HUMAN FACE – session organised as part of the Intercultural Encounter in Reykjavik, Iceland, June 2012

Coach: Anna Łoboda (participant of the Polish pilot workshops)

It's my face which is important, not whether I'm a Muslim, a Jew, or a Christian.


The main subject of the workshop is the following sentence from the Gospel of Matthew: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Mt 5:39b). Before it's presented to the group, everyone takes part in an exercise preparing us to start considering interpersonal relationships. In pairs the participants ask each other questions concerning various ways of relating to people. “May I shake your hand? May I touch your hair? May I give you a hug?” The addressee of the question can agree or reject the offered form of contact. The person who asked the question thanks the partner regardless of their answer. During the summarising discussion many people pointed to the deeper sense of the exercise. “It was really interesting for me to discover my own boundaries. I could feel my personal space open for other people. Thank you for this exercise. It was a process of deepening of our mutual understanding and trust.” Afterwards the participants are divided into groups according to the countries they came from; their task is to create a sculpture illustrating the biblical quotation. Everyone gets the same fragments of the Gospel of Matthew (mentioned above) not knowing what the others are working on. The “sculpture gallery” appears; the participants look at other people's works, they can ask the creators some questions or speak on their behalf, expressing the feelings which, in their opinion, are depicted in the sculptures. During the “gallery tour” the group discovers that all the sculptures were inspired by the same text. In the next part of the workshop, the leader focuses on the importance of translation for interpreting the Bible, as well as any other text which is not presented in its original form. She draws the participants' attention to the possibility of an alternative interpretation of the quote they analysed, which could be as follows: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, show him your other face.” Such a translation completely  changes the meaning of the phrase. The group is now divided into teams; their task is to prepare two-minute pantomimic scenes, illustrating the text in its new meaning. Some postcards with pictures of famous painters serve as an additional inspiration. As the last part of the workshop, the participants create artworks referring to the following motto: “Show us your face”.

The structure of the workshop includes various forms of work – teamwork, in pairs, individual. It also uses different forms of expression during the biblical considerations. Both procedures ease the contact with the texts and the multilevel, multidimensional analysis of their messages. The aim of all the proposed activities is to reveal the essence of our relationships with other people. Not only do they demand the acceptance of every person's otherness, but also concentration on oneself, on the things that define and shape our own attitude towards the world and people. It's an extremely important aspect of intercultural education, which draws our attention to the sense of dialogue – a meeting between man and man. Human face – the leitmotif of the workshop – is a symbol of values common to all mankind, common to us all, and at the same time a metaphor of the uniqueness and autonomy of every person.