you as; (a.) “I have a right to speak without being interrupted, and (b.) “I have a responsibility not to interrupt or to allow anyone to be interrupted when speaking.”

5. Adopt Group Rules

The facilitator or a monitor will go back to the blackboard and ask the group for ways in which each rule has been converted into a list of personal rights and responsibilities. Each rule will call for consensus to determine the final way in which will be written. Each monitor should take a clean sheet of paper and write the final rules that have been written on the blackboard. Following these rules is everyone’s responsibility.